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Surround Yourself with the Right People

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Straight Talk

Joe MarconiLast summer I attended a community luncheon comprised of local business people all eager and willing to share their war stories, successes and failures. It was enlightening to hear so many similar stories among different businesses. A building contractor told his story of how he went from a one-man operation with one truck to a fleet of trucks with more than 40 employees. Everyone drilled him with questions. Then someone asked, “What was your biggest obstacle to building your business?” The contractor replied, “That’s easy to answer; I took advice from the wrong people.” I knew exactly what he was referring to. 

Twelve years ago, I put a plan together to expand my business. The plan was to redevelop my existing property, develop the two adjacent lots I had purchased through the years, and construct a brand-new facility. The plan would increase the number of bays from six to 11 and increase the parking lot to hold at least 50 cars. I was excited about the project and assumed others around me would be, too.  

My family was 100 percent behind me, which was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was the negativity from many friends and peers. Local business people would come up to me and ask me if I had lost my mind.  “Are you crazy, Joe? You’re only going to increase your problems, increase your debt and build a business you won’t be able to sell anyway.” My insurance agent asked me to reconsider, saying the project was just too big. One shop owner actually asked me, “Who are you trying to impress?”

My plan was the culmination of years of planning and the fact that we had physically outgrown our facility. Plus, we owned the property, with very little left on our mortgage. To me, it was our logical next step. But, sensing the concerns of so many people, I sat on the project for a few years.  

Nothing happened until one day I was in the bank and a prominent businessman (he actually owned the bank) walked over to me and said, “Joe, I heard of your business plan to expand. I would like to buy your property. You can have your dream and your business. I will make sure of it. I will give you a long lease, too.” 

His words hit me hard. If he wanted to buy my property, my plan couldn’t be that far off the mark, right? Then it dawned on me: I sat on the project because I was listening to the wrong people. I decided to compile a list of business people that were tops in their fields, and discussed my plan with them. I also found the top shops in a 100-mile radius and met with as many as I could. These people encouraged me, gave me great advice and the confidence to move forward. 

Within six months, I was in the process of attaining permits, I hired a contractor and presented my business plan to the bank. We broke ground in the spring of 2008 and the project was completed on April 25, 2009. Even with all the ups and downs with expanding the business, I would do it all over again.  

It’s often said that fear holds people back from achieving their dreams and goals. I would agree with that. However, the circle of people around you can have a bigger impact in your life than you might imagine. There are some people who will view your success, or your desire to succeed, with envy. Don’t get drawn into the negativity from these people. Their attempt to hold you back takes the pressure off them to achieve something great. The higher level of success you attain, the more you will be exposed to this type of cynicism.  

"Believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and above all, surround yourself with like-minded people with the same goals and dreams you have."

—Joe Marconi, owner, Osceola Garage

It’s not easy to push yourself and work hard toward achieving your dreams of greater success, but it’s worth it. Establish clearly defined, written goals. Commit to continuous improvement. Believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and above all, surround yourself with like-minded people with the same goals and dreams you have. You truly are who you hang around with. 

One last thing: Always remember that success is never determined by what someone else has achieved. Your success is determined by what you can achieve in your life, based on your abilities and your desire to be the best you can possibly be.   

I have a question for you—who do you think I choose as a contractor? You guessed it, the contractor I met at the business luncheon


Joe Marconi has more than three decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He is the owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., a business development coach for Elite Worldwide and co-founder of autoshopowner.com. Reach him at j.marconi@eliteworldwide.com

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