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Learning ‘face to face’ at Schill Grounds Management

December 5, 2014 -  By

In September, Schill Grounds Management agreed to go under the microscope.

It welcomed about 80 of its landscape industry peers and suppliers to its North Ridgeville, Ohio, facility to host a Face to Face event.

The Face to Face concept, led by JP Horizons, entails a landscape company opening its doors and giving department-by-department tours of its facility to share best practices, while seeking input from attendees, as well.

As Jim Paluch, president of JP Horizons says, it’s all about “continuous learning.”

“We’re all so busy that we miss great ideas everywhere,” he said. “If you walked out of here with just one idea, it would be a good use of your time.”

He encouraged attendees, as they observed Schill’s operation, to consider trying and doing something different. Sure, you might make a mistake sometimes, he said. “But wisdom comes from those results.”

The first half of the daylong event was structured as a facility tour with multiple stations, including: recruiting and developing, owner’s vision, sales, fleet program, operations and snow management.

At each station, key Schill personnel revealed their processes, a few things they do well and a few areas they need to improve.

The second half of the day featured roundtable discussions, where attendees brainstormed ideas for Schill, while learning about one another’s businesses and picking up some insights of their own.

During the owner’s vision portion of the day, attendees learned from Jerry Schill, president of the firm, which did $6.6 million in revenue in 2013. The company has undergone some difficult changes over the last few years, including making a break from brother Joe Schill in 2011.

Joe Schill spun off the residential design/build portion of the business they founded together (Schill Landscaping) into his own firm, with Jerry Schill turning the rest of the company into Schill Grounds Management, a commercial maintenance-focused company.

Despite some “emotionally and financially painful” experiences, Jerry Schill is pleased with how far the company’s come. For example, following the break the company paid off a $1 million line of credit in six months.

He credits the company’s growth to a few things: a singular focus (on commercial grounds management), a strong team of consultants and advisers and the ability to execute.

“We’ve been good from an execution standpoint,” Jerry Schill says. “When we lay out a road map, we’re really good at hitting it.”

When it comes to investing in consultants and advisers, which the company does to a tune of $150,000 a year, Jerry Schill explains that somewhere along the line he realized it was worth the cost.

“We’ve sat and toiled for years on how to fix stuff,” he said. “Somebody out there is smarter than us. Let’s pay them.”

Jerry Schill said he expects the company will continue its growth pattern as long as the management team is up to the challenge.

“The whole goal of doing this Face to Face is getting my managers to their next levels,” he said.

Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

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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