Three Factors Critical for Success

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Lawn & Landscape
January 2017
By Marty Grunder

Come February, you’ll find me happily hosting GROW! 2017, my annual conference for landscape professionals. This year, we’ll gather in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, where attendees will tour my landscaping company headquarters and see firsthand the tricks of the trade we’ve used to make Grunder Landscaping an industry leader in the Midwest.

We’ll spend three jam-packed days focused on three key factors that have been critical to our success: hiring, profitability and standing out in a sea of sameness. We hope you’ll join us, but even if you can’t, you can still get a jump on these areas now and set yourself up for success in the new year.


You’d be hard-pressed to find a landscaping company that’s not struggling to find good people—the key word here being good. My company struggles with this, too, but we’ve found a few tactics that have helped us to attain and retain strong hires:

Know whom to look for and where to look. Think about your best people: What do they have in common? Where do they live? What do they do for fun? Is there a school many of them went to? Many of my team members like to fish and hunt so when an applicant says they like to do that, too, we know they might be a good fit. Several of our guys and gals listen to country music, so we know to advertise we’re hiring on country music radio stations.

Create a referral program. Last year at our GROW! conference in Dallas, Complete Landsculptures shared with us their simple but effective 1-2-3 Referral Program. If a team member refers a candidate whom they hire, they get $100. If the new hire remains on staff for three months, the referring team member gets $200, and if he or she remains for six months, the referrer gets $300. We tried this out at Grunder Landscaping and have been thrilled with the results.

Make your company a great place to work. Pay a competitive wage. Reward your staff for delivering good work. Treat them with respect. Provide paths for advancement. Throw a pizza party. When people like where they work, word gets around. You’ll soon find you have a much better applicant pool.


After running Grunder Landscaping for 34 years, I’ve found profitability is the result of a lot of different things, some big and some small, some in your control and some not.

But if there’s one action I’d encourage you to take in 2017 to increase your margins, it’s to create a system for your team that focuses on hours sold.

Give each work crew a work order for every job they do that makes clear how many hours you bid for it, and then closely track the hours spent. Incentivize your team to complete each job in less time, with no diminishment in quality.

Implementing this approach at Grunder Landscaping has helped foster an environment of continual improvement, and we’ve seen our profits steadily climb.


Chances are your clients—both current and potential—have a whole host of landscapers in your area to choose from. Make sure you’re giving them plenty of reasons in 2017 to choose you.

Do what you said you would do. Show up on time. Deliver your projects on schedule. Follow your own mission statement.

At Grunder ours is “to enhance the beauty and value of every client’s property while exceeding their expectations every step of the way.” That’s what we promise our clients we’ll do, and that’s what we make every effort to deliver. Are you delivering on your mission?

Ensure your trucks are clean, your people are clean, and your job sites are clean. I cannot stress enough how much this affects your clients’ impression of you and the quality of work they believe you’ll deliver. Take pride in your appearance and your clients will trust you’ll take pride in the work you’ll do for them.

Hustle. Move quickly—but carefully—in everything you do. Get back to clients and prospects quickly. Respond to problems right away.

Try new approaches to old problems; if they don’t work, move on and try something else. You’ll never outrun the competition by standing still.

Train. Training isn’t an expense—it’s an investment. Make sure your team knows how to do the jobs you’re tasking them with and how to safely operate your equipment. Keep them up to date on developments in the field and continually refresh and expand their skill set.

Develop relationships with your team, your vendors, and your clients. People want to work for and do business with people they know, like, and trust. Be someone they know, like and trust.

See you—here or in Dayton—next month!