I work with a number of companies on creating greater employee engagement in their workforce. These companies realize that the path to success is one where employees give their discretionary effort and actually “care.” Interestingly, there are no magic bullets for creating engagement. It is far easier to bark orders and command people to do things.
While that may get the job done in the short term, it is not the path to long term engagement. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.” My interviewee this week, Greg Drumwright, learned this lesson early on and applies it in his very successful business — Green King Spray Service.
Greg is a native of Southaven and grew up around a family business. His parents, Bruce and Margaret Drumwright, bought a small feed mill in Olive Branch when he was four years old that manufactured livestock feed for local farms. He shared, “From a very young age, I noticed my parents leading the employees and making sacrifices so that we could stay afloat.” He continued, “They showed me you had to lead by example rather than by force. My mom and dad spent countless late nights doing monthly statements, fixing broken machinery and dealing with personnel issues. My observation was that they truly cared for the men and women who worked so hard to produce a good product.”
In addition to his early training in the family business, Greg gained experience as a leader through DECA, a national leadership development organization for students. He participated in competitions through DECA where he won several won several state and regional titles. While in college, he wrote a business plan and developed it into a new farm store, which he managed. Greg was also influenced by a local Southaven entrepreneur, Dale Wilson. Greg said, “I admired his leadership and ability to convert great business ideas into practical applications. He gave me several opportunities to work for him in his tent and firework business to see his vision and leadership style.”
Greg started Green King Spray Service in 2001 in Olive Branch with a vision to be an industry leader in providing innovative horticulture solutions for homeowners, landscape companies and commercial property owners. He has built a very successful organization by focusing on developing an engaged employee base and old fashioned hard work. He noted, “I subscribe to the philosophy that I won’t ask anyone who works for me to do something I am not willing to do or have not done myself. I want the people I lead to know I am in the trenches with them.”
For future leaders and entrepreneurs, Greg offers some wise counsel. He said, “My advice to future leaders is to ‘suck it up… life and leadership are hard.’ I believe you have to earn the respect of the people you lead. Leadership isn’t something you can learn or develop without practice, and when you fail, which you will, learn from that and don’t be afraid to try again.” Greg also emphasized the importance of having a supportive and helpful spouse. He shared, “Having a person at home in which you can confide and get honest guidance from is a must. I am very lucky to have Meredith Drumwright to help me be a better leader.” I am always encouraged when I learn about leaders like Greg who understand the importance of leading by example and the true meaning of leadership is humble servant hood.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.