The Top 5 Landscape Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2019

What do your customers crave in their landscapes this year? The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) is about to tell you with its official list of the top 2019 landscape trends.

Drawing upon the expertise of the industry’s 1 million landscape, lawn care, irrigation and tree care professionals, NALP annually predicts trends that will influence the design and maintenance of backyards across America in the year ahead.  

“Homeowners yearn for beautiful outdoor spaces without the hassle of upkeep. With the rise of multifunctional landscape design and automated processes, consumers can spend more time enjoying their landscapes than ever before,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs, NALP. “This year’s trends reflect current lifestyle preferences as well as innovations happening in the industry that are transforming landscapes across the country.”

NALP predicts the following five trends to influence outdoor spaces in 2019:

Landscape Trends #1: Two-in-one landscape design

Functional elements are no longer a perk, but rather a necessity in today’s landscapes. Consumers desire stunning outdoor features that have been cleverly designed to serve a dual tactical purpose. An edible vertical garden on a trellis that acts as a privacy fence, a retaining wall that includes built-in seating for entertaining, and colorful garden beds that divide properties all combine function and style.

Landscape Trends #2: Automated lawn and landscape maintenance

The latest technology and equipment allow tasks to be more streamlined and environmentally efficient than ever before. Robotic lawn mowers continue to rise in popularity among both homeowners and landscape professionals. Also, programmable irrigation systems and advanced lighting and electrical systems help outdoor spaces become extensions of today’s smart homes. Homeowners relish knowing that these technological advancements give them more time to relax and enjoy their outdoor spaces.

Landscape Trends #3: Pergolas

A staple of landscape design for years, pergolas constructed of wood or composite material are now becoming more sophisticated. In fact, today they come with major upgrades, including rolldown windows, space heaters, lighting and sound systems. When paired with a luxury kitchen, seating area or fire feature, pergolas can become the iconic structure for outdoor sanctuaries.

Landscape Trends #4: Pretty in Pink

Pops of coral and blush are anticipated to add a more feminine touch to landscapes this year. With Living Coral named the Color of the Year by Pantone, a leading provider of color systems and an influencer on interior and exterior design, landscape professionals predict that this rich shade of pink could bring fresh blooms of roses, petunias, zinnias and hibiscus to flower beds. Experts also anticipate light blush tones to become “the new neutral” and another option for hardscapes and stone selections.

Landscape Trends #5: Mezmerizing Metals

Whether homeowners want a bold statement or whimsical touch, incorporating metals can bring new dimensions to landscape design. Used for decorative art, water features or furniture and accessories, creative uses of metals including steel and iron can make for lovely accents or entire focal points.

How We Do It

NALP, the voice of the landscape industry, develops its trends reports based on a survey of its members. It also draws from the expertise of landscape professionals from across the U.S. who are at the outdoor trends forefront.

NALP’s trends support Americans’ growing passion for the tried-and-true elements of landscapes: well-maintained lawns, outdoor living spaces and more. Along with industry insight, broader lifestyle and design trends influence the landscape trends.

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Why Every Landscape Professional Should Experience the Industry’s Largest Career Fair

Landscape professionals and horticulture students greatly anticipate the largest landscape industry career fair and student contest, otherwise known as the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC), hosted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

BYU team at NCLC in 2018.

The event brings together more than 700 students from two- and four-year colleges to demonstrate their skills in real-world competitive events and to network with top companies in the industry.

For landscape professionals, future quality employees could be among those 700 attendees.

Students taking the NCLC Plant ID challenge.

And, for students, “there is no greater opportunity to really get to know what it could be like working within the green industry,” says Jenn Myers, NALP’s director of workforce development. “It’s a way to immerse yourself in it. Students will not only gain real world experiences—even on things like traveling with the team and getting to know your classmates—but they’ll also have an opportunity to meet prominent industry members and potentially impact their future career. To put it simply, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.”

Want to know more about what NCLC is really like? One landscape professional and one landscape management student share their experiences attending the event.

Landscape Pro: Joshua Pool, chief operations officer, Timberline Landscaping

Josh Pool

Tell us about your NCLC experience.

Though we’d heard of the event and were interested in it, last year was the first time Timberline Landscaping attended NCLC. This year we’re a major sponsor, which I’m really excited about. I didn’t attend when I was a student myself, but I’ve always thought it was a great opportunity—and I’ve now learned that it is.

