Grow with Grunder: The more things change, the more they stay the same

(Photo: 123ducu/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
(Photo: 123ducu/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
(Photo: 123ducu/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
(Photo: 123ducu/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

A lot has changed in the nearly 40 years I’ve been in the landscaping industry. As we kick off another busy spring, I thought it might be fun to reflect together on how far we’ve come — as an industry and as professionals.

1. Safety

We’ve gotten much smarter since 1984, when seat belts weren’t even required in cars. I hate to even admit this, but my crew used to regularly ride in the truck bed — which we all know now is so dangerous. I even knew of one local landscaper who let his team sit on the mowers in the trailer and ride to jobs. Safety goggles weren’t popular, and we did absolutely no safety training.

Fortunately, there have been a lot of safety improvements since then, both at Grunder Landscaping Co. (GLC) and in the industry. At GLC, safety is the first step of everything we do, and anyone on the team is allowed (and expected) to correct someone they see not following safety protocols. We don’t go anywhere without our seat belts, and we know that a safe company is a good company.

I’ve seen the industry embrace safety as well. We’ve seen vendors now offer safety training on their equipment, and companies show their teams the safest ways to get their jobs done.

2. Equipment

Oh boy. In 1984, we did not use bed edgers, mini skid-steers, dump trailers, GPS, laser levels, software or cell phones. There was no texting or calling while on job sites. Just imagine the headaches. In 1987, I had a phone installed in my pickup, and when someone called it, the horn would honk. I’d have to sprint back to the truck to answer it, but nine times out of 10, it was my mom calling to ask when I’d be home for dinner.

Young people reading this, imagine what it would be like if the crew had a question while working on a job. We couldn’t text pictures back and forth, and even attaching printed pictures to a work ticket was difficult and uncommon before computers and printers became more prevalent.

Today, I’m not sure where we would be without all the equipment that saves our crews so much time or without the technology that makes it easier to do our jobs. All of it makes our jobs less stressful and a lot easier if we can use that equipment and tech to its full potential.

3. People

While so much has changed in the nearly 40 years we’ve been in business, the truth is, it’s still people who make our businesses what they are.

I believe I was a good young leader, but there was a lot I needed to learn. I knew then what I still believe to be the secret to success now: You have to treat people well, share your vision with them, and show them what’s in it for them to motivate them. And since the early years, I’ve learned the most important task afterward is to simply get out of their way.

In the days before cell phones, we stayed out of our team’s way by default. Today, we have to be a bit more intentional about it. Help your team problem-solve, coach them through an issue instead of telling them the answer, and cheer them on through both success and failure.

As you start another busy spring, take a moment to look back at how far you’ve come. Even if you’ve only worked in this industry for a few years, think about what it was like in the beginning and all you’ve learned. Be proud of those accomplishments. Then look ahead at your future. How can you leverage safety, equipment and the people running alongside you to make your dreams a reality? Our success depends on people, and that’s a very good thing.

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