By Bill Prosch

Deep down, we all have a vision of what life would look like if we were truly successful. We also tend to believe that everyone’s definition of success is similar to our own. But that’s simply not true.

If you polled 100 people on what success looks like to them, you would get 100 different answers. And, sometimes, success seems akin to Ponce De Leon’s search for the fountain of youth ― it’s always just around the corner but never achievable.

I want to share the story of a project manager I frequently work with; let’s call him Ted. Had I embraced Ted’s definition of success early on, I can only imagine how much easier my initial management and ownership years would have been.

Working with client companies in my role as a business adviser includes the opportunity to work on various projects with operations staff members. Recently, near the end of a meeting, I asked Ted how he knew he was being successful at his job.

This is a question I frequently ask, as it helps me to understand what success looks like in the eyes of the people I’m working with, and understanding this allows me to ensure that we are working toward a common goal. The response I received honestly shocked me.

I expected to hear something about making his boss happy, how much money he earns, or possibly even the title he holds. My assumptions were wrong. Instead, here’s what he told me:

“First, I can gauge how I’m doing by the attitude of my technicians. If they’re motivated, positive, and making our customers happy, I feel successful.

Second, I pay attention to the feedback from the customers and adjusters we work with. Again, if they’re happy with us and sending us referrals, I feel successful.

Next, I look at how we’re controlling our cost of goods sold. If we are meeting or staying under our targets, I feel successful.

I look at what kind of feedback our customer service reps are getting. If that feedback is positive, I feel successful.

Last, if everyone around me is reporting that they’re successful, I’m successful.”

Did you notice that in this Ted’s definition of success there wasn’t one word about his wants or needs? His success is the byproduct of making others around him successful. Think about that for a minute. If he can focus on ensuring the success of his subordinates, customers, and company, he feels successful.

It was an incredibly enlightened and mature response. And here’s the best part ― this wasn’t made up or contrived. He didn’t have days, hours, or even minutes to craft a response to my question. His answer came out immediately after I asked the question, in that exact order.

You would expect this level of maturity in a manager in his 40s or 50s, but what’s truly incredible in my eyes is that Ted is in his early thirties. I mean no disrespect to those in their twenties and thirties; it’s simply that most of us need to fall down, get up, and brush ourselves off countless times over the years to gain this level of insight.

Ted’s focus has matured from “me” to “we” to “them” in what seems like an instant. He grasped the concept that he would never truly be successful while focusing on himself or even a group he was part of. Rather, he understood that, if you focus on helping everyone around you succeed, your own success is almost certainly guaranteed.

If I were a customer, I would want this project manager running my project. If I were the owner of a restoration company, there’s no doubt I would want him driving my projects. And if I were a technician, I would love reporting to a guy like this. After all, who wouldn’t follow a leader who wants nothing more than to help you be successful?

Bill Prosch, CR, is a Business Development Adviser for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Prosch is a leading expert in operations and a Certified Restorer. He has a deep understanding of entrepreneurial challenges having owned and operated a successful restoration company for more than 30 years. Through Violand, he works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit or call (800)360-3513.