There's an old adage that says the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. That saying certainly applies to me and my life as an entrepreneur. Yet along the way I have learned a thing or two in business and in life and hence this blog. My name is Greg Wittstock, but I prefer to go by my business mantra: The Pond Guy. I became The Pond Guy by turning my hobby of water-gardening (that's backyard fish ponds, waterfalls, and water lily type stuff) into a $60-million-dollar-plus business with 190 employees and offices located in Chicago and Toronto. I'm 37 years old, married with two kids and a golden doodle dog named Buckeye (in honor of my alma mater, Ohio State). I've got a passion for ponds and Buckeye football but this blog is not going to be about either one; rather it's going to be about another passion of mine ... helping others reach their fullest potential.
As the CEO of Aquascape, I feel there is no greater responsibility than guiding and guarding our company culture. The number one thing in any company is its people, because after all, it's people in the end who get things done. By focusing insanely on our people's success, our culture has evolved into one that is extremely extroverted, and even our customers have embraced our business as a model for their own. By leveraging our core philosophy of helping others first and becoming intertwined with our customers' businesses, we became the focus of an 11-page feature story in Inc. magazine in November, 2003, "Building a Marketing Juggernaut." The genesis for the article came after a conversation I had with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham during a Great Game of Business seminar, which is a leading open-book-management organization. Bo was intrigued by our company's efforts to educate our landscape construction customers on the importance of understanding their own financials. His article chronicled our efforts to teach them the importance of managing their business numbers. It also discussed the family tension between me and my father, who at the time had a competing water-gardening business. A lot has happened since that article appeared, including a business model shift for us and even the acquisition of my dad's business and the patching of our once-strained personal relationship. What hasn't changed is our focus on building a unique company culture and putting our customer's success first.
My goals with this blog are quite simple. I want to be in a position to share my thoughts and those of the people in my organization on how you can create a company culture that rocks and in so doing have a positive impact not only on the people who work in your business but on all the people, customers included, who your company touches. If you want to have a greater legacy on this earth than simply selling or servicing widgets or gadgets (even if those widgets or gadgets are way cool like water features) than you've found the right blog. Life's too short to focus only on cash, sales, and market share. By focusing on others, both internally and externally, and by being part of their development, life's a lot more rewarding. Oh, and if you are still concerned about margins, profit, and financial success, you've still found the right blog. Because what I've seen, again and again, is that by focusing on helping others get what they want ... you get what you want.
Nobody told me this back when I was growing up with a math tutor attached to my hip who helped me to just barely get through school with a lot of C's and even a few D's. Thank God I was good at and subsequently passionate about digging holes and slinging rocks to create beautiful backyard paradises for people to escape to. (And thank God you got credit for passing gym!) Today, I still build ponds periodically but my passion for doing that day in and day out has been supplanted by a passion for helping others do what I was able to do. If that sounds cool to you -- or even if you just hated math and loved gym -- then you're my type of guy or gal. If you have a minute, please let me know how you have leveraged your passion to succeed at what you're doing and how you have built up others around you in the process.