Grow with Grunder: The Loving way

Charlotte, N.C., skyline (Photo: Kruck20/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
Charlotte, N.C., skyline (Photo: Kruck20/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
Charlotte, N.C., skyline (Photo: Kruck20/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
Charlotte, N.C., skyline (Photo: Kruck20/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

My team at The Grow Group, the green industry consultancy I run, is busy now putting the finishing touches on our annual conference. Scheduled for Feb. 24-26 in Charlotte, N.C., Grow! 2020 will bring together landscape pros from around the country for three days of interactive programming focused on real-world solutions to the challenges owners and their teams face. We’ll also take an all-access tour of Loving, one of the fastest-growing landscaping companies in the country.

We’ve had the tremendous pleasure of getting to work closely with the Loving team in planning this event, and this month, I want to share with you what I’ve personally learned from this remarkable company. I am always on the lookout for what I can beg, borrow or steal (legally!) from successful businesses to implement at Grunder Landscaping, and with Loving, the lessons go on and on.

As goes the leader, so goes the company. This is a favorite saying of Jim Cali, a Grow Group executive coach, and, at Loving, you can really see where it’s true. Mike Haynes, Loving’s founder and president, is 16 years younger than I am, but he is wise beyond his years. He’s fiercely ambitious but has a heart of gold. He values — and expects — hard work, but he also knows how to throw a great party for his team. He’s put love at the center of Loving, and you can see it threaded all the way through the organization.

I asked Mike how his approach to leadership has changed throughout his career. He said he’s now able to read people better and to put them in roles that align with their strengths and aspirations. “No one shows up to work with a goal of screwing things up,” he says. “Nearly everyone wants to be a contributor. It just comes down to discerning what that role looks like for each person.”

They’re obsessed with analytics. Loving has really embraced technology to gain a competitive advantage, and it tracks its key performance indicators (KPIs) closely. If it’s important to the business, it’s measured and managed. This is a key reason the company has been able to grow so quickly, but it’s important to track your KPIs no matter your size. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be difficult to do. “I think we all get stuck making things too complicated,” Mike says. “I have found that what we measure is typically what keeps me or my managers up at night. Don’t overthink it.”

They’re smart marketers. Follow Loving on social media or watch one of the videos on its website, and you’ll see what I mean. The company has succeeded in creating an authentic brand with a distinctive voice and an emotional appeal that goes way beyond landscaping. You can’t help but want to be a part of the company, whether it’s by working there, becoming a client or just following it.

They put people before profits. I asked Mike how he gets the best out of his team. He rattled off all the usual suspects — above-market pay, profit sharing, abundant opportunities to advance — but then he said this: “I really believe the differentiating factor is that we uniquely care for and love each other. Whether it’s coming together as a team to pay for the funeral expenses of a lost loved one or listening to someone going through a rough patch with a spouse, our folks’ ability to create family is remarkable. It’s my greatest joy at Loving.”

As I said, this is a truly remarkable company in any industry. Join us in Charlotte and see — and learn — for yourself!

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