What we think we know

Columns - Industry Voices

August 13, 2012
Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

My oldest daughter Emily just graduated from high school. For those of you who have had your first graduate from high school, you will relate to what I’m about to say. It’s an emotional experience. As I sat watching Emily in her cap and gown walking down the aisle to receive her diploma, I could not help but think back to when I was 18 years old as well as where Emily is now as an 18-year-old young woman.

When I was in high school, I started Grunder Lawn Service, which today is known as Grunder Landscaping Co. I gave up a lot to have that company. I quit playing baseball, I missed some fun things and I gave up the couch to get up and do something. For graduation, there was no big party. My dad didn’t consider graduating from high school a significant accomplishment, so you just didn’t celebrate it too much. My lovely mother made sure we had a small party.

I enrolled in the University of Dayton because, quite frankly, they let me in and it was close to home, which allowed me to continue to run my landscaping company and make money to pay for college. My parents were both college graduates and in our family you went to college. But even though they were college graduates, we didn’t have a whole lot of money.

My dad was a civil engineer and my mom a teacher. They both came from very humble beginnings and worked hard. But neither “made it big” as there wasn’t much money to be made as an engineer working for the state of Ohio or as a teacher in the same state. I wanted to pay for college myself and keep that burden from my folks, so it was off to work I went.

Emily’s trail is a bit different. Emily is what I call a professional student. She loves school and her high school teachers, some of whom I had, often asked her, “Are you sure you’re Marty Grunder’s daughter?” We may both have red hair, but she’s a great student and I was not.

I wanted to work to make money. There were a lot of things I wanted – material things. Emily, not so much.

She works at our office some in the summer and babysits, but at this point is motivated to do the right thing, but not motivated to earn money to buy new clothes or a new car or anything of the sort.

Emily will attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. But, that’s not the school I wanted her to attend. I wanted her to attend my alma mater and her mom’s alma mater, the University of Dayton. After all, it’s a great school, it’s close to home, she was offered an academic scholarship and they have an excellent business school. As a member of the board of the school of business there, I know what I’m talking about! I pulled out all the stops. I got a VIP tour; I had all kinds of folks come see her while we were on the tour, including the president of the university. I’m in sales, folks. I know how to sell a good product. But Emily was not that impressed. She liked U.D., but when we went to Miami, because it was obvious I was trying to sell something to someone that wasn’t a fit and no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t what she wanted.

At the end of our last visit to Miami, Emily and I walked to the car. She was quiet and I said, “Emily, Miami is the best choice for you, sweetheart. I can see it, plain as day.” She said, “I know, Dad.” The rest, as they say, is history. Emily will attend the school that declined me admission in 1986 and told me I was not a good enough student to attend there. Emily is way wiser than I will ever be.

In our lives, we entrepreneurs often wonder why others can’t just be like us. Why can’t our prospects see what we see in our offerings? Why can’t our teams do what we would do? Why wouldn’t that applicant want to work at our company? I could go on and on.

This recent experience with Emily has taught me a lot. At a certain point, you need to just understand people are different and there’s a place for everyone in our great country. The paths we take, if rooted in honesty, passion and excellence, will make us successful in all that we do. It’s not the path that matters as much as the place we end up in life.

I’m in a great place and I’m sure Emily will be, too. She’s way ahead of where I was in terms of her perspective on life and that, my friends, you can chalk up to her mom. And, so we end on a high note here, the best selling job I have ever done, and will ever do, is the one I did on Lisa Lynn Lehman at the Reds game on June 24, 1993, when I asked her to marry me and she said yes.

Congratulations and good luck to all the graduates. May whatever path you take lead you to happiness!


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