The shining light

February 17, 2015 -  By

palmieriLast month I traveled to The Lighting Summit in Omaha, Neb., to join the crew from McKay Landscape Lighting and their guests—16 landscape lighting professionals from across the country.

Jerry McKay, a member of the LM Editorial Advisory Board, started the Summit last year to create an intimate conference and networking event for lighting professionals. It includes a few speakers, a nighttime tour of McKay lighting projects and even a home-cooked dinner by Jerry’s wife, Cheryl. All in all, it’s an excellent event.

As I looked through my notebook from the Summit, which I’ll write more about in a future issue, I went back to a few comments I highlighted during a talk by Doug Smith. His presentation was supposed to be about marketing, but it was about much more. Smith is executive chairman of Ervin & Smith, a digital marketing agency he founded more than 30 years ago. It’s been named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies and voted one of Omaha’s “Best Places to Work.” Smith is a marketing authority, for sure, but he also has a lot to share about business and leadership.

Here are a few things I found illuminating. I thought they might interest you, too.

Don’t discount. “If you don’t believe in your price, the client senses it,” Smith said, noting he doesn’t
consider himself a pro salesman. Still, he tries to learn about sales whenever he can. For example, he’s a fan of author and speaker Mark Hunter, aka The Sales Hunter. He emphasizes it’s important to scale back a project when a client asks for a lower price. Sometimes, that means walking away. “It’s hard to turn away business, but if the bottom 10 percent of your accounts aren’t profitable, you’re better off letting them go to focus on getting better jobs,” Smith said.

Details matter. Smith referenced the proverb “For want of a nail,” which I’d never heard before:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost,
for want of a rider the battle was lost, for want of a battle the kingdom was lost, and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

When Smith explained it, the message was clear. It certainly applies to marketing and branding, but it could extend to profitability, customer service … the list goes on.

Stay strong. “Be a better person than you really are,” Smith said. What he meant was, it’s OK to have a bad day, but you can’t show it because it doesn’t serve your team.

“A few harsh words that aren’t warranted can create hard feelings that last for years,” he said. “You need all these people on your side. You need to be the shining light in your company.”

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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