Learning from the Best

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Lawn & Landscape
July 2018
By Marty Grunder

I am always, always looking for ways to get better at running my landscaping business. Sure, I’m proud of the company my team and I have built. But, as one of my mentors, John Maxwell, likes to say, “Of all the things a leader should fear, complacency heads the list.”

That’s why I try to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from other landscaping business owners, and why the willingness of our industry colleagues to help each other grow is one of the things I love the most about our field. This past year I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Bob Grover, who founded Pacific Landscape Management in 2001 in Portland, Oregon. Focused on commercial maintenance, Bob and his team have managed to grow their company to $22 million a year in annual revenue—a remarkable and inspiring feat.

What’s Bob’s secret? From what I’ve learned and observed in talking to him, he has a very clear vision for the kind of company he wants to run and remains keenly focused on that vision. Here’s what I mean:

His “Team Orange” is recognized as a winning culture and a distinctive brand. Pacific Landscape’s uniforms are orange, a color that really stands out when you have a large fleet of trucks painted in it and some 250 team members wearing it on project sites around the city— especially in an industry where so many of us have chosen green for our company color.

But what’s really distinctive about Team Orange is the company culture Bob has built around it. Take a look at their Facebook page and you’ll see what I mean. Whether they’re celebrating a great year, taking part in a companywide weight-loss challenge, or donating their landscape services to a local charity; the camaraderie and cohesion among his team is clear. And any time Bob is interviewed about his success, he unfailingly gives credit to his hardworking crews. I’m not surprised Pacific Landscape is consistently ranked as one of the best companies in Oregon and that their strong company culture has enabled them to accomplish amazing growth.

He has a genuine passion for horticulture and he’s fostered the same in his team. Bob has a degree in horticulture from Oregon State and has spent his entire career in the green industry. His passion for the field comes through in the work his company does, in the investment he’s made in the ongoing training of his crews and the advocacy he’s done for our industry. He’s a great reminder of how much loving the work you do – and surrounding yourself with others who share that same enthusiasm—can impact the results you see. It can also make you just plain happier and healthier.

He understands customer service. I’ve heard Bob give a talk that I love. It’s called “Just Don’t Suck at the Landscaping Part,” and in it he reminds landscape pros that while the quality of our work matters, building relationships and proactively communicating with our clients is just as important, if not more so. Bob urges us to look for opportunities to be a hero. If you exceed your clients’ expectations by staying late on a job to fix a problem or perceiving their needs ahead of time or finding a way to nicely surprise them, you’ll get noticed and retained.

Despite being one of the most successful companies in the industry, he is still looking for ways to get better. You might expect someone with Bob’s level of success to think they have this business all figured out. But that’s just not at all the way Bob thinks.