My dad knew more about his industry than anyone else I ever met. In a world of nuts and bolts, he could rattle off use case, shear and tensile strength for fasteners made of any commonly used material. Nevertheless, his small business never grew beyond what he could personally wrap his arms around.

Flashing forward to the present, my first grandson was born a few days ago. Yes, he’s beautiful. (I have several pictures I’d be happy to share with you if you’d like.)

As I hold him in my arms I can’t help but think of how I used to hold his father. I naively thought I was on my own in those days. I didn’t appreciate how much his grandparents loved him or how much a role my friends would play in his life. The job of being a parent never goes away — but my wife and I were never really in it alone.

I’ve come to appreciate that the same is true for how a business is run. You don’t have to be the lone wolf. In fact, insisting on going it alone will limit your ability to succeed.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.”

There are two key phrases that give Mr. Emerson’s statement power. My dad struggled with both of these and unfortunately; I don’t think he was that unique.


For some reason it seems easier to think the worst of people. “He’s lazy." "She’s unreliable. "That person can’t be depended on.” I don’t think it matters if it’s verbalized or simply how you secretly feel — it isn’t a secret to anyone. Your body language and other nonverbal signals give you away. What’s more, those attitudes often become self-fulfilling prophecy. To successfully run a business we need to trust people to do their best. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone who wakes up in the morning thinking, “Today I want to suck. I want to do the worst job I can.” Most people want to succeed and do the best they can. I’ve noticed that when I give people opportunities to excel, when I mentor and work to facilitate their success, they succeed. Trust is the foundation to any relationship and when I demonstrate that I have trust in the abilities of those who work with me, they step up and perform — and I don’t need to do it all myself.

Treat them greatly

People tend to rise (or sink) to our expectations. Have you ever worked with someone who was always negative, constantly nitpicking everything you did and micromanaging your every move? I have. What’s more, it doesn’t tend to make anyone more productive, but rather has the opposite effect. It’s an easy trap for business leaders to fall into and limits their success. Sure, you may see what feels like progress at first, but in the long run your company will never grow beyond what you can wrap your arms around. The men and women who are the most successful at running their businesses tend to be positive, encouraging, mentoring and expect the best of team members. They are the business owners who have people step up to help them lead a growing and successful business. Over the course of my career I’ve been on the receiving end of positive leadership too. It inspired me to work harder, step up my performance, and become a leader myself. When I’ve had that opportunity to lead, depending upon how successful I’ve been at trusting the team and treating them great, they’ve regularly exceeded my expectations.

My son is not alone as he strives to be a good father. He has family and friends he can trust to help him along every step of the way. I love my new grandson — more deeply than I ever thought possible before I became a grandfather. My son is surrounded by many people who are likely as dedicated to helping his son have a happy and successful life as he is.

I don’t think it really matters what type of business you own or how big it is. You don’t have to go it alone. “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.”

Words to live by.

As a Main Street business evangelist and marketing veteran with more than 25 years in the trenches, Ty Kiisel writes about leading people and small-business issues for Lendio (