Grow with Grunder: Attack 2019 head-on

Hand with 2019 dial (Photo: iStock.com/Olivier Le Moal)
(Photo: iStock.com/Olivier Le Moal)
Hand with 2019 dial (Photo: iStock.com/Olivier Le Moal)
Photo: iStock.com/Olivier Le Moal

At the start of every new year, I like to take some time to reflect on the best insights I gleaned from industry colleagues over the past 12 months. Here’s the hard-won wisdom I’ll be focusing on most intently in 2019:

“I have never seen young people so interested in company culture.” This intel came from Phil Allen, Ph.D., a professor of landscape management at Brigham Young University. I asked him what it takes to recruit and retain talented students like his to work at landscaping companies like mine. They want to work at organizations that feel like family, are fun and provide a clear path for growth, Allen says. Companies that don’t know their visions and missions from top to bottom are going to have difficulty attracting skilled graduates, he cautioned. Do you know your vision? Can you articulate and repeat it in a single sentence?

“Growth brings prosperity, but the demands it brings to manage and deliver are very real.” All the ambitious owners I know are eager to grow their companies. But, as Mike Rorie, who grew GroundMasters into the largest provider of commercial landscape services in the Ohio Valley (before selling it to Brickman more than a decade ago), stressed: You have to grow smartly. If you don’t have the people, the management and the systems in place to take on more work, you won’t succeed. Worse yet, you’ll do real damage to your reputation and erode the accomplishments you fought so hard to realize.

“Opportunity is the greatest motivator.” Bob Grover, president of Pacific Landscape Management (PLM), told us this when we toured his facility in August as part of our annual National Association of Landscape Professionals Field Trip: PLM has accomplished extraordinary growth while staying true to its values. How? By continuing to put its people and their aspirations first — by investing in ongoing training and education, providing opportunities for advancement and setting up a scholarship fund for its team members’ children. If you find yourself constantly frustrated with your team, take a good long look at the workplace you’ve created. In Grover’s experience, as in mine, when you take a genuine interest in your team, they will take a genuine interest in delivering for you.

“The economy is going to change; have a plan and be prepared.” Frank Mariani is CEO of one of the largest privately held landscaping companies in the country. When Mariani speaks, I listen. And what he has been reminding me during the prosperity of 2018 is that the economy will, inevitably, change. Smart companies have a plan in place for good times and bad. Sit your leadership team down this month and start talking through what you’ll do when the economy shifts. It may not be fun, but it is necessary if you want to survive and thrive.

“It’s all about the people.” I recently asked Michael Hupf, CEO of Lifescape Colorado, what he thought was the most important factor in running a successful landscaping company. Hupf grew up on a farm in Nebraska, worked as a CPA with Deloitte and earned an MBA from Stanford before buying Lifescape and growing it from $3 million to $15 million in annual revenue. I expected him to tell me financials are the key to success, but instead, he said it all comes down to the people. Sure, his background enables him to really understand the business side of things, but without a dedicated team, you just won’t win.

To go deeper into the insights these industry leaders have to share, please join us at The Grow Group’s GROW! 2019 conference in Denver, Feb. 20-22. It’s going to be an amazing event — I promise.

See you next month!

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