By Rowena Crosbie, an EO Iowa member and president of Tero International
It was 1993, and my first business idea was to provide presentation skills training to professionals who believed that competitive advantage was due to the ability to communicate persuasively and confidently. The business start-up consisted of US$200 in the bank, a spare bedroom as an office, and two house cats that served as my vice presidents of the company. A lot has happened in 20 years.
I am now privileged to lead a team of professionals under the Tero International umbrella, all of whom have delivered training programs in 13 countries. What’s more, we are recognized as leaders in corporate training. We’ve come a long way, but it wasn’t always easy.
Here are three valuable lessons I learned on the journey:
1. Do things for others when there is NIIFY
When we are keenly focused on our goals, we can easily fall victim to self-centered tendencies. We allow the question— “How can this person help me now?” —guide how we spend our time.
This narrow perspective can close us to opportunities that might be right in front of us. We never know where our next client, employee or business partner may come from. Many members of the Tero Team have shaped the business in ways I could not have imagined. Whether serving on an EO committee, volunteering for a service project or facilitating an introduction, we are helpful to someone. The law of reciprocity tugs on the other party to be helpful in return when the opportunity arises. I’ve learned that to stay ahead in business, you should do things for others when there’s nothing in it for you.
2. Trust is Earned
Leaders are encouraged to build a culture of trust. Evidence of this was revealed through a Google search on “trust” and “leadership” that yielded more than 198 million hits. Books, articles, classes and speeches on the subject remind leaders that employee surveys reveal a deficit of trust, while encouraging leaders to trust more and assume the best. After all, trust is an essential business practice. Or is it?
“Trust until you have a reason not to.” I treasured this belief until it was challenged by clients and employees who took advantage of this situation financially and emotionally, which led me to shift my philosophy to “trust is earned.” Tero International is a stronger business because individuals entrusted with key responsibilities have earned that trust.
3. These Things Happen
One of the greatest gifts from my father was an attitude I found frustrating in my youth. Whenever I ranted about something being unfair, I was met with my dad’s typical response: “These things happen.”
It was much later in life that I came to embrace this lesson as a helpful outlook. Like every business owner, there have been times when I wondered if the company would survive. In spite of my efforts to do everything just right, bad things happened.
Similarly, Tero has been the beneficiary of many good things. Dad’s timeless lesson is a reminder in humility and a caution not to credit myself too heavily for the good outcomes. Good and bad, these things happen.