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Business Insider: Is your leadership team structured for success?

February 16, 2021 -  By
Traction book cover. Photo: LM staff

Photo: LM Staff

How do you know you’ve chosen the right organizational structure needed to maximize the growth and productivity of your landscape company?

Years ago, in business school, I studied the teachings of Alfred Chandler, a management guru. He coined the phrase, “structure follows strategy.” This principle means you must decide on your company strategy first and then develop the right organizational structure to support that strategy.

You don’t just copy and paste it out of a book.

There is a popular book making the rounds called “Traction,” which claims the opposite, that there is only one way to structure your leadership team.

It’s a helpful book, but on this issue, it makes a big mistake. There are many alternative ways to structure your landscape business, depending on your company strategy, business niche and on the owner’s personality and goals.

Furthermore, as your company grows from small to large (from $1 million to $20 million with milestones along the way), and as your offerings evolve and change, you will constantly adapt your organizational chart to your current situation and future goals.

Three examples of organizational structures

1. A classic approach is for the owner to assume the CEO slot and hire a general manager or COO to run the rest of the business. My good friends and longtime clients at Drost Landscape in Petoskey, Mich., operate this way, with the founder Bob Drost as CEO and Dale Drier as GM, running all operations, sales and finances.

2. I’ve also seen the owner hire a CEO to oversee the business, so the owner can focus on what he or she wants to do — often it’s sales or new product/business development. My friend and client, George Tucker, owner of LanDesign in St. Louis, operates this way. At first, he hired a part-time COO, but it was not enough. He wanted more freedom, and his team wanted to grow the company faster than he felt he could, so he hired a full-time CEO to oversee and grow his three different companies.

3. There are also highly successful landscape organizations set up with division managers, sometimes called branch managers. Many large commercial maintenance firms operate with branches, and many single-site lawn and landscape companies have grown quite large with a divisional structure. Southern Botanical in Dallas, run by my friend Jason Craven, has dramatically grown its business with a simple structure of four highly competent direct reports.

With middle management, structure follows strategy

After you decide who reports to you as the owner, you need to decide what the next level of management looks like.

“Traction” claims that there is only one way to structure middle management, with a sales manager, an operations manager and a finance/admin manager. While that’s a useful layout, it is also dangerous in its simplicity and will hold back the growth of many lawn care, irrigation and landscape firms.

There are so many ways to organize your firm — and finding the right way for you is key to your scalability, financial success and happiness with your business.

These three companies — Drost, LanDesign and Southern Botanical — all do it differently.

Which is right for you?

To ensure a successful 2021 and beyond, take these steps:

  1. Define what you want your role to be as owner, what you love doing and hate doing.
  2. Outline your three-year business strategy, with a nod to your five-year goals and 10-year dream.
  3. Decide on the organizational structure that will best support your dreams and goals moving forward.

The biggest frustrations occur when a company misses its best opportunities due to the leaders being underorganized, overburdened or distracted by the wrong focus or duties. Don’t let this happen to you.

To learn how to set up your organization to succeed in 2021, and gain inspiration from the three companies mentioned above, join Jeffrey Scott on Feb. 16 for the virtual event, “The Executive Experience: The Power of Collaborative Leadership between CEOs, COOs and Division Leaders.” For more information, visit here. 

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Jeffrey Scott

About the Author:

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in his personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners—members achieve a 27 percent profit increase in their first year. To learn more visit

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