By Rick Smith, originally published May 2014 by PondTrade Magazine, view the article on

The RoundtableEarly in my sales and marketing career I was fortunate to be surrounded by great mentors. Each in their own right, were successful businessmen, but the reason they excelled beyond others, was because they understood and demonstrated the laws of great leadership.

One of those early mentors told me to always be a student of the business. His meaning was to truly understand your customer’s business, their needs, and to become highly skilled with the best business practices and leadership abilities. This lead to a career long commitment of learning and putting into practice the best and most successful business principles I could find by reading at least one business and one psychology related book a year, while learning from successful business owners and team managers.

During this time, I worked for many bosses, but few understood the laws and rewards of leadership where people followed and contributed because they wanted to, not because they had to to avoid negative attention or just blindly complied because the “Boss” said so.  When I worked for someone who understood the laws and power of leadership, everyone felt part of a team where their contributions were important to the success of a vision and the team.  The leadership/team culture ignites the human psychological need for contributing to something bigger than themselves by bringing value to others, an appreciation and recognition for their contributions, and the team and personal rewards of success. The difference in styles and level of successes is striking when a visionary leader empowers a team culture.

Vision – Share your vision and action steps for achievement with your team. This simple action clearly points the way and allows your team to focus on and contribute to the common goals of achievement. This is “The Law of Navigation”. Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course.

Values – Share your personal values with your team.  This is “The Law of Magnetism”. Who You Are is Who You Will Attract and how they will represent your vision.

Empower – Only secure leaders give power to others and understand that enlarging others makes you larger. This is “The Law of Sacrifice” A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up.

Encourage - Encourage your team to share ideas, provide them with a safe environment for success and, yes, sometimes failure.  Provide them with the tools required for success. Encourage them to share their own ideas to achieve the vision.  Those closest to the task usually have great ideas on how to make it better.

Recognition – Great leaders are quick to give credit for success, and “The Law of High Morale” When You’re Winning, Nothing Hurts.

Three of my most cherished business books are John C. Maxwell’s “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, “The 360 Degree Leader”, and “The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork”.  If you are looking to take your business to the next level, these books are well worth the investment and dedication to putting these laws into practice.

In “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, John points out “Whatever you will accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others.  The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership.  And, the greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be.”

In my opinion, there is no better road map to leadership and the teamwork that will build your business than what John outlines in these three easy to read books. Enjoy.

Wishing you the best of success.

Rick SmithRick Smith serves as Director of Sales with EasyPro Pond Products and has over 30 years of organizational leadership and sales and marketing experience in the Lawn & Garden Nursery and Water Features Industries.  Prior to coming to EasyPro, Rick served as Sales and Marketing Manager of the retail division for J. Mollema & Son (a large mid-west lawn & garden distributor supplying independent garden centers nurseries, growers, and landscapers). He also spent 12 years with The Scotts Company working with independent business owners as well as regional and national chains.  

For the past 20 years, water gardening has been one of Rick’s passions, while enjoying his own ponds and fish, Rick has had a focus on contributing to the enjoyment of other pond owners, as well as the success of business owners,  by developing customized business plans, sales support material, and numerous power point training seminars. 

Rick has appeared in various business trade publications both as an interviewee and as a contributing author. In addition, Rick has conducted seminars at trade shows, county extension services and Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park as well as retail staff training and public seminars on lawn & garden, wild birds, and water gardening topics.