Lawn & Landscape
By Marty Grunder
Eight months ago, I made the biggest change I’ve ever made in my company and in my career. I took the reins of Grunder Landscaping and placed them firmly in the hands of my right-hand man Seth. Overnight, I went from having nine direct reports to just one.
I went from being directly involved in nearly every aspect of the business to focusing instead on where I can move my company forward the most through business development. And you know what? I’m having the time of my life and my team is re-energized and re-engaged.
What led me to make this radical change in our 35th year of business? It wasn’t that we were doing poorly. In fact, the last few years have been our most profitable yet. But I travel frequently in my work coaching and consulting with other ambitious landscape pros. It’s work I love doing, but it means I’m often away. And while my team has done a lot to accommodate my frenetic schedule, deep down I worried about the impact this setup was having on all of us.
But I didn’t really reckon with the bigger picture until last December, when, in a remarkable act of generosity, mentorship and friendship, four of our industry’s leaders – Frank Mariani, Jim McCutcheon, Todd Pugh and Mike Rorie – traveled to Grunder Landscaping and spent a day with my leadership team. After speaking with each of us individually and together, and taking a close look at the way we operated, they delivered their verdict: Our current structure would not enable us to continue to grow.
With my too-tight grip on the steering wheel and my travel schedule, I was holding good employees back and impeding momentum as a result. The best reason to grow a company is because you have great people who want more opportunities, Rorie, former president of GroundSystems, said. That was a real wake-up call for me.
I want to share with you here the positive developments I’ve seen from our reorganization because I think all companies can benefit from lessening reliance on the owner to some degree. It really is the only way to grow.
A reorganization like the one we undertook at Grunder Landscaping only works if your leadership team knows the big picture. Under Seth’s guidance, we now share 100 percent of our financial performance with them. This enables them to see exactly how well we’re doing and where we need to tighten up or improve. The leadership team meets every Monday, without me, and they follow a strict agenda to drive accountability and progress. On Fridays, Seth and I meet to do the same. Delegation should never be abdication, and this structure ensures that doesn’t happen.
While I’m still in charge, I am focused on business development and am not operating the day-to-day controls. I’m involved where I need to be, and not when I don’t need to be. Before, I was trying to do too much with too little time. Now that we’ve empowered our leadership team to make decisions on their own, we’ve removed bottlenecks. Issues that could take weeks to get resolved in the past can now be addressed much more efficiently.
When we decided to undertake this reorganization, there was a fair bit of anxiety on all sides. Would I actually follow through and give my team the authority to make decisions without me? Would they actually want the added responsibility when they saw what it would entail? Would chaos ensue? How would we all adjust to massive change, especially when so many of us had worked together for so long and were so used to doing things the way we’d always done them?
It hasn’t all been wine and roses the last several months, but none of our serious fears have come to bear. Instead I’ve watched as my leadership team has pulled together and challenged each other to stop thinking about all the reasons we can’t or shouldn’t try something new and to start training our aim on all the potential we might realize if we do. As Seth likes to say, “Progress is finding solutions.”
What excites me the most about these changes is the future we’re building for the company and for my team. We’re on a new path for growth, with a succession plan that leverages the expertise of our longtime employees while capitalizing on the energy and strengths of the next generation. We’re proving that we can evolve and that young people have a future with us. And that makes for a pretty dynamic place for us all to head into work every day.