Most importantly, I think it’s such a great opportunity for businesses to get out in front of college students who are eager to find jobs—and oftentimes are ones at the top of their class. Besides attending college career fairs, this is probably the best opportunity to meet students entering the industry.

What do you learn when attending NCLC?

I can say from just one year of attending NCLC, the event is exciting. It gives me hope that there are still leaders emerging in the industry every year and that any company would be thrilled to get one of them on board. This year, I hope to come away with a handful of good leads on students who are interested in full-time and internship opportunities. I also look to grow our brand exposure as a national leader within our industry as a company that is willing to support amazing opportunities for students to learn and grow.

Of course, I think I am most eager about the opportunity to meet students who are as excited about this industry as we are. We have a huge need for motivated and inspired young people who want to grow with a company who is consistently growing and expanding.

What advice would you give other landscape professionals who are attending NCLC?

For fellow contractors who are attending, prepare to be busy. I would suggest trying to attend as many competitions as you can and to definitely put yourself out there at the career fair. By attending the competitions, you can see who the star performers are if you are looking for new employees.

What advice would you give students who are attending NCLC?

For students who are attending, my advice is similar. Take full advantage of the opportunities that are available. Get out in front of companies that you are interested in. Don’t just walk up to them, grab the free stuff and leave. Talk to companies. Ask them if they’d be willing to do a telephone interview with you so that you can talk even more after the event. Come prepared and make sure that companies have a way to reach you afterwards.

          Of course, you have to think about how you’re going to present yourself. Dress appropriately and position yourself as a professional. Take this event seriously and you’ll be taken seriously. Companies are looking for people who stand out as leaders.

How does NCLC benefit your business?

I think there are great opportunities for us. With this being our first year as a major sponsor, I feel this helps me professionally by broadening my approach to recruiting and helping within our industry. It will also allow me to learn from others who have been sponsoring this event for much longer—like High Grove, who sponsored for 16 years before us. They have learned a lot and have passed that knowledge on to us. In general, it’s just another great example of how this industry is full of people who really take the time to support one another.

Landscape Student: Alyssa Brown, senior, Brigham Young University

Alyssa Brown

Tell us about your NCLC experience.

This will be my fourth year attending NCLC, since I went as a freshman—which is admittedly unusual. But I went because I wanted to immerse myself in the industry and make sure that I was definitely in the right program. I currently am a senior at Brigham Young University working toward earning a bachelor’s of science degree in landscape management. This year, I’m the team captain, which means I’m responsible for helping everyone prepare for their event.

What’s the key to a successful experience at NCLC?

Having been to NCLC three times previously, I’ve learned a lot. As a result, I think that the key to success while there is to get outside of your comfort zone. This is how you’re going to make the most out of it. I think a lot of students go and stay focused on their competition or maybe try to get a summer internship at the career fair and they limit themselves from all of the other opportunities. Experience as much as possible.

While you’re there, network as much as possible. Don’t just go and try to get a bunch of free t-shirts. Make it a true learning experience. I have met people who I may never go to work for, however I know they would be there to answer a question if I had one. That’s really invaluable to me.

What has most surprised you at NCLC?

One thing that has surprised me is that this industry is so open, consequently people want to help one another. I would guess that a lot of other industries aren’t like that. Also, since it’s a national event, there’s even less concern about direct competition. As a result, there’s an opportunity to ask questions and learn a lot. What you learn can help you make better decisions for your own career path.

I think that when you’re in school, you’re really only exposed to what is right there in your own community. But NCLC is an opportunity to see what else is out there—on a national level. It can really open up the vision for what your career opportunities could be. You might even learn that there are opportunities you didn’t know existed within this industry.

What has NCLC taught you?

For me, my goal has always been to learn more about myself and my career path. This event has allowed me to do that. In fact, by doing this work and being team captain and preparing for competition, I’ve learned that I love teaching. My long-term goal is to become a university professor. I’m certainly not opposed to going into the field first, but I love the idea of ultimately teaching others. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in NCLC and learn so much about myself and the industry as a result. There’s no question it’s had a major impact on me.

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Employee Issue of the Week: Increase Awareness to Boost Safe Operations

If you walk into the lobby at Raimondi Horticultural Group, in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, you instantly spot the National Association of Landscape Professionals Safety Recognition Awards it won for safe operations. They are on display for all to see.

Chris Raimondi

Raimondi’s CEO and president Chris Raimondi says the awards are a visible reminder to employees that the company values safety. Raimondi says safety is a “top priority” at his company. (Check out the company’s recent blog about “Why Workplace Safety is Important.”)

