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Kehoe’s Playbook: Thanks for the memories

May 4, 2022 -  By
Kevin Kehoe with his daughter, Julia, who joined Aspire as business development representative at a 2019 Aspire event. (Photo: LM Staff)

Kevin Kehoe with his daughter, Julia, who joined Aspire as a business development representative at a 2019 Aspire event. (Photo: LM Staff)

This will be my final column. I hate to go, but my reasoning is simple. Over the years, I’ve written my columns based on my experiences “in the trenches.” In other words, I wrote about what I did with my clients and relayed that to you as real-world, practical advice. Since I’m no longer in the trenches, I feel like I should step aside for others who are.

One call changed everything

I’ve been asked how I got into this industry in the first place. Thirty years ago, I mailed out 100 letters to the directors of national associations as a part of a marketing campaign. Yes, we actually mailed things in those days. The letter, in brief, said: “I speak on these business topics, and if you ever need a speaker to fill in on short notice, I’m your guy.” I got one response. It was from Debra Holder, then director of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, one of the predecessors to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). That one call changed my life.

Since that call from Debra, I’ve consulted for 300 companies, written more than 200 articles, and in 2013 co-founded Aspire Software. Along the way, I amassed 8 million frequent flier miles and 7,000 nights in hotels. That I won’t miss so much. What I’ll miss is being in the trenches with the salt-of-the-earth people who populate our industry. But I will keep the lifelong friends I’ve made.

I won’t be leaving the industry entirely. I will stay involved with NALP, funding scholarships and events like the National Collegiate Landscape Competition because I believe the single greatest challenge to the vibrancy and profitability of our industry is the training and development of middle managers. It’s an even bigger challenge than the availability of crew members.

Where will I spend my time in retirement? Right now, my health is my greatest challenge. I’m entering the eighth year of my battle with cancer. Dealing with it is time-consuming. I am currently enrolled in a cutting-edge immunotherapy trial in which my wife and I have high hopes. In addition, I will be busy working on the Kehoe Family Foundation, a philanthropic enterprise that involves my nephews and nieces in multigenerational giving. I will also be at work on a new career as an author, having just published my first book, “One Hit Wonder.”

Take a chance

So, as one door closes, another opens. Thirty years ago, a door opened, and I walked through it. Wonderful things happen when you take a chance. Of course, you have to work hard if you want to be able to look back on whatever you chose to do to be able to say, “I did well.”

For those of you not around the industry three decades ago, it was a much different place then. Now it is bigger, more professional and an exciting place to make a career and for owners to make real money. The possibilities are for the taking.

In closing, do I have any advice? Yes, be learning all the time. Know that if you want to lead, you must first know how to follow. Dare to risk big by understanding that the path to success is best traveled with humility born out of an understanding of human nature. You must have purpose, values and rules.

My purpose has not wavered much over the years, and that is to leave any place I go better because I was there. My values, too, have been consistent, if not always perfectly practiced. If I do something, I want to do it with excellence, service, sacrifice, generosity, integrity and responsibility.

And as for the rules I developed to deal with human nature? Well, you’ll just have to read my book for those. I will say this, though: To master your dealings with others, you must first master yourself. And that can be the work of a lifetime.

Thanks for reading my stuff over the past few decades. I wish you success in your future endeavors.

This article is tagged with , and posted in 0422, Featured, From the Magazine

About the Author:

Kevin Kehoe, a longtime landscape industry consultant, is the founder of Aspire Software.

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