The self-assured leader

Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author. He owns Grunder Landscaping Co.;

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“The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it’s conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.” – Jim Hightower

One of the qualities I admire most, both in a leader and in a business, is confidence. I love to work with confident people and businesses – with those who know what they’re doing and show it, with those who challenge the status quo and are driven to keep getting better. Let me give you some examples.

My right-hand man at Grunder Landscaping Co. is Paul Stoll. Paul knows plants. Paul knows what grows where and what won’t. He knows finance. He knows people. He knows how to deal with the challenges that arise all the time at a landscaping company.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought a plant or a tree was dead and Paul said to me with absolute certainty, “Nope, it’ll be fine.” And he’s always right. He knows more about landscaping than anyone else I’ve ever met. The reason we’re able to do awesome work at Grunder Landscaping is due in no small part to what he’s taught me and my team in the 19 years he’s been with us. He knows what he’s doing, and it shows. He’s confident, but not cocky.

And he’s a brilliant teacher. I love working with him and so does my team. Never content with the status quo, Paul is always finding ways to improve our business, and his example pushes us all – myself included – to do the same.

My right-hand at home is my wife, Lisa. She knows how to run a household. She knows how to parent – her years of teaching and her study of childhood development have practically made her a pro at raising kids. And she can cook like you wouldn’t believe. Like Paul, she’s confident in what she does. She wants the best for us and she drives me to set an example for my kids to follow. She pushes herself and our whole family to always do better.

Paul and Lisa are confident in their expertise, and their confidence enables me to succeed. Businesses that are confident often succeed, too. Here’s a couple I’ve encountered.

Recently we started working with a concrete subcontractor whose confidence impresses me. Initially they told me they didn’t like working with contractors like us and they might not be a good fit for us. When I asked why, they said they had so much direct work with clients that they didn’t really need any subcontract projects. They’ve also had problems getting paid for subcontract work and with getting stuck in the middle of disputes between customers and their contractors.

But they had heard of Grunder Landscaping and were willing to sit down and speak with us. We had a great meeting and we liked what we saw – a sub that has beautiful equipment, great processes, detailed proposals, deep knowledge of concrete, and ideas for making projects better. And they’re responsive. They insisted on a deposit and signed our subcontractor agreement, and then, like clockwork, they started our first jobs on time.

But first they made us wait 90 days, insisting it wouldn’t be fair to their other clients to jump our jobs before the ones they had already sold. I must admit I didn’t like waiting, but I also admired their refusal to break, even for someone who can send them a lot of work. Now that’s confidence. And that confidence makes me want to find more opportunities to work with them.

Here’s the lesson if you haven’t gotten it yet. Too many entrepreneurs and their businesses aren’t confident. They don’t know who they are, and they don’t try to get better. They just go with the flow. They say yes to everything and that only puts them farther and farther behind the confident leaders who know when to say no and have the confidence to say it.

So know who you are and hire confident experts for your team. Don’t apologize for your price or your approach, and don’t be afraid to walk away from prospects and clients who don’t trust you to do the job you know how to do.

October 2016
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