“If we cannot provide a safe environment for our employees and our clients, then we have no business being in this line of work,” Raimondi says.

Like Raimondi, many landscape professionals vie for NALP’s Safety Recognition Awards each year. This year, NALP gave out 203 awards for the Dec. 31, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018 performance period. Award categories include “No Vehicle Accidents,” “No Injuries or Illnesses,” and “No Days Away from Work.”

Another highly coveted award is the “Overall Safety Achievement Award.” Companies that participated in previous programs were also eligible for the “Most Improved” category.

Making safety top-of-mind for employees, however, means putting awards for safe operations on display so they know safety is highly valued at the company.

Put Awards for Safe Operations on Display to Show Employees You Care

This past year, Raimondi took home an Overall Safety Achievement Gold Performance award. That meant no vehicle accidents, no injuries or illnesses, and no days away from work. Raimondi says they’ve won it two years in a row and that he applies for it because of the awareness that it creates within the company.

“If employees see that we care—that we’re displaying these awards we’ve won for safety—then I believe they’ll think twice about standing on that top step or about making other mistakes that could lead to an accident,” Raimondi says. “With these awards hanging in our lobby, employees see them all of the time.

“Recently, I had a team member tell me he wanted to wash the truck because the windows were filthy, and it could impact visibility,” Raimondi adds. “I was thrilled to hear him say that—it made me feel that the safety message is getting through.”

Display Safe Operations Awards to Heighten Awareness

Safety on the job at Farmside Landscape & Design. Photo: Farmside

Lisa L. Kuperus, vice president of Farmside Landscape & Design in Sussex, New Jersey, agrees that displaying the company’s safety awards has led to “heightened awareness from crews.”

“I think it also makes a difference in how we are perceived by clients and prospective clients,” says Kuperus, whose company won a “No Vehicle Accidents” award this past year. “They see the care that we treat our people with and that safety is something that’s important to us. They recognize that we’ll treat their property the same way.”

Farmside also sends press releases about awards to local papers to let its customers and community know how much it values safe operations.

Safe Operations Is An On-going Company Discussion

Of course, it’s important that training isn’t just a once-and-done endeavor. Kuperus says that at Farmside, safety is an ongoing discussion. They often make use of NALP’s tools, including the tailgate talk sheets, to go over important safety points. Kuperus says it’s incredibly helpful that these are available in both English and Spanish for their bilingual crews.

“We do what we can to try and prevent accidents by having regular discussions and training,” Kuperus says. “That’s not to say that accidents never happen. We know that people have accidents and make mistakes. When that occurs, we do everything we can to learn from them so that it doesn’t happen again. We want our team members to know that if you get hurt, it doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone. It impacts the team and it can even impact their family. We want everyone working safely and smartly to prevent these things from happening in the first place.”

Raimondi agrees, adding: “We go out of our way to ensure that all processes and procedures involving safety are enforced. It’s a hallmark of our company to instill both family and safety in everything that we do.”

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Set Goals in 2019–and Reach Them–With These 5 Tactics

Setting goals for the new year is a fairly typical practice. A new year is a new chapter, a chance to start fresh and place some positive targets out there that you want to hit. Maybe you want to grow your landscape business to a certain level or add a new service or streamline your systems. Landscape professionals who set goals can certainly end the year with better businesses if they achieve them.

set goals

Some popular small business resolutions include joining a new local business organization or networking group, starting a blog (and updating it regularly), learning to delegate more, implementing a social media marketing plan, ensuring your website content is up-to-date, and putting time for yourself on the calendar (achieve some work/life balance).

However, while we all start the year with the best intentions, only 12 percent of us will actually be victorious in meeting our New Year’s resolutions. That equates to about 156 million people who set goals and then give up or don’t succeed, according to Lifehack.

What’s the problem? Let’s take a look at the 5 common reasons we don’t meet our New Year’s resolutions and how we can learn to set goals for ourselves that are achievable so we can all be victorious by the end of this year.

You Set Goals That Are Too Big

In today’s society, everyone wants things to happen fast. We want it all and we want it now.

But that’s just not realistic. A big goal—like reaching $1 million in revenue—cannot likely happen in one year’s time. Instead, you need you break up your big goal into smaller, less intimidating tasks that are achievable.

Depending on where you’re at as a landscape business, maybe this means setting targets each year that are in line with average growth percentages, like 2 to 5 percent, and that becomes your target. Or maybe adding a new service is your goal and those additional customers will begin to get you closer to your ultimate, larger revenue goal.

