Stepping back from your passion in order to grow your business

Posted On December 21, 2023

If you’re going to turn your small business into a multi-million dollar company, chances are you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone and try some new things.

You’re also going to have to trust others to do the things you enjoyed doing to get that business off the ground.

Marty Grunder, our guest in a recent episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” says learning how to delegate and how to develop new skills and new roles for yourself is important to the growth of any business.

Grunder started Grunder Landscaping in the Dayton, Ohio, area while in high school as a way to make money for college. By the time he was a senior at the University of Dayton, it was bringing in $500,000 a year in revenue. As the company continued to grow, Grunder found that he had to shift his focus from putting his own hands in the dirt to finding others who could fill that role.

“Most successful business owners become very good at delegating,” Grunder said. “You envision yourself as a coach. You practice, you set people up, but you can’t go on the field and play. You have to stay on the sidelines.”

Grunder —  who now runs The Grow Group, which advises other landscape companies in handling growth — says the $1 million mark in revenue is usually when a business becomes too big for its owner to handle on his own. He or she then needs a team and needs to understand how to build a culture that’s going to sustain that team.

“You have to be creating a workplace culture that others want to work in, and it can’t all be about the owner. Or you’re not going to win,” he said. “The best way to recruit people to your company is to make your company a great place to work.”

Grunder, who also has written a book on successful entrepreneurship, says such a workplace must include paths to career advancement for employees and engaged managers who take an interest in their employees.  “There is no magical silver bullet to get and keep people – it’s a lot of little things,” he said. “But first and foremost, it’s an engaged owner, it’s an engaged leadership team, it’s people that give a darn about one another.”

Most of his most successful managers are homegrown – employees who came up within the culture already established in the business. He develops them through testing them on the job – giving them some responsibility and seeing how they handle it – and through role-playing – giving them hypothetical situations and asking how they’d handle it.

“You don’t know what you’ve got until you give people a shot,” he said.

An important aspect of this process, however, is how the business owner reacts to negative outcomes. Grunder is a proponent of the “sandwich method” popularized in the U.S. Army – sandwiching criticism between compliments.

“You are always going to make a greater impact as a teacher if you can pull it out of them instead of inserting the words into their mouth,” he added. “Then I can say: See, look how much you’ve improved in five minutes? How many of you was this beneficial to as well?”


Categories: Blog, Entrepreneurship, What's Working with Cam Marston, Workplace