Lessons from everyone you meet

Columns - Industry Voices

January 9, 2014
Marty Grunder
Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

Recently I had one of my ACE Meetings and there was something that came out of it that I wanted to share with you. ACE stands for Accountability Creates Excellence. These groups of landscapers are on a journey towards success by sharing, exploring and implementing better practices in business and life.

A lesson I learned from my pal and fellow speaker/teacher/author Mark Sanborn is that there really are no best practices, there are only better practices. The notion that any of us have a best practice isn’t logical. It implies we have it all figured out, and that’s bad.

Mark says we should be pushing ourselves to constantly find better ways to do things and hence the term better practices. So, the ACE group focuses, in a large part, to find better ways to do everything we do. From sales to operations, to financials and equipment, we cover a lot of ground when these groups get together to work on our businesses that always searching for better practices.

In our last meeting, we were in a heated discussion concerning the issues that all of us have in our businesses and how so many of them come back to people. One of our members was lamenting the fact that he is always dealing with people with issues. That’s when my colleague Matt Caruso said something magical. He said, “Everybody we meet is an example to learn from.” I can’t stop thinking about that.

So many times in life we see someone behaving badly or doing something with their life or their business that we just don’t understand. I remember years ago meeting one of my clients, Sid was his name, at his retail store in downtown Dayton, Ohio. I was there to go over a quote with him for some landscaping. I found Sid in the store walking around. He saw me and told me to wait a minute for him. As I watched him, I could not believe what I saw as he completely ripped a young employee to pieces in front of me for not taking care of a customer the way he wanted.

I felt about as uncomfortable as one could. I actually felt sorry for the young man he just tore apart. Now, his point may have been valid; however, the manner in which Sid did what he did in public made me do two things. One, I never thought that highly of Sid again and two, I realized that you praise people in public and you chastise them in private. So, even though I don’t care that much for Sid today, I did learn some good things from him by watching him do something I did not think was right.

Recently, someone I know behaved so selfishly with a matter towards me, I felt and learned firsthand what selfish behavior does to people. Again, I learned something. Like Matt said, “Everybody we meet is an example to learn from.” Man, that’s good stuff, isn’t it?

I am disappointed I never looked at things through the lens Matt does. If I had the wisdom to think like he did 10 or 20 years ago, there’s no telling how many things I would have learned.

I think we all have a tendency to think a little too highly of ourselves at times. I know I do. There are a lot of days I think I am smarter than I really am. There are days I am arrogant and don’t listen well. There are days my behavior could be better.

And since I see that, I want to thank Matt for pointing out to me that we can learn from everyone and it’s important to pay attention to all those little lessons. Seeing people do things we don’t like or agree with is tough but in many ways they are great, life-changing experiences for us, if we are prepared to look at them like that.

Bottom line? We would all be better to look at everyone we meet, do business with, or come in contact with as a person we can learn from. Yes, even in bad times, there is a lesson to learn. A lesson that, if we do learn it and practice it, will find success a lot faster than most will. We are all a work in progress, looking for better practices, not best practices.

Best practices imply we are done learning. Better practices imply there is more to learn. Like my pal Matt says, “Everybody we meet is an example to learn from.” I encourage you to look at experiences that way. You will become a better leader, entrepreneur and person in the process.


Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author; he owns Grunder Landscaping Co. See www.martygrunder.com; mail