Talk to other landscape professionals who have reached $1 million in revenue and find out what steps they took to get there. Notice the small victories they achieved along the way and try and look at your business in the same way.

Too Much Talk, Not Enough Action

Being motivated is a great experience. It’s amazing to listen to a business expert speak at an event and feel rejuvenated to take the tips you heard back to your business and implement them.

All too often, those tips end up in a notebook or tucked away in a desk drawer or on a shelf. And they never see light again. You get back to your business and start putting out fires again and forget all about what you were motivated to change.

Many goal setters don’t determine how they’ll reach a goal. Seeking inspiration and knowledge is an excellent practice, such as attending NALP’s Leaders Forum this month. However, you must take one thing you learn from each book you read or session you attend and put it into practice. Figure out a step-by-step process on how you’ll simplify your goal so it’s possible. Goals don’t have to be large; above all, little changes can make large impacts on your overall business.

The point is you must act in order to see results.

You Lack Confidence in Yourself and Your Abilities

If your list of goals is a mile long and covers everything under the sun, no wonder you feel exhausted and that you don’t know where to begin. Trying to do it all at once can burst your goal bubble. As a result, you stop before you even have a chance to start. Or maybe you’ve set similar goals in the past and failed. Feeling insecure is no way to start accomplishing goals.

Doubt will always be that nagging voice in your head. Believing in yourself is the only way to defeat doubt. Failure in the past doesn’t dictate your future. You can always try tackling that goal again, but this time succeed.

You’re Waiting for Motivation to Strike

Have you ever been in the middle of a long run and you started letting your lack of motivation and energy almost stop you from running? But then you keep running, fighting through that sluggish feeling, and you’re glad you did?

Motivation is a temporary feeling. It might get you started some days and it might be nonexistant on other days. However, discipline and commitment to the process are what really help you accomplish your goals.

Popular research says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, a more recent European Journal of Social Psychology study found it took an average of 66 days to change a behavior. Time actually varied from as little as 18 days all the way up to 254 days. You have to put the time in to achieve any goal. Some days will be smooth and others will be challenging. That’s what makes reaching your goal so rewarding in the end; you conquered the ups and downs and triumphed.

You Never Get Started

Commitment is key to achieving any goal.

Treat each day separately and do one thing that day toward achieving your goal. Don’t worry about it not working out or not being perfect.

Celebrate small victories along the way. This will “train your subconscious brain to program you for continued success,” says Julie Christopher, CEO of Biztuition. “Your one new daily habit … will become a consistent part of your life, like brushing your teeth.

set goals

“The reason you are an entrepreneur is that you are far from average,” Christopher continues. As a result, you are used to taking educated risks. “You rise up daily, make life-changing decisions, and you hopefully perform better every day by overcoming challenges and solving problems. You can do this.”

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Deck the Halls With Something Green

As technology and all things metal and plastic grow, the more simple, natural traditions become cherished. This is especially true around the holiday season, when people have a special emotional and economical connection with landscape plants and trees.

Landscape plants have played important roles in holiday social and private traditions, as well as winter solstice lore.

Let these five landscape plants and trees that are associated with Christmas and the winter holiday season inspire your landscape designs and help you better connect with your customers.

Oh, Christmas Tree

A tree is part of most people’s holiday seasons. As you drive across the neighborhoods you service, it’s rare that you don’t see an outdoor evergreen decked in lights or twinkling coming from behind the front window of a home showcasing a glittering, decorated blue spruce or Fraser fir.

landscape plants for the holidays
Scotch pine is one of the most popular Christmas tree varieties.

Many people maintain the tradition of cutting down a tree grown specially for holiday traditions or selecting one from a local lot. In fact, Christmas tree farms produce 34 to 36 million Christmas trees each year. The best-selling trees are Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir and white pine.

What’s more is Christmas trees have become greener over the years. Ninety-three percent of them are recycled. They provide habitat for wildlife and remove dust and pollen from the air. Approximately 1 acre of Christmas trees provide the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

Home for the Holly-days

They don’t say “Deck the halls with boughs of holly” for nothing.

The prickly green plant and its bright, red berries are popular for bringing a little Christmas spirit to homes.

landscape plants for the holidays
The prickly green holly leaves hung indoors were once thought to protect those inside from evil spirits.

Before it was hung in houses to accompany Christmas trees, holly was considered a sacred plant by the Druids. They hung the plant in their homes for protection and to fend off evil spirits. They also thought of holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life.

