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4 ways a second-in-command can grow your business

October 8, 2021 -  By

It’s an inarguable fact that all successful landscape companies develop a team of area leaders, but many successful landscape entrepreneurs also have a secret weapon: a powerful second-in-
command (SIC) to help them run the entire business.

(Photo: fizkes/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

(Photo: fizkes/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Having a second-in-command is a common role employed by many famous entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs’ SIC was Tim Cook, who was head of logistics and operations before becoming CEO. He was mostly unknown until Jobs became sick.

Fred Turner served as SIC to Ray Kroc, the innovator behind McDonald’s. Turner started as a grill operator and became head of operations under Kroc. To this day, most people have not heard of Fred Turner, even though he eventually became CEO after Kroc stepped down. Being SIC is a critical behind-the-scenes job without fanfare.

There are different reasons to have a SIC. Here are four common roles that one can play in your business.

1. Implementer

The main reason for having a SIC is to keep the operations streamlined, successful and operating within budget. The implementer is a tactical position with equal parts organizer, process builder and coach.

For example, Blanchford Landscaping in Bozeman, Mont., recently named Abby Dobson the general manager of the business. Owner Andy Blanchford spends most of his time living abroad for family reasons and needs an implementer who can run the day-to-day operations. If you have a SIC already in place, could you live in another country full time? That is the ultimate test of whether you are an owner of a business or have a job.

2. Complementer

The main role of this person is to focus on areas of the business that the owner does not have the time nor the skills for. This role can be combined with the implementer.

For example, as an owner, you may be best at sales management but need someone better at operations. Dave Wright, owner of Wright Landscape Services in Bloomingdale, Ontario, Canada (and president of Landscape Ontario) has a SIC with this exact role. This is a common setup. I have worked with Dave for years, and he is happier and more successful with this key executive at his side.

3. Successor

This is a transitory role where the SIC is studying under the owner to take over his or her CEO role. Sometimes the intention is for the successor to buy the business. Many owners are considering this route; it takes extra care to choose someone who can both run and buy a business.

4. Mentor

Sometimes an owner will hire an older, semiretired person to act as both COO and mentor to the owner. It’s an odd couple, but it helps the younger owner gain confidence and skills. I know of a second-generation landscape business owner who bought out his father and used this model to help him gain his sea legs.

Bonus setup, unique arrangements: George Tucker owner of LanDesign in Moscow Mills, Mo., first hired an outside COO from another industry but realized he was still drawn into some of the day to day of the business. He then hired an outside CEO to run all his lawn, irrigation and landscape companies. Both of these hires were longtime acquaintances of Tucker’s. They were both pre-vetted. Now that Tucker has freed up his time, he can focus on his real-estate ventures, new acquisitions and his first love: design sales. The company is growing faster than ever with this new arrangement.

Next month, I will publish part two of this article, where we will take a closer look at the role and responsibilities of the SIC.

Don’t miss my talk, “Power Session: Develop A Second in Command — Scale Your Business while Freeing Your time As Owner,” at Landscapes in Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. to learn special tools to get an owner and SIC on the same page.

Jeffrey Scott

About the Author:

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in his personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners—members achieve a 27 percent profit increase in their first year. To learn more visit

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