Four Steps Pros Take to Grow a Landscaping Business

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Lawn & Landscape
December 2017
By Marty Grunder

We’re busy right now at Marty Grunder! Inc., gearing up for our annual GROW! conference for landscape pros who are serious about growing their businesses. Scheduled for February in Tampa, Florida, the 2018 conference will be my 23rd straight year of putting on this event.

It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been at this so long, especially on those days at my landscaping company when nothing seems to go the way I want it to and I realize just how much more I have yet to learn. In those moments I think, “What in the world am I doing teaching others?”

But that’s the great thing about conferences like GROW! You’re surrounded by other landscape pros of every stripe, from the owners of some of the most successful companies in the country to smaller operations that are looking for ways to make the leap from $1 million to $2 million or meet another milestone of their making. There’s always someone bigger to learn from and there’s always someone smaller to share your insight with. It’s true, too, that you can learn a lot from companies smaller or younger than you. Sometimes fresh, eager eyes in our industry drive the greatest innovation.

When my consultancy team and I sat down this year to plan the 2018 agenda, we began by thinking about what landscape pros really need to do in order to grow. Then we distilled that into four main areas. To build your business, you need to:

1. Aspire to grow.

It may be a cliché to say, but every successful business starts with a dream. Those of you who know me have no doubt heard me go on and on about the importance of having a vision – of having a destination toward which your whole team is driving. Well, I go on and on about it because it’s that crucial to your success. Whether you’re an owner, a manager or the hard-working crew member on whom every project ultimately depends, who do you aspire to be? What kind of company do you aspire to create? Figure this out for yourself, write it down and share it with your team.

2. Plan to grow.

The late, great, immensely wise Zig Ziglar wrote, “Many people spend more time in planning the wedding than they do in planning the marriage.” In business, the “wedding” is getting applicants and prospects who match what you’re looking for to say yes to you. That’s certainly important, but it’s just the courtship. The “marriage” is everything that comes after, and if you want your business to grow, you have to really plan for that, too. How do you onboard new hires? What does it take to be a right-hand man or woman who ensures the company isn’t solely or even mostly dependent on the owner? How do you achieve operational efficiencies that enable you to deliver superior service to your clients while clearing a robust profit?

3. Execute to grow.

This is where the rubber hits the road. In terms of truly learning how to execute a plan, I’m a firm believer of seeing it in action rather than hearing about it secondhand. That’s why we always build our GROW! program around a tour of an accomplished landscaping company that we believe others can really learn from. In February, we’re going to Ameriscape Services, the incomparable Joe Chiellini’s operation in Thonotosassa, Florida. We’ll see firsthand how Joe has become one of the most successful commercial landscape operations in the country, and I myself will be taking notes the whole time on what I can beg, borrow and steal from him.

4. Lead to grow.

The fourth and final area we identified as crucial to success is leadership. No big surprise there, but the challenge is of course how to be a good, effective leader. It isn’t obvious and it isn’t easy, but it is achievable. It starts with understanding that true leadership isn’t a title. Everyone in a good company is a leader and a follower at different times. The trick is knowing when to insist on your way and when to delegate, how to get others to support your vision and how to recognize each team member’s contribution to the whole. There are many different kinds of leaders. Which kind are you and how do you play to your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses?

Whether you join us in Tampa in February or you go your own way, I hope you grow far in 2018.