What landscape industry winners always get right

August 15, 2019 -  By
Headshot: Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

In my 35 years of leading Grunder Landscaping and another 20 or so running a green industry consultancy, I have gone behind the scenes of more landscaping companies than I can count. I have learned many lessons from this experience, chief of which is that no company is perfect. Even our industry’s biggest success stories struggle with many of the same challenges the rest of us do — finding reliable workers, operating efficiently, standing out in a sea of sameness and raising prices without losing customers. In my experience, what separates the winners from the also-rans is that the winners know and consistently do two things:

1. Smart companies think ahead and plan accordingly. With the economic boom we’ve seen the last few years, many landscaping companies are thriving. Commercial businesses are building new sites that need our services, and homeowners have the money to spend on patios, pools and enhancements. When demand is at its peak, there is a real temptation to take on more and more work and to expand into new markets that you think hold great potential. It’s easy to get greedy and to think you have it all figured out. But as the saying goes, “Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered.”

The companies that succeed and endure over time grow with deliberation and discipline. They calibrate their own capacity with demand and are careful to deliver on what they promise. They do their research before moving into a new market — whether it’s opening another branch, acquiring a subcontractor or offering a new product or service — and they think through all the costs, possible returns, risks and rewards. As I write this, the U.S. remains in its longest economic expansion in its history, but no one knows for certain when that will change. Smart companies capitalize on good economic times, but they also plan for what they’ll do if fortune shifts.

2. Smart companies develop a strong leadership team. One of the shrewdest feats an owner can accomplish to grow the value of his or her company is to foster other leaders in their ranks and to develop a true senior-level management team. Doing so shifts reliance off you as the owner and increases your capacity exponentially. If you ever want to sell your company, you will be much better positioned to demand and secure a higher price.

How do you go about doing this? Start by identifying who on your current team has potential, and when you hire, hire with an eye for potential — knowledge can be taught, but the ability and the sheer drive to learn and excel cannot. Give promising team members controlled opportunities; delegate, but don’t abdicate. Be clear about your expectations, provide them with direction but leeway too and check in regularly on their progress.

Not everyone will approach projects or tasks the same way you would, and that’s OK; what’s ultimately important are the results. Your goal is to develop other leaders, not followers. Paint a picture for them of your vision for the future and their role in it. Provide them with the information they need to understand how your company succeeds or fails and invest in their training. Give them this magazine and the best business books to read, send them to industry educational events and talk to them, regularly and repeatedly, about the business side of your business.

These are simple lessons, but they’re not easy. Yet if you commit to them, I can promise you’ll grow far.

If you want to see how we put this in action at Grunder Landscaping Co., join me at one of our Fall Field Trips. We’ll take you behind the scenes of our small but mighty operation and show you everything we know. Learn more here.

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