“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought . . .” – Romans 12:3
For several years we owned and operated a small cattle ranch in West Texas; tiny, in fact, in comparison to other ranches in the area. Nevertheless, it was a successful little venture, producing a profit almost every year – none of which, however, was much to our credit; for what we knew about the cattle business was just about enough to be dangerous. But we had the exceptional good fortune to have as partners the owners of the adjacent property, the Holland family, who had been engaged in farming and ranching for decades. They had more knowledge about the cattle business in a little finger than we could have gained in a lifetime – what to buy, when to buy, when to sell and where to sell, not to mention how to properly manage and nurture the livestock in the meantime. All we provided was the land and half the working capital. Yet, even though they did most of the hard work, they never once treated us as if we contributed anything less.
Besides their labor and knowledge, the Hollands were also people of impeccable integrity, most evident in our dealings with them on financial matters. When it came time to sell our cows, for example, without fail we would receive our share of the proceeds within a couple of days accompanied by a detailed settlement statement. On the other hand, when we owed them money for the purchase of a new herd, it was often times weeks before we would receive a bill, and that after multiple inquiries. Don’t worry, they’d always say, we just haven’t gotten around to sending you an invoice.
Ours was a relationship embedded in a deep level of trust; for “when you trust people,” according to Stephen M.R. Covey in his book The Speed of Trust, “you have confidence in them – in their integrity and in their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them – of their integrity, their agenda, their capabilities, or their track record. It’s that simple.” The Hollands proved to have both integrity and ability.
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” One thing I observed in dealing with the Hollands is that they never shied from accepting more than their share of the blame, nor did they claim more than their share of the credit. That is not only how great business people behave but is also the mark of great leadership. Amazingly, those who follow these same principles tend to be the ones who succeed year after year.