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Grow with Grunder: Lead with the good

December 12, 2018 -  By
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I am just back from the 2018 Elite Retreat in Vail, Colo., an annual event that my colleagues and I at The Grow Group present every year for ambitious landscape professionals who are seeking an edge over their competition. This year, we focused on the client experience. We took a deep dive into every aspect, including why delivering exceptional customer service is so important in the green industry, what tactics to take in order to do it and how to leverage it to increase referrals and close sales.

We held the event at the Four Seasons Resort in Vail because if there’s one company that has mastered the art of customer service, it’s that exceptional team. The staff is trained to anticipate your wishes before you even know you have them. No detail goes unnoticed. And the whole place practically hums with efficiency and professionalism.

Now, you may think running a five-star hotel is a long way from operating a landscape company, but at their core, both businesses thrive and fail on the basis of the service they deliver. A hotel can have beautiful rooms with extraordinary views in a spectacular setting, but if the staff is not friendly, welcoming and responsive to your needs, you won’t enjoy your stay. You need to spend only a few minutes on the TripAdvisor website to see how many hotels get this wrong. Similarly, as landscape pros, we can come up with the most creative designs and use only the best materials and horticultural practices, but if our teams are not trained in how to interact with clients and how to respond to their needs promptly and professionally, we simply won’t succeed.

That’s why we asked the Four Seasons’ director of training, Hannah, to lead a session for us on how to train our own teams. Something she said really stuck with me: “You will be 10 times more effective leading people by rewarding them for positive behaviors than by criticizing them for what they’ve done wrong.”

Now this may seem obvious to many people, but I’m going to bet that most of us—whether we’re owners, managers or team leads—struggle to actually do this.

By temperament, most leaders know how they want things done and are impatient for others to complete tasks that way. We are quick to see what’s wrong and want it fixed right away, while failing to see what’s right and celebrating those accomplishments. I am assuredly guilty of this, too. But when we go this route, we foster a culture of negativity and blame, and we erode morale. And that can dramatically detract from the client experience. Why? Because your external customer service will never exceed your internal customer service. In other words, your team will never treat your clients well if you do not treat your team well.

To be clear, I am not saying that leaders should ignore problems and overlook shortcomings or that team members should not be held accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities. But it’s all in how you approach it.

So, in the coming months, I’m going to challenge myself to lead with compliments at Grunder Landscaping, to call out and celebrate all the good my team does and to use that positivity to drive improvement and progress.

Challenge yourself to do the same and see if that doesn’t in turn help to improve your client experience, too.

Happy holidays to all of you, and I’ll see you next year!

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Marty Grunder

About the Author:

Marty Grunder is president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. and The Grow Group, based in Dayton, Ohio.

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