LM150 Lessons Learned: Delegate day-to-day operations

June 12, 2014 -  By

Delegate day-to-day operations.

No. 95
Cleary Bros. Landscape

Danville, Calif.

Cleary Bros. Landscape has served the San Francisco area for 27 years, specializing in commercial maintenance. Composed of 175 employees and with brothers Martin and Mike Cleary at its helm, the firm is optimistic about 2014, with the exception of drought-related restrictions. It recently rolled out a new employee-training system to better track employees’ progress with their skills and safety training. 

You said knowing what you know now, you would have been a less critical player to your team when you first started in the industry. What do you mean by that?

Martin Cleary: When we started, it was just two guys and a pickup truck. As we started getting more employees, I continued trying to cover all the bases. We had some good people, but we weren’t empowering them. If there were any issue, I would handle it. I’d manage all of the equipment, payroll and safety. We bounced along as a small company for some time. I then learned I’ve only got so much capacity to oversee things. Delegating to people, giving people authority to do things, was really the secret to growth.


Martin Cleary

When did the light bulb come on?

Probably 15 years ago or so. I was at a job site working with the crew, and I got hurt. I cut my left thumb with a power saw. I almost cut my thumb off. It was quite an eye-opener. At that point I decided we need to grow and we need to delegate.

How did you go about changing your ways?

It’s all about the people we’ve hired and giving them autonomy to do their jobs. There are certain motivators for people, but autonomy is a huge one, which means allowing them to do what they need to do.

Key for us was we created key accountabilities for our managers. They’re given direction on what they need to get done at the end of the day, but they’re not given specific direction on how to do it. They get to pick the best path to solve problems. They have responsibilities, but they also have the authority for how to accomplish those responsibilities.

What was the most difficult adjustment?

Giving people authority means you also have to give them the opportunity to make mistakes. If their mistakes are constant, something needs to change.

In what ways did your business benefit once you altered your approach?

Our branch managers were doing problem solving. From my perspective that creates smoothness because if they’re not dealing with problems, then it has to go up to somebody. If your day is constantly filled with dealing with problems, that’s a pretty chaotic day.

How do you avoid going back to your old ways?

We have our business large enough now to where there’s no way I could run everything by myself. I’m not really interested in doing that.


This article is tagged with , and posted in June 2014, LM150

About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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