Trust, Honesty and Putting Others First: Entrepreneur Katherine Grullon Shares Her Golden Rules of Running a Thriving Business

Listen to this article

Trust is the glue that binds all human relationships. Without trust, you never feel at ease or able to express who you are. Instead, you hold back, fearful of being cheated, hurt or let down. Whether it’s marriage, team sports or business, broken trust destroys foundations.

The Harvard Business Review recently reported on the effect of trust within a firm. They found those offices where trust prevails report energy levels 106% higher than usual. Stress was also found to decrease by as much as 76%, and productivity was boosted by over 50%.

Put company interests before your own

Courtesy photo provided by Katherine Grullon.

Katherine Grullon, Business lead at Distrivision, believes trust is sacrosanct. It underpins the company’s entire business model. Grullon defines trust as an environment where everyone puts the interests of the company first and their own needs second. Without it, chaos ensues. The most toxic environments exist where employees try to shirk their responsibilities and idly pass the hours, with managers frantically trying to reign them in and micromanage them.

Trust, though, does not mean everybody has to be best buddies. That is a common misconception. It simply means you can rely on each other to pick up the slack and do what needs to be done.

Grullon learned the importance of trust and reliance from her mother, and founder, Maria Ruth Cuervo. The Cuervo family grew their business from one location to three, in their native country. Despite being only 13 years of age, Maria Ruth became a stalwart within the family enterprise and had a lot of responsibility placed on her young shoulders.

From factory-worker to boutique-owner

Later, when the family came to the USA, Maria Ruth was able to get a job in a factory. She recounts how she was very quickly able to take up a supervisory position, no doubt down to the trust placed in her by the management. Unable to quell the entrepreneurial spirit she’d developed as a child, she soon spotted an opportunity to open a store in Central Falls, and started acquiring quality Colombian goods to stock the shelves.

Distrivision was initially called ‘Shapewear Central’, with reference to the specialist lingerie and figure-shaping garments being imported. The boutique specialized in brands from Colombia and soon began to take on a life of its own. Word of mouth began to spread about the quality of the products that Maria Ruth was bringing in from Colombia. Other fledgling entrepreneurs began to approach her, asking if she could help them launch their own business. What began life as a single boutique soon began to metamorphose into a distribution company. 

Distrivision: Supplier and ‘go-to business partner’

It was Katherine Grullon who oversaw the transition to Distrivision. She recalls: ‘I worked alongside the marketing team, and other industry experts, to facilitate the rebranding process. We were looking for an image that represented us: what we do and how we do it. As a wholesale distributor, we focused on the transparency, love and care that we have for all our partners. We  emphasized the tireless effort we put into helping our business partners grow and also the respect and appreciation we have for our suppliers.”

With multiple lines of products, a growing network of stores, and countless families relying on her for employment, Grullon explains that she is not merely a ‘supplier’ but a ‘trusted business partner’—a role she treats with the utmost respect. “We offer an exceptional, personalized experience for our clients, who in turn provide those same services to their customers. We plan to be your leading source of high-quality products and brands. We are more than simply a distributor — we are your go-to business partner.”

Grullon advises would-be entrepreneurs to maintain absolute integrity in all areas of business. “Your reputation for doing things right, and your consistent transparency, will win people over.” When times are tough, like the recent pandemic, it’s tempting to ‘cut corners’ in order to save money, time or effort. However, this can be self-defeating in the long run. Grullon says, “My business was built on a foundation of honesty. People know that when they speak with me, I will tell them the truth. When I’m working with a client, I never want the other party to feel like they’ve gotten anything less than the best possible deal.”

Leaders prioritize the needs of others

In her elevated position, it would’ve been easy to succumb to the usual narcissistic tendencies. However, rather than using her new-found influence for her own gain, Grullon decided to leverage it to support others. It was Simon Sinek who said:

“The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

Grullon explains: “We offer specialized, wholesale distributorship services of high-quality items, allowing the business customer we partner with to generate more sales and have less risk of loss of investment. We offer efficient order processing and personalized strategies to increase their sales.” In short, the customer-centric approach promotes the needs of the client and tries to ensure that they succeed. Grullon’s philosophy is that success at the expense of others is short-lived, at best. In order to achieve longevity in business, you need to be trustworthy, honest and selfless. She says, “Distrivision is a wellness brand. It’s an ‘I care for you’ and ‘I’m here for you’ brand. We want to help our partners face their fears, overcome challenges and make it to the top.”