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Grow with Grunder: How killing them with kindness benefits your operation and your team

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

Many of you know my friend Teddy Russell from his involvement with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). He took over Russell Landscape Group — started by his father Bill in 1987 — a commercial landscape powerhouse in Atlanta. Teddy officially joined the team in 2002 and overcame barriers and challenges to grow the firm into a company providing landscaping services to more than 1,400 properties and netting revenue north of $62 million annually.

Every company in the country has a story behind its success, and Russell Landscaping is no different. So, what’s Teddy’s secret? We’re going to explore exactly that at our annual Field Trip, held in partnership with the NALP on June 6-7.

While I hope you’ll join us there, I wanted to give you a preview of what we’ve learned from the team at Russell Landscape as we prepare for this great annual event.

Tension isn’t always a bad thing

Teddy talks about having positive tension in business and a constant pull between three facets of his company: sales and service, operations and administration. Russell Landscape does its best to ensure all three aspects are equally balanced, and none takes an unfair share of the team’s focus.

At Grunder Landscaping Co., we’ve built our unique value proposition around the level of service we provide. While I believe in this model, and it’s worked well for us, in recent years, we’ve realized that when we prioritize service too much, it can come at the cost of operations and administration. We provide a great level of service to our clients, but we’re burning out our team or creating inefficiencies to do it.

We’ve made a conscious effort in the past three years to rebalance, and it’s made our model more scalable as we’ve grown.

Keeping this tension and balancing these three interests allows the Russell Landscape team to successfully expand into new markets, add branches and keep its customers happy.

Kindness will get you far

Teddy is one of the kindest people and leaders I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. This undoubtedly translates to his leadership style and how his entire team treats clients and one another. You gain so much respect and build trust by treating people with kindness. It pays dividends in what that allows you to accomplish.

The adage that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar holds true. You get more done when you are kind and empathetic.

In 1978, a blizzard hit Dayton, Ohio, and my family was snowed in for days. The roads were impassable, and my dad, a civil engineer, tried to call his connections in the county to get them to prioritize our street for plowing. Truthfully, he threw a bit of a fit on the phone. Later, when Dad was out of earshot, my mom made her own phone call. She was empathetic and kind when talking to the operator. She just let them know that she had three young kids at home and we were starting to run low on food. The plows had our street cleared soon after. Mom let Dad believe his phone call got them there, but we all knew the truth.

Killing people with kindness works, folks. I’m excited to see how Teddy and his team do just that. If you’d like to join us this summer to see this team in action yourself, reserve your ticket at GrowGroupInc.com/NALP-Field-Trip.

I hope to see you in Atlanta in June. I know there is so much we can learn from Teddy and his team, and I’m excited to give you all an inside look at this commercial landscape giant who somehow stayed so relatable, even with tremendous growth.

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