Editor’s Note: Louisville quotables

November 10, 2016 -  By

palmieriThe landscape industry’s largest trade show, GIE+EXPO, got even larger this year. There were 230 new exhibitors —a good sign assuming they all have done their research and have deemed the landscape market to be a promising one.

While the LM team and I were running between the show floor and conference sessions like crazy people, as we do every year, I jotted down more than a few notes. Here are two quotes that got me thinking.

“I think (Olympic swimmer) Michael Phelps breaks records because he looks at his competition as he’s moving down the lane. I like to look down the lane.”
—Frank Mariani, CEO, Mariani Landscape

During “Inside the C-Suite—Insights Shared by Industry Legends,” green industry consultant Judy Guido led a panel discussion with Pat Covey, president/COO, Davey Tree; Ken Hutcheson, president, U.S. Lawns; Tim Portland, CEO, Yellowstone Landscape; and Mariani. The execs discussed a variety of topics: how they spend their time, the M&A environment and the competitive environment, among other things.

When asked about how they size up their competition, Mariani responded with the quote above. You commonly hear business owners say, “We don’t look at our competition; we focus on ourselves and the client.” That’s all well and good, but I appreciate his honesty in acknowledging that he does consider his competition, resulting in a policy of the company touching base with clients a minimum of one time per month—netting a 95 percent renewal rate. “One thing I think we do better than our competitors is relationships,” he says.

“We just don’t have enough higher up women (in the landscape industry), so we can say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”—Jennifer Lemcke, COO, Weed Man USA.

In her talk, “Women in Landscaping: Harnessing our Strength for a Greater Industry,” Lemcke, who discussed her own struggles to find work/life balance, shared data from a 2012 Harvard Business Review report about why despite being half the workforce (and despite research showing women are just as effective as male leaders), women don’t often make it to leadership positions. The reasons the number of women steadily shrinks as you move up the corporate ladder boils down to three things, according to an analysis of the HBR study in Business Insider. It’s either “I don’t want the role,” “I cannot succeed in the role” or “I can’t have the role.”

There are many factors that play into each of these responses—societal, personal and organizational. Lemcke says she understands the struggles first hand. Despite loving her job and having a supportive husband, she couldn’t ignore her mother’s instinct. “I don’t think my husband ever went to work crying because he put the kids on the bus when they had the sniffles,” she says.

Still, amid labor and leadership shortages in the landscape industry, companies that can be flexible and find ways to support and promote female employees will succeed. Cross training and systems are a vital component of this strategy, Lemcke says: “We need to build companies so that if someone leaves—male or female—it won’t be a catastrophe.”

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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