Grow with Grunder: How peer groups can expand your circle and grow your business

September 12, 2023 -  By
People in a meeting (Photo: Cecilie_Arcurs / E+ / Getty Images)

Photo: Cecilie_Arcurs / E+ / Getty Images

After nearly four decades of running a successful business, I realize the importance of continuously challenging the status quo. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing something the same way simply because we’ve always done it this way. I’ve found that stepping outside of my comfort zone and seeking new perspectives is essential for personal and professional growth.

That’s why I’ve grown to appreciate the value of engaging with my peers at industry events and, more specifically, within our ACE Peer Group that we run jointly with our partners at McFarlin Stanford.


Recently, we connected with one of our groups, and the experience left me with pages upon pages of notes that I could apply to my own business. From this interaction, three major takeaways emerged that I believe are relevant to all businesses.

1. Align your team to a singular vision.

A clear and unified vision is crucial for any organization. As I’ve often emphasized, every team in the NFL shares the goal of winning the Super Bowl.

Similarly, your company needs a defined objective. Whether it’s growing your maintenance division or expanding your hardscaping services, the specific goal is less important than ensuring all team members understand their role in its achievement. Define the win and point your efforts toward that. Everyone on your team should have the same answer to the question, “What’s our vision?”

2. Focus on the drips.

In every company, there are drips — small inefficiencies that, over time, accumulate into significant losses. Rather than feeling ashamed of these inefficiencies, it’s important to acknowledge them and take ownership. For example, at Grunder Landscaping Co., we discovered that our routing system was outdated and caused unnecessary delays. By assigning responsibility for this drip to our COO Seth Pflum, we addressed it and explored ideas to minimize inefficiencies in our routes. Whether it’s your routing process, morning rollout or sales-to-production handoffs, empowering someone to take charge of process improvements can help eliminate those costly drips.

3. Empower your team for success.

For years I served as a bottleneck within Grunder Landscaping. I held onto control and didn’t give my team members a chance to showcase their skills. Recognizing this flaw, I made a concerted effort to step back and empower my team to make decisions without my constant involvement. This shift in leadership approach led to record-breaking years in both sales and profitability. By focusing on my own strengths and putting team members in positions where they can excel, we achieved unparalleled success. I would encourage you to rid the word “delegate” from your language — as Jim Cali often reminds me — and replace it with “empower.”

Accountability matters

The “ACE” in ACE Peer Groups stands for Accountability Creates Excellence. Having mentors within the industry to hold us accountable to our goals has been instrumental in prompting positive changes, even when they were uncomfortable or difficult. Our own peer groups operate on the same principle, challenging business owners to follow through on their commitments and facilitating the necessary changes for growth and improvement.

Expanding your circle and embracing the power of peer groups can be a game-changer for any business. Fresh perspectives, shared experiences and unwavering accountability can be the impetus for transformative growth.

As I’ve discovered, sometimes it takes stepping outside of our own bubble to uncover the solutions that have eluded us for far too long. So, I urge you to seek out opportunities to connect with your peers, engage in meaningful conversations and explore new avenues for success. Your business — and your own personal development — will undoubtedly benefit from it.

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