The Best Business Advice I Received Came From My Grandpa: Boost Your Boss

My late Grandpa Stoker on his farm in Idaho.

The single best piece of career advice I’ve ever received was from my late Grandpa Deloss Stoker.

From the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I would go up to rural Idaho to help work on my grandfather’s farm for a week at a time. During that week, I would get exposed to hard, farm labor. Even though my grandfather was an exacting and demanding boss, I loved spending time with him on the farm. I got my middle name from my grandpa (which I took for granted as a kid, thinking that “Deloss” was a strange name). During the long work days on the farm, he had time to share lessons with me.

He taught me there are two types of employees:

  • The first sees his boss as benefitting at his expense, exploiting him. Some people just see work and life through that lens — life is a zero-sum game.
  • The other sees their boss as a partner in a symbiotic relationship: the employee only has a job if the boss succeeds. If the boss thrives, it reflects back on the employee.

My grandfather taught me that principle at a very young age, and then he told me I should look at my manager or boss and make it my goal to make them successful and help them achieve their goals. He told me that, in doing that, I would never have to watch out for my own advancement because there will always be people watching out for me.

Grandpa taking the grandkids for a buggy ride.

I’ve been on a payroll since I was fourteen years old, and I have always tried to implement that principle in my career. I look to the person above me and think, “I’m going to make that person as wildly successful as I can.”

I’ve rarely had to ask for raises or promotions or career advancement. It’s always happened naturally as I’ve made the people above me successful. They’ve always reached back down, taking me along for the ride.

At Harmon Brothers, our work is client-facing. Instead of focusing on ourselves, we ask, “How can we make our clients wildly successful?” We’ve applied that principle from the beginning with each of our campaigns. As our clients’ sales spike and their brand awareness grows, our success as a company increases!

Grandpa and Grandma at my wedding, 2008.

My grandpa passed away several years ago. I still miss him dearly. I’m no longer embarrassed by my middle name — in fact, I wear it proudly. I’m grateful to have had his influence in my life.

So give Grandpa’s advice a try… instead of focusing on your own advancement, make it your goal to further the success of your boss. You’ll probably find it makes you happier in the short-term and more successful in the long term.

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