People use holly to make wreathes, which symbolize eternity.

The American holly even became the official state tree of Delaware in 1939. Why? Because the town of Milton, Delaware once displayed more Christmas holly decorations than anywhere else in the world.

Mistletoe Mania

Kissing under the mistletoe has become a Yuletide ritual.

landscape plants for the holidays
Norse mythology said mistletoe was a sign of love and friendship.

Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that lives on a variety of host trees. The mistletoe associated with Christmas is a European plant that grows on willow, oak, apple and other deciduous trees. Another species, hardy to zone 6, grows on oak, elm and poplar trees in the eastern U.S.

The tradition of hanging mistletoe in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. They believed the plant possessed mystical powers, bringing good luck and warding off evil.

Norse mythology looked to mistletoe as a sign of love and friendship. But the white-berried plant’s kissing custom comes from England. The original custom says one must pick a berry from the mistletoe sprig before kissing another; when the berries were gone, you were out of luck.

The Tropicals: Christmas Cactus and Poinsettia

My grandmother always has a blooming Christmas cactus indoors near a sunny garden window at this time of year. With the right care ,the plant blooms around the holidays, with showy flowers emerging from the tips.

landscape plants for the holidays
Poinsettia bring color to the holidays.

Poinsettia also bring a lot of color to the holiday season. These subtropical plants are native to Mexico.

The shape of the poinsettia flower is a symbol of the star of Bethlehem, which led the wise men to Jesus.

Have Yourself a Nature-Filled Christmas

When everything else on the landscape is dead or dormant, the plants of Christmas serve as symbols of spring’s return. As such, they have become must-haves for Christmas decorating and inspiring warm, happy holiday emotions in your customers. 

Encourage your customers to enjoy a little green this holiday season. Give them the gift of holiday memories they’ll never forget. 

Happy holidays from the NALP team!

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4 Reasons Why You Should Become Landscape Industry Certified

Trying to figure out how becoming landscape industry certified can positively impact your bottom line?

That may be tough to quantify. But more commercial and government accounts demand certified landscape industry professionals take care of their properties, so becoming certified can be a competitive advantage for a landscape professional, which can win you the job over the next guy. And that’s revenue that may not have been possible otherwise.

But that’s not the only reason landscape industry professionals become certified. More and more landscape professionals are recognizing the advantages of becoming landscape industry certified.

Here are 4 reasons lawn care and landscape contractors attain and retain their industry certifications.

1. Certification Can Help You Win More Work

Eric Wewerka used to dismiss the importance of certification programs. “I could never understand why I needed it or what I would learn,” says Wewerka, owner of Wewerka Construction Management (dba Wewerka Professional Landscape Contractors).

That was until a large job he was bidding required he be a Landscape Industry Certified Manager as part of the request for proposal.

He scrambled to prepare and start taking the seven tests required to attain certification. He passed his first but failed his second twice. The client would not give him more time and he lost the chance to win the job.

Wewerka slowed down and studied and then finally passed all the tests. He hopes to bid on that job again next year. He adds, “And, this time, I’ll be ready.”

2. Certification Can Expand Career Opportunities

Allana Miller has 15 years of landscaping experience—the majority of it outdoors. But when Dennis’ Seven Dees was looking to expand its interiorscape division, she jumped at the chance to learn more about the green industry that happens indoors.

Owner David Snodgrass encouraged her to get certified. She set a goal for taking the test in five months and got to work studying what she needed to learn. She passed.

Now the other technicians on her team have set a goal for the end of the year to obtain their certifications.

“Yes, they’ll get a pay raise if they pass,” Miller says, “but it’s really more about loving what they do and taking pride in the great things we are accomplishing as a team.”

3. Certification Gives the Client Confidence in Your Abilities

Becoming certified shows clients that your company “is at the top of its profession,” Wewerka says.

“Having this certification instills another layer of confidence with the client,” Allana says. “Our goal is to be able to say that our entire interiorscape team is certified. I have every confidence that we can do it.”

And, even if a client doesn’t require certification, similar to Wewerka’sexperience, “it should raise a question mark in the client’s mind when comparing different landscape companies,” Wewerka says. “If two companies are close on experience and close on price, the one that is certified shows more value because of that extra level of expertise.”

4. Certification Can Help You Build a Better Business

Certification preparation also has the extra perk of improving the way a company operates.

For instance, in preparing for the exams, Wewerka learned how to improve various areas of his business. “What this process really did was reaffirm what I knew I needed to be doing to continue moving my business forward,” he explains. “The HR exam was really helpful. Even though I had knowledge of basic HR concepts, it wasn’t a big area of concentration for our business.

