It's not everyday that you get to interview someone who management guru Tom Peters calls a "superstar performer." Peters was referring to Larry Janesky, CEO of Basement Systems.\u00a0 Larry runs a business that keeps homeowners' basements dry.\u00a0 But if you're picturing Larry in coveralls installing French drains, that's not him. Not that he hasn't gotten his hands dirty in the past.\u00a0 It's just that he has other responsibilities now. Peters calls basement waterproofing a mundane industry.\u00a0 Others would be more blunt and call it a low-growth, low-margin, headache-filled business. Larry calls it opportunity.\u00a0 See, it's all in your perspective. He's grown the business from modest beginnings as a home contractor in the early 1990s, to $50,000,000+ annually, with 150 employees. Recently I interviewed Larry. I expected a straight-forward interview. Instead I got an uplifting "do things differently and go get it done" interview. I felt motivated afterward. I think you will too. Larry Janesky offers five principles to run your business by: Improve yourself to improve your company Look for opportunities in your backyard To sell, first educate customers Regardless of your industry, be a knowledge company Bring out the best in employees Let's take a look at each of the five and what he says about them. 1. Improve yourself to improve your company "The quality of a small business depends on the quality of the owner's thoughts."\u00a0 According to Larry, a small business is a reflection of the owner's thinking. He says, "As the owner thinks, so the business goes. I find that you have to work harder on yourself, than on your business. Far more important than doing, is knowing what you should do, so that you are not spinning your wheels forever." He started listening to business audio books over 20 years ago.\u00a0 He says, "I look around and think, if someone else can do it, I can do it.\u00a0 I just have to learn what they know." He's even started his own motivational self-improvement email tips series called Think Daily.\u00a0 "I'm trying to encourage my employees and others to think about their lives." 2. Look for opportunities in your backyard You get the feeling that Larry Janesky would be successful in just about any industry, any place, at any time. After graduating from high school, he started building houses.\u00a0 The last house he built had a small water problem in the basement, and that is how he got into the basement waterproofing industry. At first, business was slow. "We didn't have much in the way of product and couldn't attract\u00a0dealers.\u00a0 Then in 1994 we had a big product breakthrough for a drainage system that I patented.\u00a0 When dealers saw the system, they came running." He says, "You don't have to hunt for opportunities.\u00a0 There are opportunities everywhere you stand." 3. To sell, first educate customers Basement Systems sells through a network of 300 dealers nationwide.\u00a0 So they must satisfy their dealers, yet also satisfy the end consumer. The company operates on a handshake with dealers - they don't try to tie up the dealers with contracts.\u00a0 "Instead," Larry says, "we keep them happy. They pay only for product, but we give them a lot of other stuff for free, including training, business consulting, marketing support and software." Surprisingly one of the secrets to their sales success in the waterproofing industry is ... books. Larry has written 4 books to help dealers market.\u00a0He says, "'Dry Basement Science' is the one we use most.\u00a0 Dealers send it to their homeowner prospects.\u00a0 It shows 'these guys are the experts -- the pros' and it helps the dealers compete. Consumers are more knowledgeable today, with the Internet." 4. Regardless of your industry, be a knowledge company Basement Systems has 25 patents.\u00a0 But perhaps the most surprising intellectual property is the company's software. The software shows consumers what their basements will look like with the products installed.\u00a0 Larry calls it "a magical thing." "We started 10 years ago with the software concept.\u00a0 I personally took PowerPoint and tried to turn it into animated depictions of what the customer would get.\u00a0 But we needed something much more powerful," he said. "So 4 years ago we developed a proprietary software program.\u00a0 There's a section called "My Basement" and we make it look like the customer's basement, and we walk them through adding our products in their basement.\u00a0 The program also generates a 4-page proposal along with an image of what the basement will look with the product.\u00a0 It can be printed out right at the homeowner's kitchen table with a portable printer, or emailed to the homeowner, who then prints it out right there.\u00a0 Sales are emotional.\u00a0 Aesthetics are emotional.\u00a0 Show the homeowner the aesthetics, and you make the sale." 5. Bring out the best in employees "You want to hire the best you can get, certainly.\u00a0 But more important than that, you want to set up an environment where they can be successful." He goes on:\u00a0 "We have a number of employees who had moved from job to job before they came here, but never felt empowered.\u00a0 Here they know their ideas are valued.\u00a0 We don't tolerate negative people or gossips who bring everyone down.\u00a0 We have a cool facility and constantly invest in it, so that people feel good when they come to work.\u00a0 Everyone has the capability of contributing in a unique way, if you just allow them to do that." "When you have low morale, it's the leader's fault.\u00a0 You can bring out the best or worst in people -- you choose."