Marty Grunder discovered his entrepreneurial spirit when he was a teenager with a used lawn mower looking for a way to put himself through college. Through determination and hard work, he grew that initial $25 investment into Grunder Landscaping Co., a multimillion-dollar design-build firm headquartered in Dayton, Ohio. Along the way, his success story has been featured by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, and he has received several awards, including being named entrepreneur of the year by both Ernst & Young and the US Small Business Administration.
Today Marty continues to serve as president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co., where he leads a team of 60 landscape professionals and administrative staff. With a focus on high-end residential properties, Grunder Landscaping Co. is a recognized leader in the design-build market. To date, the company has won more than 40 local and national design awards.
To channel his energy and enthusiasm for helping others succeed, Marty established a consultancy, Marty Grunder! Inc., and began traveling around the country to teach, speak to, and coach business owners and their teams. He has delivered more than 550 talks and motivated audiences of all sizes, from a small gathering of 20 to a stadium of 9,000. In 2003, his book, The Nine Simple Steps to Entrepreneurial Success, was named Business Book of the Year by the Independent Publisher Awards.
Marty is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Business and sits on the board of Park National Bank and the Dayton Development Coalition. He and his wife, Lisa, have three daughters, Emily, Katie, and Lily, and a son, Grant.
Q & A with Marty Grunder
What are you passionate about, in regards to your business?
I’m passionate about watching our MGI clients—the owners and leadership teams of landscaping companies—grow their businesses. When I see them double their profits and see their family life improve too, that’s a real win for me and the MGI team. It makes what we do meaningful and worthwhile. Both at MGI and at my landscaping company, I’m also passionate about our company culture—the beliefs and behaviors that govern how we interact with our clients and each other. I love seeing the right things getting done naturally because we’re aligned internally and externally to achieve what we’ve set out to do. This is something we work very hard on with our MGI clients, too, because we believe culture is significant driver of success.
What is the most valuable leadership lesson you have learned?
As a leader, you are always being watched, so you must be great at what you want your followers to be good at. Lead by example. If you want the customer service your company delivers to be good, then you as the leader need to be the best at customer service in your company. Your team will take their cues from what you do, not from what you say to do.
If you could give the 20-year-old you any piece of advice, what would it be?
Write out a plan for where you want to be in one, three, five, and ten years—both professionally and personally. Write it down in detail and then share it with a mentor or a coach who can help you get there.