What I learned from mom

What I learned from mom

Columns - Industry Voices

May 29, 2014
Marty Grunder
Industry News Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

May is a great month for landscapers. It is, for most of us, our busiest and most profitable month of the year. We’re all going so fast. I think it’s a great time to think about why we are who we are today. May 11 is Mother’s Day, a great day as all of us have a chance to recognize the mothers in our lives.

My wife, Lisa, is a tremendous mother. My kids are winners, or at least so far they are. The credit for that needs to go to their mother who is always there for them. I marvel at all she can do and not do to make sure her children are well fed, well taught, supported and loved.

My kids are lucky. I’m lucky. I know that. I was equally lucky to have the mother I have, so this month, let me share with you what I’ve learned from my mom, a retired schoolteacher, in hopes of helping you.

Overall, my mom has taught me three key things. They are: 1. Say thank you. 2. Be nice. 3. Laugh at yourself.

1. Say thank you. When we were young, my mom made us write thank you notes to those who did nice things for us or gave us a gift. Eight-year-olds groan at writing thank you notes but you had to do this in the Grunder house. In fact, mom wouldn’t let you play with a toy that was given to you until you wrote a note. So, to this day, I write thank you notes. Yep, those old-fashioned things, and they impact people’s lives. They are especially impactful today when everyone emails, texts, tweets and the like. Handwritten notes make an impact and show that you are thankful. To this day my mom still sends me thank you notes, even when we tell her not to worry about it. I think my mom knows I like them, but more importantly, I think the teacher in her knows that the best way you teach is to do the very thing you want your students to do. I know my mom appreciates me and loves me; I see it in her actions; I read it in her thank you notes, and I hear it in her voice.

Business application? I’m sure you see it. Tell your team thank you; send them a note. Tell your clients thank you; send them a note. Tell your vendors you appreciate them; send them a note. Make saying thank you part of the culture of your company. Doing this will be reflected in your profits; trust me.


2. Be nice. My mom might be the nicest lady you’d ever meet. If you hear someone saying they don’t like my mom, there’s obviously something wrong with them. She’s a lover, not a hater. In 1978 a blizzard hit Dayton, Ohio, and we were snowbound; the roads were closed and had not been plowed for days.

My dad could be heard yelling at the road department on the phone and, surprise, no one came out to open up the road. After two more days, I heard my mom talking very nicely on the phone with the road department, telling them how tough this storm must have been and weaving in the fact she had three young children that needed food. One hour later, a whole army of trucks and equipment came down the road and dug us out. My dad took credit for it; my mom just smiled.

I know why they came out. They came out because my mom was nice. Be nice in all that you do. Sure, it’s hard. Just last week, I lost my temper after someone we were doing business with wasn’t interested in making things right. I tried being nice to this person for weeks and finally blew up and, you know, that didn’t work, either. I should have been nicer; it might have helped.

Business application? Be nice, hire nice people and be nice to your people. Panera, the large, successful restaraunt chain reportedly won’t hire “jerks.” I love that. Be nice in all that you do and your profits will be positively impacted in doing so.

3. Laugh at yourself. My mom is the absolute best at laughing at herself. I have no less than five stories I share as a professional speaker that bring the house down. They are funny beyond belief and they are all stories of things my mom did that she told me about. My favorite is the one mom told me about the time she tried to learn how to play golf at a local, small course with her friend.

Upon coming up to hole #7, my mom noticed rakes by the sand trap and proceeded to pick them all up, telling her friend, “My son, Marty, hates it when his crews leave tools on job sites. He says they’re expensive.” Mom’s right. I do hate that. She proceeded to gather the rakes at hole 8 and hole 9 and took them to the golf pro and said, “Your crews left these out on the course.” To which the pro immediately replied, “Thanks, we wondered where those were.”

My mom knows that it’s good to be able to laugh at yourself. I wish I had more time as I’d tell you about the time she tried to order lunch from a trash can at Wendy’s and then went in and told them their microphone wasn’t working.

Business application? Leaders know they need to laugh at themselves. It makes them human and shows their teams that they as leaders aren’t perfect. Hire humble people who talk about their mistakes readily and easily as learning experiences and it makes people want to follow you.

Mother’s Day is just on May 11. I think the whole month should be for mothers. I have a great one. I’m married to a great one. Maybe I’ve helped you see the same thing is true for you, too.


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