Where culture is strategy

August 14, 2019 -  By
Mike Bogan speaks to attendees of the NALP Field Trip. Photo: Seth Jones

Mike Bogan speaks to attendees of the NALP Field Trip. (Photo: Seth Jones)

LandCare is a $180-million company with 50 locations in 30 different cities across the United States.

Last week at the 2019 NALP Field Trip, those 50 locations turned into one, and more than 100 curious landscaping professionals, eager to learn the keys to the success of the company, were able to take a look behind LandCare’s tangerine-clad curtain.

“Your goal should be to constantly be looking for low-risk experiments to improve your operation,” said Marty Grunder, CEO of the Grow Group and Grunder Landscaping Co. Grunder led the two-and-a-half day meeting along with industry great Frank Mariani of Mariani Landscaping. “The Grow Group wants to see you succeed …  the NALP wants to see you succeed … and your tablemates want to see you succeed. With this Field Trip, we want to see you take your company to new heights.”

From there Grunder introduced the star of the show, LandCare CEO Mike Bogan, a 30-year veteran of the industry who has taken LandCare to new heights. Bogan spoke to the attendees on the first day in anticipation of them touring two of LandCare’s branches in Southern California the next day.

“If you believe that relationships are the foundation of your business — like I do — you will be successful,” Bogan told the room. “You have to be employee-centric and customer-centric. Culture is LandCare’s strategy.”

The next morning the group moved on to the actual Field Trip part of the agenda, visiting LandCare’s offices and employees in La Jolla. Attendees cycled through several stations, discussing everything from LandCare’s “no mechanics” policy to its social media efforts.

Indeed, Bogan eliminated the mechanic position within LandCare, something that created a lot of conversation. Too much salary was being spent on fixing broken down equipment, he said. Bogan prefers to have new equipment that is both safer and boosts morale. For a new truck, the company’s goal is to pay it off in five years, use it for another five, then sell it, getting the maximum value back for the truck with hopefully no breakdowns.

At the staff training group talk, LandCare Branch Manager Ramon Ulloa told attendees about the importance of the “stretch and flex” they do as a group each morning. It not only wakes everyone up, but it also allows a supervisor to make sure everyone is up to the task of working that day.

Ulloa also told the group that on every new hire’s first day, they’re sat down to watch a safety video, then shown a piece of equipment in person and given a safety demonstration.

Jennifer Burnett and Ramon Ulloa discuss training and development of LandCare's employees. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Jennifer Burnett and Ramon Ulloa discuss training and development of
LandCare’s employees. (Photo: Seth Jones)

“Ninety-nine percent of the people you talk to, if you ask them, ‘can you operate this?’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah.’” Ulloa said. “But the truth is they were scared to say no. If we don’t communicate right then and there with that employee, we’ll never know the truth of what they know and don’t know. That’s why it’s so important to cover all safety procedures on day one.”

Field Trip attendee Selena Herrin, business manager for Smith & Enright Landscaping in Salinas, Calif., said the opportunity to see the structure and organizational charts of a company like LandCare was invaluable.

“I’m inspired to go home and put a lot of what I learned into work. But really, it’s about treating people right and doing the right thing and creating career pathways,” she said. “I liked how (LandCare) were passionate about their own company and they knew what their culture was and how they wanted to live it each day.”

This Field Trip was the third one for Tim Trimmer, president, Professional Grounds Inc., Lorton, Va. He said the event was excellent, and noted that he gets more out of these Field Trip events than any other industry event.

“It’s great to see the potential of what you could become. When you get in this industry a lot of people think, ‘How large can I get and will it support my lifestyle?’ Yes it can. Mike Bogan and his team are awesome and we got a ton of takeaways from it,” Trimmer said.

Bogan told the group following their visit that he and his colleagues do not think they have everything figured out.

“When we get the leadership team together, we see that we have a lot of improvements to make,” Bogan said. “If there’s a scale of one to 10, we’re about a six. We know where we want to get, and we want to move up the next rung of that ladder. Like you, we’re trying to learn every day.”

To close, Bogan retold a joke he once heard about being successful in the landscape management industry. “Just don’t suck at the landscaping,” he said with a smile. “What you’ve got to be great at is the service.”

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Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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