LCF panelists weigh in on biggest mistakes


Our expert panelists weigh in on the biggest mistakes they see in each of their areas of specialization.

A novice lawn care operator is likely going to struggle, even with some basic training. It takes years of practice to become an expert at anything. While you might be the best turf manager on the block, there’s likely another area where you’re weak. That’s why we held a panel discussion with experts on public affairs, mergers and acquisitions and more at the Landscape Management Lawn Care Forum Nov. 15-17 in Orlando, Fla.

Meet our panel of experts and find out the biggest mistake you’re probably making in each area of expertise.

Headshot: Karen Reardon

Karen Reardon

vice president of public affairs, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE)

Area of expertise: pesticide and fertilizer policy and issues
What she does: Reardon advocates for the needs of the lawn care industry and fights regulatory decisions that could have a negative impact on the industry, such as pesticide or fertilizer bans. “I work for you to make sure you have the inputs—regardless if those are organic, synthetic or anything else—you need to get work done for your customers,” she says.

The biggest mistake people make in her area of expertise: Not showing up.

“If you’re not telling your story in the policy arena and the regulatory arena, especially in your state, someone else is filling that void and sharing information about you that could affect your business, your livelihood, your family and your customers. There is that (thought), ‘I’ll let someone else—I’ll let my competitor—take care of this.’ You have to get up and go, because the world is run by those who show up.”

Headshot: Phil Harwood

Phil Harwood

managing partner, Pro-Motion Consulting

Area of expertise: leadership, strategic planning
What he does: Along with his firm of consultants, Harwood helps companies develop leadership skills among their managers, devise core values-based cultures and build processes and systems to build stronger teams, retain and recruit employees. “The mission of my team is to develop people, teams and organizations into high-performing people, teams and organizations,” he says.

The biggest mistake people make in his area of expertise: Putting too much focus on recruiting and not enough on retention.

“I’m not saying we don’t need to recruit—that’s a given. But we also have to look in the mirror and look at our companies and say, ‘Where are we not attractive? How are we losing people? Why can’t we attract the stars?’ If you took your car into a dealership, they’re going to perform a 38-point inspection and give you a report on everything about your car. We need to do a similar analysis within our own walls to say, ‘How do we get better? How do we move the needle from an eight to a nine? How do we improve?’”

Shaun Kanary

director of marketing, Weed Pro

Area of Expertise: digital marketing
What he does: On top of his work with Weed Pro, Kanary teaches digital marketing at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, and is director of marketing for Kuno Creative, a digital marketing agency in Avon, Ohio. “If you take your yearly spend on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, 25 percent is probably wasted. The first thing I do is audit a company’s yearly PPC spending and tell you where you’re wasting that 25 percent.”

The biggest mistake people make in his area of expertise: A lack of attention to detail in digital marketing.

“A lot of people in this industry say, ‘I’ve got a guy for that. He or she is younger. He or she understands it. I don’t need to understand it.’ Like in our industry, we all see those people out there who just throw a spreader in the back of their truck and say, ‘Hey I’m a lawn care expert now.’ It’s very easy to call yourself a digital marketing expert. You need to try to understand it because there’s a lot of wasted spend in digital advertising. Someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing could be wasting a lot of your money.”

Headshot: Ron Edmonds

Ron Edmonds

president, Principium Group

Area of expertise: mergers and acquisitions
What he does: Edmonds’ company’s main role is to represent buyers and sellers of landscape companies during mergers and acquisitions. It also works with companies to develop short-term or, ideally, long-term acquisition strategies. “The average client I have is 61 years old and they’re in a hurry to sell the business to fund their retirement,” Edmonds says. “I love to have the opportunity to sit down and talk with people about what their exit strategy is 10 years before they plan on retiring.”

The biggest mistake people make in his area of expertise: Building a business that revolves around one person.

“One of the things I ask people is, ‘Can you imagine somebody other than you running your business?’ Almost everybody says, ‘No, not really. I built it this way, and it’s my baby.’ What I have to tell them, unfortunately, is if you can’t imagine somebody else running your business, nobody else can either. So, you’re not going to be the target for achieving the wealth on the back end. Take the steps and systemize your business so that you can free your business from its dependence on you. A mistake that a lot of people in this industry make is letting their business revolve around them without developing those systems.”

Headshot: Dan Gordon

Dan Gordon

managing member, Turfbooks

Area of expertise: accounting, finances, management information systems
What he does: Gordon owns Turfbooks, a firm of CPAs and
accountants that cater to the lawn care industry. The firm helps companies file tax reports, handle government audits and other back office accounting work, often using cloud-based software, like QuickBooks. “What’s really neat about what we have is if you added the annual volume of all our clients it’s over $500 million, so the information, ratios and cost data that we have is not just an answer to surveys but real data based on what we did,” he says. “We’re fairly quantitative.”

The biggest mistake people make in his area of expertise: Not using a management information system to manage accounting.

“As you grow your business, you need management information systems. It’s easy to go out and push a spreader, hire another guy, keep track of your accounts receivable and things like that. But when you want to scale it to 50 people or 500 people, how do you get there? How do you create the management information systems and the reporting systems that allow you, as a manager, to look at things and understand how your business is doing real quickly, without having to dig into it. It’s all about how you set up your business and knowing what is going into your accounting system so you can look out into the industry, by looking at things like the Operating Cost Study in the September issue of LM, and see how you compare.”

Avatar photo

Dillon Stewart

Dillon Stewart graduated from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, earning a Bachelor of Science in Online Journalism with specializations in business and political science. Stewart is a former associate editor of LM.

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