“Now we’ve updated all of our safety training programs and continue to build on them,” he adds. “You need good training and safety systems in place as you’re growing. Preparing for this Landscape Industry Certified Manager exam directed me to a lot of valuable resources to help put those core pieces in place to build my systems.”

Are You Certified?

Becoming landscape industry certified can provide landscape professionals with valuable learning opportunities.

The process also ensures you continue your industry education and give the public that extra assurance that the work being done on their properties is being performed by knowledgeable and reliable professionals.

Interested in learning more about landscape industry certification? Go here for more information on NALP’s certification programs.

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4 Ways to Handle Negative Customer Reviews

Service customers often rely on the opinions of their family and friends to make purchasing decisions. In fact, Zendesk says 88 percent of customers have been influenced by an online review when deciding what to buy.

That’s why getting positive reviews is essential.

However, when you open your business to reviews on websites like Yelp and Angie’s List, you open your business to negative as well as positive reviews. While negative reviews can adversely impact your business and drive down your overall rating on customer review sites, they also present opportunities.

“Negative reviews can benefit your business,” explains Paul Chaney, author of “The Digital Handshake: Seven Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business Using SocialMedia.” “If every review is positive and abounds with four- and five-star ratings, potential customers could become suspicious, feeling that the reviews are ‘manufactured’ rather than being left by real customers. As paradoxical as it sounds, the fact that negative reviews appear can contribute to building trust, rather than diminishing it.”

And, “while dealing with unhappy customers has always been a challenge for business owners, in today’s age, negative reviews are for everyone to see, which makes handling the situation properly even more important,” explains Alain Parcan, director of marketing, Market Hardware.

Here are four ways to deal with negative customer reviews.

How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews #1: Monitor your online mentions.

To respond to reviews promptly—both the good and the bad—you first need to know what customers are saying and where they are talking about your business.

Online reputation monitoring tools like Social Mention (which is free to use), Reputology or Review Trackers (the latter two require a small fee) can help, Chaney shares. Also, set up Google Alerts to track your business name so you don’t miss anything.

Social media management tools such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social also have built-in monitoring capabilities, Chaney adds.

How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews #2: Be polite, respond promptly and take the issue details offline.

Responding to positive and negative reviews alike shows customers you are attentive and care enough to address customer concerns.

To craft the best response, first “remove emotion from the equation,” Parcan says. “Reacting emotionally tends to lead to an over-the-top response, which usually just adds fuel to the fire. Instead, take some time to relax and think about where the customer may have felt slighted (whether they are right or wrong).

“Also, you never want to air out an entire conversation in a public forum, so start with a simple, generic response,” Parcan advises. “Be as polite as possible. A positive attitude will help get a positive result.

Rebecca Hussey, Market Hardware’s director of account management, suggests the following responses:

  • Thank the customer for voicing his or her concerns. Say you are looking into the customer’s account and will be in touch to work toward a resolution.
  • Apologize and say, “I’m sorry to hear that you weren’t happy with your service. Can we contact you directly to try to resolve the error?”

“Communicating with an upset customer in a more personal manner, such as over the phone or in person, can help eliminate any misunderstandings and speed up solutions,” Parcan says. “It will also show the disgruntled customer you are aware of the situation and are working to sort it out.”

How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews #3: Encourage positive customer reviews.

To combat negative reviews, consistently encourage your happy customers to leave positive reviews.

Since only a small portion of your total customers may take the time to leave reviews, the people who do certainly have the strongest feelings toward your business—whether positive or negative. “Get in the habit of encouraging your customers to leave you reviews online or even consider sending out an email blast with a link to different review sites (Google being a priority),” Parcan says. “Chances are you have many happy customers who would be happy to take a minute or two to leave a review.

“One blemish won’t have much of a negative effect when surrounded by several glowing reviews,” Parcan adds. “And the fact that reviews boost your search rankings makes this an added bonus.” 

How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews #4: Share reviews with your employees. 

At a company or team meeting, share positive and negative customer reviews with employees. Positive reviews provide great momentum as your team goes into the field that day.

And with negative customer reviews, internal communication can “help ensure you prevent similar problems in the future,” Chaney says.

Become Review Worthy

A PowerReviews study says 97 percent of consumers consult reviews before making a purchase. Eighty-five percent of them seek out negative reviews specifically. The majority of consumers read between one and 10 reviews before making a purchase and 50 percent of consumers write reviews for products and services they’ve purchased, the study further revealed.

