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Grow your Green: One owner’s unconventional approach gets results, brings joy

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(Photo: JohnGollop/E+/Getty Images)
(Photo: JohnGollop/E+/Getty Images)
(Photo: JohnGollop/E+/Getty Images)
(Photo: JohnGollop/E+/Getty Images)

I write a lot about life margin — the extra time and energy an owner no longer needs to invest in the company to make it successful.

Owners increase life margin when they build a management team — including professional financial leadership — install a business management software system and delegate responsibility and authority to many people in the company. These actions also increase the companies’ operating profit margin. When owners get a life margin, they have time to discover their true joy as business owners.

Dave Fairburn, owner of North Point Outdoors in Derry, N.H., is one of those owners. We shared Dave’s story on a webinar co-hosted by Aspire called “One Owner’s Unconventional Thinking about People and Profits.”

Data-driven

Dave started out in the industry like so many others — mowing lawns and working as hard as possible. He joined forces with Andrew Pelkey, and the partners grew their company by saying yes to everything, grinding out 100-hour weeks and assuming profit and free time would come as a result.

They eventually learned that you can’t simply work your way to profitability. They needed financial leadership and business management software. Accurate job costing and real-time financial data helped the company improve quickly.

As Fairburn says, “We grew from a hardworking landscape company into a profitable landscape company that also does hard work.” Soon, the owners had a life margin.

As they became more profitable, the owners knew they did not want their company to be the type of firm that only rewarded ownership and management.

“In my world, who matters are the people who show up with work boots on, ready to rock and roll every day,” Fairburn says.

To that end, he’s proud of the initiatives North Point has implemented to support team members and drive success from the bottom up. Here are a few of those programs.

Bleed Blue trucks

“Bleed Blue” is a slogan and hashtag used by North Point team members that refers to the deep-rooted loyalty the team feels toward each other and to the company. When two crew members approached their 10-year anniversaries, Fairburn bought two new company trucks — known as Bleed Blue 1 and Bleed Blue 2. He presented them to the two employees at a company party.

Other business owners have asked Fairburn, “What happens when 10 more people reach their 10-year marks?” His response: “I can’t wait to buy those 10 trucks.”

Bleed Blue cares

North Point’s owners have quietly helped employees overcome financial hurdles for years. Last fall, the company funded the Bleed Blue Cares Program and opened it up to peer contributions. Employees can request money anonymously and a peer panel approves distributions.

“Sometimes life just hits a little harder than you want it to,” Fairburn says. “We want people to stay focused and safe while they’re at work without worrying about what’s going on in their personal lives.”

SmartDollar

In conjunction with the Cares fund, Fairburn wanted a way to help prevent team members from living in financial distress in the first place. He discovered SmartDollar, an employee financial wellness program from Dave Ramsey. It includes education and tools for budgeting, financial planning, investments and more. It’s free for employees and costs the business about as much per user as a sweatshirt. Dave now hosts monthly SmartDollar meetings and has helped many employees get on a budget, get out of credit card debt and enroll in their 401(k).

In addition to bringing Dave joy, these programs improved company culture and led to one impressive result: North Point has a waiting list of applicants for several positions within the company.

None of these programs would have been attainable without a greater life margin and profit margin. Dave’s story proves it’s possible.

Greg Herring

Greg Herring

Greg Herring has served as a CFO of both public and private companies. Herring is the founder and CEO of The Herring Group, financial leaders in the landscape industry on a mission to improve the profit margin of companies and the life margin of owners by using its proprietary process, the Path to 12 percent.  Read his blog at herring-group.com or get in touch at greg.herring@herring-group.com.  

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