Lawn & Landscape
By Marty Grunder
Welcome to spring, my friends, the start of another growing season for landscape professionals. If you’re like me, you can’t wait to get started on another year and see just how much you can improve on the last.
I’m especially excited this time around, having just wrapped up GROW! 2017, the three-day conference my green-industry consultancy, Marty Grunder! Inc (MGI) holds every year. The event brought together 300 landscape pros to learn from industry leaders about building successful businesses and achieving our dreams.
This year I was joined on stage by a truly extraordinary group: Frank Mariani, of Mariani Landscape; Jim McCutcheon, of HighGrove Partners; Todd Pugh, of Enviroscapes; Mike Rorie, of GroundSystems; and Scott Jamieson, of Bartlett Tree Experts.
James Cali and Jason New, our newest additions to the MGI team, also delivered presentations, as did MGI Vice President, Vince Torchia.
When these men speak, I listen, and you should, too. Together we focused on three keys to success:
1. Finding Good People
I don’t know of a single landscape company that’s not struggling with this challenge now, and I didn’t meet a single owner or manager at our GROW! Conference who wasn’t worrying about it. Every one of our experts’ approaches to this problem is at least slightly different – just as everyone’s particular market is – but some common themes emerged.
Be creative in where you look for prospective employees: Catholic Services and laundromats, women and minorities. Make your company a place people will want to work at. Offer flexible hours. Work as hard at retaining good staff as you do at retaining good clients. Have a career path for every single employee, from the top down to the lowest rung.
2. Improving Profitability
Again, every one of our presenters had their own particular path to success in this realm, but I was struck more by our commonalities than our differences. We all agreed you’ve got to control your overhead; manage closely your outlay on rent, salaries, advertising and the like. Some of us don’t pay for advertising at all, relying instead on referrals and word of mouth. The single best marketing tactic you have in your arsenal is doing the job you’ve won well.
MGI’s Jason New minced no words when he told the audience what they need to do to get ahead: If you’re only working 40 hours a week and expecting extreme growth, you’re not going to succeed. Continuously monitor – monthly, weekly, even daily – what’s working and what’s not, and refine your strategy accordingly. Jim McCutcheon reminded us that zero debt isn’t realistic or opportunistic. And if you’re not opportunistic, you should close up shop and go home.
3. Standing Out
All of us on stage agreed that our clients can’t or won’t differentiate between our own and our competitors’ products, but they can and most assuredly will distinguish between our own and our competitors’ service. In fact, I owe the success of my own company in no small part to this principle.
That’s why our trucks at Grunder Landscaping are spotless, our crews are cleanly uniformed and unfailingly polite, and we never leave a site without letting our clients know what we accomplished that day and what we’ll do on our next visit. We send handwritten notes to those who award us contracts and to those who turn us down. The rejection you get today just might become a sale tomorrow if you handle it right.
It’s a lot to think about and be inspired by. But that’s also what makes our profession so much fun. So, get out there, put these ideas to work, and see if you can make this your best year yet. Go GROW!