By Gino Blefari
One of the stops on my travels this week was to Indianapolis where I met with the fine agents and managers at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty and spend time with Kevin Kirkpatrick, CEO; and John Dick, who recently retired as co-owner and president. I’ve known John and Kevin for about 14 years and they’re more than my colleagues; they’re my friends. Friendship is sometimes overlooked in business but it’s one of the most important assets in every company, office … and even sports team that has ever found lasting success. I’ve always said that I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with. I get to work with my best friends in the world.
This idea played out in the fall, when baseball fans around the country shed a collective tear as they said goodbye to then-retiring star shortstop Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. It wasn’t just extraordinary athleticism that drew people to this enigmatic sports figure, or made an entire nation sad to see him go. It was also his ability to be the consummate teammate: supportive, loyal and selfless. Derek Jeter managed to achieve the perfect balance between legendary leader and every baseball fan’s friend.
Forever humble, Jeter once attributed this quality to those around him: “Surround yourself with good people,” he said. “People who are going to be honest with you and look out for your best interest.”
The Captain gets to the heart of a very important leadership lesson; success doesn’t happen alone. It takes a talented team to build a business and then it takes cohesiveness and collaboration to make that business thrive. In other words, it’s not enough to put together a group of the greatest people you know and expect great things. There’s a component that must be present in order to make it all work: friendship.
And often, friendship can prove an even more powerful motivator than ability. The reason Buster Olney, senior writer at ESPN, declared the 1998 New York Yankees “the best team of all time” wasn’t because they were the most talented team that year. It was because the 1998 Yankees had developed an unbreakable morale; they were all close friends. These strong bonds carried them through every tough game won at the bottom of the ninth and every hit made when there were two strikes in the count, ultimately turning the Bronx Bombers into World Series champions.
So, what’s the message? There’s a direct correlation between friendship and performance. If you want to build a business set to last, make sure you do it surrounded by hard-working individuals you’re proud to call your friends.