Commercial customers are also reading reviews. A State of B2B Procurement study from Acquity Group says 94 percent of buyers do online research before making a purchase. Seventy-seven percent use Google search, 84.3 percent check business websites, 34 percent visit third-party websites and 41 percent read user reviews.

Your online reputation is vital to your business’ success. “It affects your online marketing strategy, so don’t take it lightly,” Parcan advises. “Monitor the popular review sites regularly. Make sure you follow these directions closely if you do happen to run into a negative review along the way.”

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more from Alain Parcan? Check out his webinar “Want to Sell and Retain More Clients in 2019?” at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2019. Learn more here. He’ll also be hosting our upcoming workshop 5 Step Formula for Winning on the Web. Learn more about the workshop here.

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Experts Forecast 3 Residential Landscape Trends for 2019

Many landscape experts are forecasting their 2019 residential landscape trends to prepare homeowners for the upcoming year.

Wondering what residential landscape trends your customers are reading about? Here’s what we’ve seen so you can prepare for what they might ask for in their outdoor spaces in 2019.

Residential Landscape Trends #1: Staycations Still Reign Supreme

residential landscape trends

Photo: Exscape Designs

Garden Design says homeowners are finding more ways to “enjoy a staycation in the comfort of their own backyard rather than waiting in airport lines and living out of a suitcase.”

Since existing house stock averages 38 years old, much of it is in need of updating, according to Hanley Wood/Metrostudy, which explains why the Home Improvement Research Institute says the steady increase in remodeling activity will continue through 2021. “With home prices increasing, new construction harder to find in some areas of the country, and homeowners aging in place, people are staying put and remodeling,” Forbes explains.

Landscaping is one of the upgrades homeowners are making. Upgrades include outdoor rooms that include cozy furniture, outdoor kitchens for people who love to cook, lighting to extend the use of these spaces into the night, and speaker systems so homeowners can enjoy music when outdoors.

Vacations typically involve private getaways, so creating secluded backyard spaces to destress and unwind is vital. Think meditation gardens, reading nooks amidst the trees and water features that add soothing sounds.

Residential Landscape Trends #2: Seller’s Market Means Curb Appeal is Paramount

residential landscape trends

Photo: Exscape Designs

In a seller’s market, making a great first impression is key. The first thing potential buyers will notice about a home is its front exterior. If it’s lacking curb appeal, buyers may not even make it past the front door.

Garden Design suggests making an entrance in homeowners’ front yards by installing scented plants along entry pathways, installing lighting to make the journey to the front door dramatic and easy to navigate and adding seasonal containers.

Residential Landscape Trends #3: Edible Plants Still Stealing the Show

Edibles are not new to the landscape trend scene … and they aren’t going away. Garden trend watchers say more homeowners continue to plant food in their landscapes. They are doing this through containers, using ornamental edibles in landscape beds, and by growing herbs in wall planters.

Tell Us What Residential Landscape Trends Are Happening In Your Area

NALP releases its 2019 residential landscape trend report next month to let homeowners know what will be “in” and “out” for the year ahead. We are gaining insight from NALP members in the field to make these predictions. NALP will share the forecast with the media so we can best communicate what’s trending to homeowners who want to enjoy their outdoor living spaces. What are you seeing in your area? If you provide residential services, please complete this four-question survey by Dec. 5 to give us a peek into trends happening in the neighborhoods you service.

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How to Thank Your Employees and Customers

Last week’s Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder to us all to be thankful. But just because Thanksgiving is over, doesn’t mean you should stop showing gratitude.

Many times, landscape business owners find themselves being thankful for things in their personal lives, such as health, family and friends.

But there are so many things to be thankful about in business, and that includes employees and customers.

Giving thanks is a great way to strengthen business relationships, extend goodwill and reestablish your brand, business experts say.

Let’s explore two key groups of people in your day-to-day life as a landscape business owner and talk about how you can best say “thank you,” and how those acts can benefit your business.

3 Ways to Thank Your Customers

How to thank your customers. Customers are at the heart of a service business. Without them, you’d have no business. Maybe they’ve been your customers for years or maybe they make up a new batch of referrals. Maybe they were your first customers and have been loyal for years or maybe they let you know when your crews weren’t performing their best and helped you perfect your systems and operations.

Despite when a certain customer came into your business life or how customers continue to enrich your company, thanking them is always a good idea. Here are some ideas on how to thank your customers.

