Umberto Fedeli: Ten tips on how to meet the challenges you face in your journey

When I was asked to deliver a college commencement speech, a friend of mine suggested I reflect on my 35 years of business experience and talk about the 10 lessons I would like to share with graduates about business and life. Here they are.

No. 1: There is nothing more important in life than relationships. Relationships could be with family, friends, faith or community. On their deathbed, the thing that people reflect on is relationships. If it’s that important at the end of life, it should be at the top all your life.

This brings me to the law of reciprocity: You can get anything you want if you help other people get what they want.

No. 2: It’s always important to add value. So no matter what you’re doing, ask yourself, “Am I making a difference? Am I making a contribution? Am I going above and beyond?” Manage expectations, so you don’t overpromise and then under deliver. 

No. 3: Solving problems. I don’t have to have all the answers. Nobody said you possibly could. So it’s a matter of who.

Once, my son asked, “What is the difference between going to school and being in the business world?” I said, “Well, in school, you have to be good at what you do. And in business, you have to know who is good at what they do.”

No. 4: About 80 percent of success is choosing the right people. To be world-class, you have to have the right people in the right place. You have to engage your constituents, your customers and your co-workers.

If you can get people emotionally involved and engage them, you can move mountains. The point is — nothing really starts until somebody is enthusiastic.

No. 5: We are not all called to do extraordinary things, but everybody has to do ordinary things extraordinarily. I think many times people say, “When I get to be very successful, I can do this or this.” I think many times we miss many opportunities every day.

No. 6: Management consultant Peter Drucker once wrote, “Wherever you find something getting done, you find a monomaniac with a mission.” At some point, you have to be so single-focused and have such drive, work ethic, energy and will to spend the amount of time it takes to be the best at what you do — and simultaneously balance your life to be a peak performer. 

No. 7: If you don’t know where you are going and what you’re doing, how am I going to follow you? It’s important to look at your goals and write them down. Once you know the goal, and determine what the action plans are, people will follow you.

No. 8: Life is constantly learning how to learn and continuing to learn as much as you can in the areas that you are interested in or need to know. Learning is a lifelong experience. 

No. 9: Even though there are many lessons in each of these, the Pareto Principle (80 percent of your sales comes from 20 percent of your clients) works with just about everything — it’s a small percentage of things that we need to focus on that is going to make the difference. 

No. 10: At the end of the day, the lesson is not about a comparison. It’s about a contribution. Have you gone from “success to significance?” Have you made an impact? Have you made a difference?

Umberto P. Fedeli is president and CEO of The Fedeli Group. For more information, visit