Case study: Growing day

December 9, 2014 -  By

Shutting down for a day to help improve employees’ lives is pricey but worth it for one firm.

Not too many business owners would help employees pursue a dream outside of their landscape career, but Todd Pugh isn’t like most owners. In fact, some might even call him crazy for shutting down business for a day just to focus on employees’ future aspirations. But Pugh believes that happy employees are better employees—even if they aren’t ultimately going to stay with his company. That’s the idea behind Growing Day, an event held for all 185 employees of his Louisville, Ohio-based company Todd’s Enviroscapes. This year’s daylong meeting took place Nov. 3.

Employees from all four of the company’s branches came together at its headquarters to hear a variety of guest speakers for the second annual Growing Day. Pugh, CEO, hand-picked the speakers not only from the green industry but from the worlds of finance, insurance
and manufacturing.

Presenters included Dave and Barbara Zerfoss, authors and consultants with The Zerfoss Group. Dave Zerfoss is past president of Husqvarna and Barbara Zerfoss is a former marketing executive with the Charlotte, N.C.-based equipment manufacturer. All employees received a signed copy of the book “The Power of Nothing” by Barbara Zerfoss, in addition to a company sweatshirt.

Between the handouts, providing breakfast and lunch and shutting down for an entire day, Pugh acknowledges the event is a major investment—approximately $50,000. But he says the return has the power to be tenfold.

“Who better to invest in than your own people?” he says.

Team takeaways

Several key points really hit home with employees, Pugh says. One speaker, a financial planner, touched on delayed gratification and how putting money away now adds up in the future. Barbara and Dave Zerfoss spoke about starting with a blank sheet of paper and knowing that your future can be anything you want it to be. They also discussed letting go of the past.

“I think people get really jazzed up right after the event and are excited about taking the right steps for their future,” Pugh says. “The challenge is keeping that excitement going. If you invest in an event like this you need to keep checking in with employees.”

The week following the event, Pugh spent a day at each branch talking to all the teams about what they learned. This provided great feedback for next year and also kept employees motivated. “One guy opened up his first savings account,” Pugh says. “Another employee told me his goal was to be the best DJ in the world. I am a realist and I know that some of our employees have dreams outside of this company. I’m OK with that. I want to help them work toward their goals so that they’re happy and productive while they’re here. And chances are they know someone great to replace them when they do part amicably with us.”

Pugh says he launched this initiative because he believes in his workforce. And he says that helping make them better people makes them better employees. Other companies considering hosting this form of an event should be prepared to be honest and transparent, he says. That’s why he doesn’t guide speakers with what he wants them to say. He tells them to speak from the heart.

Company size doesn’t matter when it comes to hosting an employee development event, he adds. “I think a lot of smaller companies probably have the misconception that they couldn’t do it,” Pugh says. “But the truth is that an event like this is easier when you’re small, when you can just host it at a restaurant. Every company could benefit from an event that inspires employees to be better people.”

Business breakdown

Company: Todd’s Enviroscapes
Revenue: More than $10 million
Service mix: 20% design/build+installation; 60% mowing+landscape maintenance; 20% snow+ice management
Customer mix: 90% commercial; 10% residential
Employees: 100 full-time, 85 part-time

Payton is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.

About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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