ONLA

Birthday Reflections

Birthday Reflections

Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association
The Buckeye
July/August 2018
By Marty Grunder

At the end of April I celebrated my 50th birthday. I can’t say I exactly looked forward to this milestone but, as my mom likes to remind me, aging sure beats the alternative. And while I’m not as skinny or as fast as I used to be, I’d like to think I’m a fair bit wiser than my younger self, and I know for certain I have a tremendous lot to be thankful for. 

This was abundantly clear the morning of my birthday when I headed into what I thought was an early meeting with my leadership team and instead found my staff gathered for a surprise celebration.  

When the Going Gets Tough

When the Going Gets Tough

Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association
The Buckeye
May/June 2018
By Marty Grunder

What a spring—or, more accurately, what spring? The weather in Ohio has not been kind to our industry this year, with snow continuing to fall even in April. It’s safe to say we are all behind on our schedules, leaving us scrambling to make up for the time we’ve lost and hoping for understanding from our clients. It’s a tough spot to be in. But there are actions all good leaders take to meet challenges head on.

1. They maintain a positive attitude, no matter what. As the late, great Zig Ziglar famously said, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” If you think you can’t overcome adversity, you very likely won’t. Good leaders know they are always being watched. They set the tone for everybody around them. In times of difficulty, your team needs you to a be a calming voice and a motivating force. Assure and reassure them that you will all get through this, and that you’ll be the better for it from what you learn. 

Tips for a Successful Spring

Tips for a Successful Spring

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.

Attain, Train, Retain, and Entertain a Modern-Day Green Industry Workforce

Attain, Train, Retain, and Entertain a Modern-Day Green Industry Workforce

Now that the holidays are behind us and we’ve turned the calendar page on another year, it’s a great time to take a step back and really think about what you want to accomplish in 2018. One area that we’re all struggling with in the green industry is labor. Where do you find good people? How do you get them to choose to work for you over another competitor? How do you keep them once you have them?

How Do You Get Your Team to Uphold Your Values Even When You’re not There?

How Do You Get Your Team to Uphold Your Values Even When You’re not There?

Every fall I invite landscaping professionals from around the country to spend a day at Grunder Landscaping Co., where they go behind the scenes of our operations and learn directly from my staff how we strive to set ourselves apart from the competition.

Of all the learning events I lead throughout the year, this one is my personal favorite.

True Confessions of a Former Micro-Manager

Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association
The Buckeye
September/October 2017
By Marty Grunder

The other day I came across a short interview in the New York Times with John Zimmer, the president of Lyft, the ride-hailing service and Uber competitor. In five years’ time, Zimmer has grown his company from 30 people to some 1,700 today, and the interviewer wanted to know how he scaled himself as a leader.

“The most important thing I’ve found is to know your weaknesses and hire people better than you,” he said. “That takes a certain amount of confidence.”

Now I am never going to oversee a team as large as Zimmer’s, but as a reformed micro-manager myself, his observation hit close to home. I started my landscaping business some 34 years ago when I was just a teenager who needed to make money for college. I found a used lawn-mower at a garage sale for $25 and got to work, and today my former one-man company employs a team of 60. Since I was 14 years old I have never not been the boss at work (at home it’s a different story; there I’m lucky if I get a seat on the couch!).

When I was first starting out, and for a long, long time after, I thought the only way to get something done right was for me to do it myself. I had capable, dedicated people working for me, and yet I’d check and recheck their work and then become frustrated and lose my cool if they didn’t do their jobs the way I would. I would insist on having the final say on every decision, no matter if it was significant or small. I thought I was the only one who could close a sale.

And then somewhere along the way I realized this simply wasn’t sustainable—there was no way I could scale my business if every last aspect of it depended solely on me. More important, I realized this was no way to lead a team and create a workplace people actually wanted to come to everyday. You know what you get when you micro-manage your company? You get a team who, no matter how talented, will never reach its potential. You make them afraid to fail in any way and, in turn, afraid to innovate. They learn to keep their opinions to themselves, to fear you, to tell you only what they think you want to hear. They feel no ownership in their work—how could they?—and no pride.

So, slowly but surely I started to loosen the reins. I hired a VP steeped in finance whose fiscal cautiousness counterbalances my more generous penchant for risk. I took several steps back and let the expert landscape designers and crews whom I’d taken such care in finding actually do their jobs. I listened to my office manager, whose organizational skills far surpass mine, and adapted the systems she wanted to put in place. I stopped inserting myself into every hiring decision and listened to my team about who was a better fit. I discovered I wasn’t the only one who could close a sale.

Is my company perfect now? No, not by a long shot—and neither am I. Balls occasionally get dropped, mistakes are made. Someone suggests a new way of doing things, we try it, and we learn the old way was better. Someone else makes a bad hire and we have to let them go. “There’s a difference between saying you’re empowering someone and really empowering them,” Zimmer says in the interview. “Sometimes you have to just let people grow and make mistakes on their own.”

And if your people are growing, then your company—and, in time, your profits—will too.

If you want to see how this approach works firsthand at Grunder Landscaping Co., join me in Dayton this fall where I’ll be leading two field trips to our headquarters. You can learn more at https://martygrunder.com. Hope to see you there!