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Marty's Turf: How to Run a Successful Landscaping Business in 2015

Marty's Turf is a monthly column written by Green Industry Consultant and Grunder Landscaping Company CEO Marty Grunder. Have questions for Marty or an idea for an upcoming column? Leave us a comment below. 

​​Hello everyone! I hope your spring is busy and prosperous, ours at Grunder Landscaping Co. sure is. We are seeing activity and sales at a level we have not seen since 2008. For all of us 'growing' companies, its been a nice change after the challenges of the years gone by. Like all businesses, there are changes. I know that three short years ago, most of our efforts and struggles centered on finding the work. Now, we are experiencing the challenge of finding the workers! There is never a dull moment in the green industry. I will tell you though, I know entrepreneurs in all walks of life, and al​​​l of them have challenges and things they have to overcome. A positive, can-do attitude can help you overcome a lot. So, as we venture into the 2015 landscaping season, what can you do to help have the best, most prosperous, stress-free year? I want to share 3 things I see as 'trends'.

Be clear about what a win looks like for your team for 2015.

First of all, any notion you have that your teams are trying to purposely make mistakes and affect your profitability should be cast aside. I am licensed to say that for many of my years, I erroneously looked for someone to blame for all my problems. When I finally realized that the person most responsible for my problems was me, I improved tremendously as a leader. The first job of a leader is to cast vision, and to provide the operation direction. Your people can't help you win, if you don't tell them what a win looks like, so you need to be the painter of that picture. If you are stuck, then just answer this question: What needs to happen between now and the end of the year, for us to have a winning year? If you have a profit level in mind, go backwards and write out what needs to be done to get there. How many clients do you have to serve?  How are you going to serve them? How are you going to attract new ones? Spend some time thinking about your future and get an idea of what you want to accomplish and start sharing your plans with your team.

Be clear about what's in store for your team if you win in 2015.  

The toughest part about running a business is motivating your team. Your team will not be motivated by helping the company's owner buy a new boat or house. Instead, seeing a career path, if they succeed at their current job, will motivate them. Your team will be motivated by getting a raise for helping the company reach a level of profitability not attained before. Your team will be motivated by being given responsibility and by receiving training and education. While free sodas, pizza, and deep sea fishing trips are all nice, what today's modern worker wants, in my opinion, is the feeling of being included. Companies that share information actually are not jeopardizing their future by revealing secrets; they are instead helping their teams better understand where everyone is going and how their contribution affects the outcome. I see companies all the time that have key people leave to start their own business, because us business owners make everything look so easy. Companies that talk about the good and the bad with their teams help their folks understand the whole picture and help them see that running a business isn't easy. It's important that your employees know that together you can be successful, but apart, you might not be. Get your team together and ask them what they like and don't like. Ask them what motivates them. Yep, the tough questions, and you might not like some of the answers. However, if you listen, you can and will improve your organization.

Listen to the Customer.  

When was the last time you asked your clients about their unmet wants? Dale Carnegie said, 'when you take an interest in others, they take an interest in you'. A good example listening to the customer happened to us recently when our Gravely representative, Keith Darding, came to our shop and did some personal one-on-one training with our mowing teams and our fleet manager. How do you think that went over? How important to think we felt? Its spring, but Keith still found the time to come see us and help us, because Keith has vision and that brings us back to the second point, 'Be clear about what a win looks like for your team in 2015'. Keith knows if he keep us happy, and if we know how to use the equipment properly, we'll never buy another brand of mower and we'll make more money. Keith knows that relationships matter. I can't tell you how many landscapers I know that run a particular brand of mower, more so because of the service they received than the mower itself. Think about that, because it can be applied to the clients that we as landscapers work with as well. Listen to that customer. Be 'everything' to a select few, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.  Get to know your clients, have a dialog with them, truly listen and adjust your business accordingly and you will win.

Look, there are a lot of new things going on in the ever-changing landscaping industry.  However, the more things change, the more they stay the same in terms of what you need to do to make your business successful. Being clear about what a win looks like, showing your team what's in it for them if you win, and listening to the customer are all things we can focus on now. Smart business owners are never asleep at the wheel, they are always looking for ways to improve, but they also never loose sight of the basics and focus on those constantly. ​

I'm going to go mow my lawn for therapy now. I push-mow the front yard and my son rides on the glorious Gravely 60" Pro-Turn in the back!