Grow with Grunder: Steps we’re taking to grow leaders in our operation

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

Exponential growth has been the name of the game for many landscaping companies in recent years. Acquisitions, market expansions and added services are all on the table. As companies grow, we also see an age-old problem reappear. We need more managers who we can count on to maintain our company culture, teach their direct reports the skills they need and effectively manage time and resources to be successful. 

We see this at Grunder Landscaping Co.(GLC), too. As we grow, we need to trust more people in leadership positions to make bigger decisions. We grew by 40 percent last year, and we plan to grow by another 25 percent in 2023. While we’re making plans to ensure we have the equipment and labor we need to do that, we’re also taking steps to identify and prepare the emerging leaders we’ll need as the team grows. Here’s how:

1. Teach soft skills

I’ve written about the importance of soft skills before, but training our entire team is like a prep course for management promotions.

You must have great soft skills to be an effective manager, and this is a way we can help our entire team to be better at the jobs they have now, but also prepare for their future position changes. We know not everyone has them, so we train on them. Being able to connect with team members and clients, manage conflict and be self-aware are the simple building blocks of a good manager. 

2. Look internally

We look to promote from within more often than we hire someone from outside the company to fill a management opening. We constantly evaluate the men and women on our crews to see who we think has potential for other positions within the company. And we make sure those individuals get the training and mentorship they need to have the skills we’re looking for when the job opening appears. 

A great example is one of our salespeople, Brent. Brent was an exceptional team leader for us for years, and he was so good at finding and suggesting enhancements for the properties he cared for that it was wearing out our sales team. He moved into an open maintenance sales role a few years ago, and it’s such a great fit. He had an eye for projects and he’s great with clients, too. The years he spent in the field prepared him for the role he’s in now.

Our mission statement at GLC is all about creating opportunities for our team, and if we want our team members to believe we mean it, they need to see examples of us promoting from within.

3. Set clear expectations

GLC’s Chief Operating Officer Seth Pflum likes to remind our team members that to be promoted, they need to take initiative. He expects them to learn skills for the job they want while doing their current job — and while training a replacement.

During annual reviews, we are very clear about what skills we want to see a team member develop to earn a promotion. It may be getting certifications, practicing a technique or improving in an area of their work. These steps will prepare them for the next job, and mentoring their replacement is a great way to develop management skills and transfer knowledge.

Investing in your team is the No. 1 thing I would recommend every landscape professional in America do this season. No matter how busy you are, you’re never too busy to invest in your people. In my experience, it’s an investment that always pays dividends. 

As you look at the summer ahead, search for opportunities to invest in your team. Look for education opportunities locally, develop them internally or join us at this summer’s Field Trip we hold in partnership with the National Association of Landscape Professionals. This year we’re visiting Russell Landscape in Atlanta, June 6-7. I hope you’ll join me: GrowGroupInc.com/NALP-Field-Trip. 

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