Lawn & Landscape
By Marty Grunder
If you’re like me, you’re glad to see November roll around every year. For those of us not in the south, the landscaping season is at last winding down and we finally get to catch our breath. In Ohio, where I live, the weather is usually mild enough to still enjoy some time outdoors. And then there’s Thanksgiving, hands-down the best day of eating all year.
Turkey, mashed potatoes and my mom’s unbeatable cherry pie aside, Thanksgiving is primarily about being thankful for what you have. For business owners, it’s also a great time to take stock of how you’re saying thanks to all the people your company relies on for success.
Appreciate Your Clients
Without clients, you have no business. No matter how good you think your product or service is, your clients always have other options. In every interaction you have with your clients, show them that you appreciate that they’ve chosen you, and train your staff to do the same.
Remember to actually say thank you, no matter if it’s at the end of a phone call, an email or an invoice. It’s such a small thing, but I’m continually amazed by how many businesses fail to do this. Run a list off of your clients and their addresses and work methodically through it, day by day and name by name, to send a handwritten thank-you note to each one of them.
Support charities your clients are involved in when the organization’s values and mission align with yours. Conduct surveys of your clients’ satisfaction at the end of the season – valuing their opinion and input is a way of showing appreciation, too.
For your best clients, consider holding an event just for them. At my landscaping company, we invite our top customers once a year to be our guests at a special performance at the theater downtown and host a nice reception for them beforehand. The night is stress-free (for them, if not for my marketing director) and fun and absolutely, completely solicitation-free. It’s an investment for my business that pays back in dividends all year through.
Appreciate Your Team
Just as with your clients, show your team your appreciation in every interaction you have. I’m not saying you have to profusely thank them every day for everything they do, but you should always treat your employees with respect and professionalism. If you’re in a bad mood, don’t take it out on them. Smile and say hello when you see them. Often small business owners get so distracted by all the balls we’re juggling that we forget the effect our demeanor can have on our teams. Remember they have lives outside of work, too. Show them you appreciate them by not pinging them incessantly with emails and texts on their off hours.
At my landscaping company, we hold a cookout once a month on Friday afternoons during the high season. It’s a chance for my crews to relax, without a single production goal save to have fun and enjoy each other. Once a year, I invite my whole team to a Cincinnati Reds or Dayton Dragons game and a reception beforehand. We schedule this event for a Friday night and invite spouses too to make it easier for everyone to enjoy a fun night out.
Now, for a full confession: As much as I may think I have this whole gratitude thing figured out, I was made keenly aware of my shortcomings not that long ago when a trusted, longtime employee let me know how little he felt appreciated and why. I thought a lot about what he had to say and realized he was, unfortunately, right. He was so integral to the success of my company, and had quietly and reliably delivered so much for so long, that I took him for granted without realizing it.
I’m now taking steps to remedy that, from rethinking our compensation package to having regular one-on-one meetings with him. And to show him I heard him loud and clear, I gave him two tickets to a concert I knew he’d like and told him to take the day after off with pay. That single, small gesture doesn’t make up for the rest, of course, but it’s a start. He and I are on a better path now, and I’m grateful to him for giving me the chance to make it right.
I have a lot to be thankful for.