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Back in October at Landscapes, I had the opportunity to present on this topic and it was a real thrill. I also wrote about this last year in LM, but it’s not too soon to revisit the topic.

To scale your business and free up your time as an owner, you may need a strong second in command (2IC) to help you run your business.

(Photo: AzmanL / E+/ Getty Images)

(Photo: AzmanL / E+/ Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)

All successful landscape companies have developed a team of leaders, but many successful landscape entrepreneurs also have a secret weapon: a powerful second-in-command to help them run the entire business. 

Having a second in command is a common role many famous entrepreneurs employ. Steve Jobs had Tim Cook, and Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) had Fred Turner. Here are four common roles (and one uncommon role) that a second in command can play in your business:

1. Implementor

The main reason for having a 2IC is to help keep the operations streamlined, successful and operating within budget. The implementor is a tactical position with equal parts organizer, process builder and coach.  

For example, my client Blanchford Landscaping in Bozeman, Mont., recently named Abby Dobson to be the General Manager of the business. Owner, Andy Blanchford, spends most of his time living abroad for family reasons and needs an implementor who can truly run the day-to-day. If you have a 2IC already in place, could you live in another country full time? That is the ultimate test of whether you are an owner of a business or a job.

2. Complementor

The main role of this person is to focus on areas of the business that the owner does not have the time or the skills for. This role can be combined with the implementor.

As an owner, you may be best at sales management but need someone better at operations. Dave Wright, my client and owner of Wright Landscape Services in Bloomingdale, Ontario, Canada (and past-president of the Landscape Ontario Association) has a 2IC with this exact role. This is a common setup. I have worked with Dave for years and he is happier and more successful with this key executive at this side.

3. Successor

This is a transitory role where the second in command is studying under the owner to take over the role of CEO of the business, and sometimes the intention is for the successor to buy the business. Many owners are considering this route. It takes extra care to choose someone who can both run and buy a business.

4. Mentor

Sometimes an owner will hire an older, semi-retired person to act as both Chief Operating Officer and mentor to the owner. It’s an odd couple, but it helps the younger owner gain confidence and skills. I know of a second-generation landscape business owner who bought out his father and used this model to help him gain his sea legs.

5. CEO

George Tucker, my client and owner of LanDesign in Moscow Mills, Mo., first hired an outside COO from another industry but realized he was still drawn into some of the day-to-day of the business. He then hired an outside CEO to run all his lawn, irrigation and landscape companies. Both of these hires were long-time acquaintances of Tucker’s. They were both pre-vetted. Now that Tucker has freed up his time, he can focus on his real estate ventures, new acquisitions and his first love: design sales. The company is growing faster than ever with this new arrangement. 

To learn more about how to make this role successful in your business, join me for my virtual event, Develop Your Second In Command on Feb. 15. Click here for details.

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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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