Tips for a Successful Spring

Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association
The Buckeye
March/April 2018
By Marty Grunder

With spring afoot, everyone in our industry is about to get incredibly busy. The days will be packed from morning to night, and you will very likely feel as if you can't think or see straight. You will get stressed out, your team will get stressed out, and your clients may very well get stressed out too. It’s practically unavoidable. The trick is all in how you handle it. Here are some tried and true tips for getting through the season.

People don’t follow angry leaders. I am the first to admit I am a very intense guy. I have let things bother me that should not bother me. I’ve lost my temper at work and done things when I’m angry that I regret. I’ve had to really work on this issue, and what I’ve learned is that when you react to a problem with anger, all people see and hear is the anger, not the problem.

Here’s proof: One day a few years ago I went to check out one of our job sites, a beautiful property belonging to one of our best clients. Grunder Landscaping caters to a high-end market, and our clients expect perfection from us. It’s what they’re paying us for. So I was alarmed to see wheel tracks all through the mulch rings on this property. I drove back to the office and, I’m not proud to admit, immediately laid into the job crew for running our lawn mowers through the mulch rings.

After I was done with my tirade, the crew stood there shifting uncomfortably, no doubt thinking what a jerk I was. Then the crew leader calmly informed me that it wasn’t our guys at all who had made the mess—it was the lawn-care applicator, who was carelessly taking the spreader through the mulch rings. I was wrong to assume it was my team’s failing and more wrong still to react in anger. I apologized, and we ended up having a productive conversation about how to address problems like this with our subcontractors. Now when I spot an issue at a job site, I take care to ask my team questions first and gather all the facts before doing anything. Trust me, this approach is a lot better for your company culture, and for your blood pressure too.

Every role matters. When we’re busy and stressed, there’s a tendency to focus on what’s wrong and take for granted what’s right. We all (hopefully!) have stars on our team whom we count on to lead and deliver on big projects and to save the day when it needs saving. And we all (hopefully!) reward these stand-outs well too. But the third guy or gal on a crew who shows up on time every day and efficiently accomplishes the unexciting but necessary tasks like mowing and edging is crucial to your company’s success too. Find ways to acknowledge their contributions, especially during the busy season—write them a personal thank-you note, bring them lunch on a job site, single them out at your next all-team meeting. The same goes for vendors who reliably do what they say they’re going to do. We’ve worked with Phillips Sand & Gravel for more than 20 years now and have never had a single complaint about them. That’s pretty remarkable when you think about it. When’s the last time you sent a vendor a thank-you note?

You can’t control the weather but you can control your empathy. Come spring, everyone wants a beautiful yard—and all at the same time! It can be hard enough to fit it all in. Throw in an unlucky string of rainy days and you may suddenly have a lot of unhappy people on the line who haven’t gotten their work done when they wanted. Obviously you can’t do anything about the weather, but you can train your people to respond to unhappy clients with empathy. Sometimes all it takes is letting them vent their frustration and telling them you completely understand where they’re coming from to turn the situation around.

Stress, like spring, is inevitable. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t let it get the best of you.