Who Are Your Wingmen?

December 12, 2020

When I was a young boy, I was free to roam the neighborhood-just like all the other kids on my block. We played together as a group almost every day, and our families knew each other intimately. It was a close-knit community where we went from home to home as if each was our own.

The "Dirt Road" Boys

A couple of blocks away was another neighborhood that had some kids who were about my age. I knew a couple of those kids, and I would sometimes “sneak” over to play. These kids were “tougher” than my home street friends as several carried pocketknives, and we had BB gun battles all the time. (We were taught gun safety in my neighborhood).

That neighborhood’s streets were unpaved, and I would come home dirty and dusty from our rough play. My mom would say, “You’ve been playing with those ‘dirt road’ boys again. And then she would say, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” It was her shorthand way of telling me that I shouldn’t be playing with kids who didn’t share my principles and standards and were likely to get me into more trouble than I was already likely to get into on my own.

In building a culture of excellence, it is critically important to have good people around you who share your principles, ethics, and standards, or conflict is likely to arise. It is equally important in your business and your personal lives.

The Summit Group

When I founded the Summit Group, a financial consulting firm, most of my clients were doctors and airline pilots with whom I had personal relationships. Our company’s stated goal was to provide them with the best tax and financial advice and save them as much money. I soon discovered insurance was an area I needed to address but a competency I didn’t possess. I turned to a gentleman I served on a board with, who was very competent in the insurance business. We agreed to work together in a collaborative relationship.

The relationship worked well initially, but as time progressed, I realized the insurance products we were providing our clients were higher-cost options. While we made more money on them, we could have offered equally suitable products at a much lower cost. Our company’s stated goal was to save our clients as much money as possible, and these higher-cost products were incompatible with that goal. His goal was to maximize income on the insurance products he sold, so our principles were not aligned. The business relationship did not survive over time.

Short Term Money

While we could have made more money in the short term, the risk to the company’s reputation and my friendships had our clients continued to be charged higher fees, dictated a different choice. Yet again, I came to appreciate my mom’s admonitions about being with people who didn’t share my principles and standards and were likely to get me into more trouble than I was already likely to get into on my own.


“The better you are at surrounding yourself with people of high potential, the greater your chance for success.”
-John C. Maxwell