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2023 will be Grunder Landscaping’s 39th year in business, and while I’m proud of all our success as a team in that time, I also believe it’s important to acknowledge our failures. We’ve learned a lot in that time, but we’re still not perfect. No company is.

Learn and lead gears (Photo: onurdongel / iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

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

If you’ve ever been to our Grunder Landscaping Field Trip, you’ve probably heard me say that during that event, we’re teaching about our successes and what we do well, but if we held an event to talk about our failures, it would have to be a three-year course, not a two-day event. 

We’ve failed in more ways than I can keep track of, but what’s important is that we’ve learned from those failures.

It’s in the details

I’ll tell a quick story to illustrate it. In the early days of my business, we had a client who wanted us to cut down a few Bradford pear trees on his property. I went out to the property and marked the trees that were not supposed to be cut down with tags so that the tree subcontractor would know which to leave standing. You can probably guess where this is going: the subcontractor thought the tags were on the trees we wanted removed, and cut down three mature oaks instead of the ones we were trying to remove. 

Now, that client was very forgiving and we were able to resolve this issue by planting three new oaks, nowhere close to the size of the ones accidentally removed, to replace the ones we cut down. A month or so later, we did the same thing on another job. The subcontractor cut down the wrong trees, and this time the client wanted to sue me. I didn’t learn from my mistake or change anything; I just kept doing what we were doing.

(Photo courtesy of Grunder Landscaping)

(Photo courtesy of Grunder Landscaping)

It’s about communication

We made the same mistake twice but haven’t made it again. We created a system to communicate more clearly with subcontractors, and we standardized as a team how we would mark which trees to cut down and which were staying. Bartlett Tree Experts Company was not the company we worked with when these mistakes happened, but they are who we work with now. They have a red tag that we use a staple gun to attach to the tree to remove. It’s a relatively simple solution to avoid future issues on clients’ properties.

We must learn from our failures to improve and stay humble enough to recognize our mistakes when we make them. It’s critical to our companies’ long-term success. I’ll share more about how we’ve learned from our failures during my keynote address at GROW! 2023 Feb. 28 through March 2 in San Antonio, Texas. Register before the end of the year to keep the expense in your 2022 books. Don’t make the mistake of waiting to sign up. This event may sell out, and you won’t want to miss it.

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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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