  1. Send thank-you cards. In today’s high-tech world, paper thank-you notes stand out. Purchase them in bulk to save money and use them when needed. Want to kick it up a notch for the holidays?
  2. Offer a discount. Jumpstart a new service with a thank-you discount to current customers to add the service. Or offer a referral discount or gift to current customers for providing you with a referral who becomes a client.
  3. Offer a gift. Provide a thank-you poinsettia to every new holiday lighting client or to thank your renewing clients for upgrading their holiday lighting package. Some landscape professionals send wreaths or pies to their customers during the holidays to thank them for their business.

3 Ways to Thank Your Employees

How to thank your employees. If customers are important to a service business, one can argue employees are even more important since they provide the very service that keeps your customers coming back for more.

No one likes working for a company that takes them for granted. Employees who feel appreciated, challenged, respected and given room to grow will work harder to do a great job. They’ll also be more likely to brainstorm the kind of creative solutions upon which the best businesses thrive.

Thanking employees can cement your long-term working relationships and ensure loyalty. That’s good for them, good for you and good for business. Here are some ways to thank your employees.

  1. Throw a party. Acknowledge your employees’ accomplishments with a party full of their favorite foods.
  2. Close early. Sometimes the best thank you for a job well done is to schedule no client visits or maintenance and let everyone go home early before a holiday.
  3. Give out bonuses. Even small bonuses during this busy holiday season may be just enough to power everyone through.

Being Thankful is Good for Business 

Make the time and effort to show gratitude, and you’ll be surprised how much it improves your customer relationships, employee well-being and business success.

As Lori Worth, president at Vibe Communications, says, “Good makes good. Business is personal and happiness is serious business. If we learn to tap into the values that create good, solid people and bring a sense of life balance and happiness to work, we’ll see business success follow. Go ahead: Show thanks for someone or something today and watch what happens.”

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Improve Culture, Solve Labor Problems

As a business coach at Aileron, one of the biggest pain points Phillip Stoller hears from companies he works with is, “I can’t get enough talent.”

“This seems to be a growing trend in the labor market, compounded by strong growth in job creation and job vacancies in the upper tiers of management left by retiring Boomers,” he says.

Just Pay More to Solve Labor Problems?

Phillip Stoller

The seemingly obvious solution of “just pay more” to solve labor problems does not always work for several reasons.

“First, many companies feel unable to pass along the cost of elevated salaries in the form of price increases to their customers,” Stoller shares. “Second, today’s workers are increasingly prioritizing other factors when considering employment options.”

The Secret Weapon to Solve Labor Problems: Culture

The differentiator: culture. “Many companies are looking to culture as the differentiator that allows them to both recruit and retain the top talent needed to give them an edge over their competition,” Stoller says.

But what is culture? A common definition Stoller has heard is “the way we do things around here.”

“In all honesty, I think this definition falls flat,” he says. “I believe this definition is missing the human element.”

Stoller offers an example to explain his point.

“At some companies, I am warmly welcomed by a smiling face, a firm handshake and an offer of coffee or water the moment I walk in the door,” he says. “I have visited other companies where I wait in a small vestibule unacknowledged, peering through a shaded glass window. Internally, I am debating whether I should knock on the glass or just wait for someone to notice me.

“In either case, I begin to experience the culture of the company I am visiting the moment I walk in the door,” he continues. “Sometimes this experience is warm, inviting, validating. Sometimes it is cold, foreboding and intimidating. For both companies, decisions were made based on the values of the organization which shaped my experience. In the first, it is possible that a value around hospitality informed decisions I experienced. In the second, values such as privacy and safety might have been more at play.  All of these are legitimate values, but they create different experiences.”

‘The Way We Do Things’ = Behavior

Another word for “the way we do things” is behavior. Behavior is the connection between an organization values and the people’s experience of those values, Stoller says. “In other words, an organization’s values shape behavior, and then behavior shapes experience,” he explains.

To create a culture, the first step is to get curious about how customers experience your company. “Expanding our awareness around this creates opportunities to test improvements aimed at improving these experiences,” Stoller advises.

Stoller’s challenge to landscape professionals to create culture and solve labor problems: “Follow your curiosity with questions and explore your user experience.”

Editor’s Note: Learn how to define your culture, align your culture and monitor your culture at NALP’s Leaders Forum, Jan. 24-26, 2019, in Aruba. Phillip Stoller from Aileron will be there to talk about “Leading with Influence.” 

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