Insights from ‘Grow 2018’

Photo: Landscape Management
Photo: Landscape Management
Marty Grunder's Grow conference
From left: Marty Grunder, Jim Cali and Jason New present to nearly 300 landscape professionals during Grow 2018 in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 19-21. Photo: Landscape Management

Growth. What does it mean to your business?

Marty Grunder, speaker, consultant and president/CEO of Grunder Landscaping in Dayton, Ohio, asked this question during the opening address at Grow, his annual conference.

To many landscape business owners, “growth” means more team members, more clients, more sales, more equipment and more stuff. To the best companies, Grunder said, it means more ideal team members, more ideal clients, more effective leadership, more profits and more time with family.

How to achieve the latter was the unwritten focus of the conference, which took place Feb. 19-21 in Tampa, Fla., and drew about 300 landscape professionals.

What growth means to Grunder is a lot different today than it was 25 years ago when he started his company.

“Things change as you go along and grow,” Grunder said, noting he knows one thing for sure. “When you make it about yourself, you lose. When you make it about others, you win.”

Here are a few insights from the meeting, which included a facility tour of Ameriscape Services, a $12 million company.

On being selective about clients

“What gets you to $1 million is saying ‘yes,’ and what gets you to $2 million is saying ‘no,’” Grunder said, sharing a story about a former residential client who required his employees to ring a bell every time they entered and exited her property. When Grunder learned this was happening, he stopped doing business with the client, realizing it demoralized his team.

To have long-term success, he said, companies must be selective about their clients. It took him a long time to learn this lesson, he added. Today, his company has a formal way of evaluating which clients it works with. It asks:

  • Who do we enjoy working with?
  • Who do we make money from?
  • Is this account sustainable?

On knowing your numbers

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is an often-cited adage, but Jim Cali adds to that: “Don’t measure what you’re not going to manage.”

Cali and Jason New, coaches at Marty Grunder Inc., principals of McFarlin Stanford and former landscape operations professionals, presented “Do Your Numbers Add Up?” They shared landscape industry benchmarking figures in several categories, including operations, sales and culture.

In operations, hours budgeted vs. actual hours is one key performance indicator (KPI) all companies should track and share with their teams, they said.

“We sell hours,” New said. “Hitting sold hours is the baseline of profitability.”

When it comes to sales, it’s helpful to track call volume by day, especially for companies that get a large number of incoming calls or web leads. Often, call volume is high on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays during certain times of year, Cali said. When you track call volume data, you may consider staff up on certain days of the week to balance out the workload and ensure you communicate with clients and prospects in a timely manner. After all, one of the biggest gripes homeowners have about landscapers is they don’t return their phone calls promptly, Cali said.

Regarding culture, Cali and New suggested tracking employee longevity as a KPI. “Celebrate (work) anniversaries, not birthdays,” Cali said, noting simple recognition and a thank-you go a long way. Other ideas for celebrating tenure include noting anniversaries in the company newsletter or giving desirable parking spots for employees with certain tenure.

On rethinking human resources

Ben Hardy, a green industry recruiter with McFarlin Stanford, presented “Hire Right & Hire Real.” He shared how important it is to first accept that field staff candidates are no longer going to walk through your door. Because of this fact, landscape company managers need to identify their ideal candidate for each position, potentially by profiling the folks who are successful in those roles at their company, and determine where they spend their time and what their lifestyle goals are.

Also keep in mind job searching peaks at certain times of year. “There is a certain seasonality to recruiting, just like there is for sales,” Hardy said, noting companies may have to bring folks on a few weeks or months earlier than they need them.

It’s also important to capture field staff prospects within 24 hours; otherwise, they’ll be scooped up by a competitor.

“Don’t let them walk out the door without a job offer or a commitment to a follow-up interview,” he said.

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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