Communication Coach: Never fake your company mission

Photo: Dzmitry Dzemidovich/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Photo: Dzmitry Dzemidovich/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

One of the cardinal rules of business is being true to your mission. It’s like a compass that keeps your purpose aligned for serving a target audience while showcasing your unique strengths.

Back in the late 90s when the lawn and landscaping industry was experiencing its first major round of consolidation, I attended my first ALCA (now NALP) Executive Forum in St Petersburg, Fla.

The energy in the destination hotel was electric and contagious. I was the owner of an aspiring residential design/build company among a sea of commercial landscape management leaders. At least that’s how it felt because all the conversations eventually led to whether your company was open to being acquired.

Many of these companies were second-generation businesses with different challenges than mine. Yet, their stories inspired me. Since I was an industry newcomer, it was like a big door opened to reveal attractive new opportunities.

When I brought these ideas home to my team, they pushed back. I tried to explain that the bigger profits and growth were in the commercial markets. They continued to resist.

That was the end of that until we picked up a residential client who also wanted us to take on a large commercial property he managed. The grounds included over five acres of landscaping and an equal area of sidewalks and pavement requiring snow and ice management.

We agreed to take it on with the same attention to detail our residential clients expected.

We learned two valuable lessons from this experience:

  1. You can successfully serve multiple types of customers, but not without redefining your company mission. If you cannot work out the incongruities, you may want to reconsider or risk faking your mission.
  2. You will have to work harder to integrate (and sometimes separate) their respective differences. This includes equipment, production methods and standards, and communication styles.

We retained that commercial client and others like it for more than ten years, but eventually returned to our residential roots. The one exception was retaining the profitable commercial snow and ice management business.

Know your strengths

One theme remained constant amid the transformations. The core strength that allowed us to prevail in every situation was communication. Our residential customers greatly appreciated this skill, and it turns out it’s highly valued for managing risk in commercial snow and ice operations.

This story has one more lesson. When we recommitted to residential properties, we opened the door to much larger and more profitable projects. Despite their greatly expanded scope and complexity, our core strengths assured us we could successfully handle them.

Jeff Korhan

Jeff Korhan

Jeff Korhan is the owner of True Nature Marketing, a Naples, Fla.-based company helping entrepreneurs grow. Reach him at jeff@truenature.com. Jeff works with service companies that want to drive growth and enhance their brand experience with digital platforms.

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