5 Ways to Boost Teamwork and Productivity in Your Landscape Business

Sports teams might have great, extremely skilled individual players, but the only way they win is when they play together. The same is true for teams within landscape businesses. Unfortunately, many landscape employees don’t feel like they are part of a team because the organizations they work for aren’t doing anything to intentionally develop teamwork.

Phil Harwood shares five key ways to boost teamwork in your landscape company.

Phil Harwood

“They might get jostled around from crew to crew,” explains Phil Harwood, CEO of Pro-Motion Consulting and principle with GrowTheBench.com. “They might feel like they are just doing a job and punching a clock.”

As this progresses, what happens over time is “the company misses out on all the great energy or contribution that could be gained from an employee who is really all in,” Harwood says. “That only happens when they feel like they are part of a team.”

5 Characteristics that Breed Teamwork

When workplace teams work, they shine. But when workplace teams don’t work, projects suffer, along with employee morale. All of this can lead to employee turnover and lost clients. While there isn’t one secret for creating effective workplace teams, Harwood says there are five things you can do to better your chances of improving the team dynamics in your organization.

  1. Develop trust. Your team members need to trust each other to share their weaknesses and ask for help when they need it and assist others in need. With trust, team members don’t develop defensive behaviors.
  2. Encourage debate. Teams that lack trust are incapable of having passionate, productive debates about things that matter. People that don’t care create artificial harmony; it may seem OK but it’s not. In a company where employees don’t express their opinions, inferior decisions often rise above the best ones.
  3. Build commitment and buy-in. People who share ideas and help make decisions develop a commitment to the company.  Without healthy conflict, this doesn’t exist.
  4. Breed accountability. In a well-functioning team, each team member holds each other accountable. Have progress measurements for each person, as well as the team, so everyone knows what needs to be done by whom and when. When team members don’t know the plan and, therefore, haven’t bought into the plan, they aren’t going to hold each other accountable.
  5. Become results-oriented. A team can only become results oriented when all team members place the team’s results first. Make team results clear and reward behaviors that contribute to the team’s results.

Good People Make Good Teams

“Successful teamwork is not about mastering subtle, sophisticated theories, but rather about combining common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence,” explains Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. “Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork so elusive.”

Want to learn how to improve productivity in your company? Teamwork can help! Turn your employees into ones who work together and contribute to your landscape company’s success. Attend NALP’s Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team event Nov. 28 in Austin, Texas. Learn more HERE!

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Top 3 Ways Landscape Business Owners Can Overcome Weaknesses

Everyone has weaknesses. If we were all born with all the strengths necessary to run a successful business, we wouldn’t have any daily struggles, revenue and profit would be through the roof and customers would be beating down our doors. Life is about balance; and while we all have our strengths, we must overcome weaknesses to maximize our success in business.

Common Small Business Weaknesses

Some natural weaknesses that you might recognize in your business:

  • 55% of managers are too busy to train or develop their sales team, according to bizcommunity.com. Yet, another study says there is a direct and consistent correlation between the caliber of a sales force and an organization’s growth.
  • Forbes asked 800 entrepreneurs, “If you could eliminate one big obstacle in your businesses to allow you to grow exponentially, what would it be?” The No. 1 answer chosen by 32 percent of entrepreneurs was: “Finding and training the right people to grow the business.” What kind of time and resources do you use when it comes to training and retaining the right people so you can grow your business faster?
  • Sixty-three percent of businesses say generating traffic and leads is their top marketing challenge, followed by 40 percent that say proving the ROI of their marketing activities is their top challenge, HubSpot reports. A weakness is falling into old, ingrained habits when it comes to marketing, such as sticking to only outbound strategies like cold calling and direct mail versus also exploring inbound marketing tactics like blogs filled with valuable content, videos and social media to draw in more leads.

Overcome Weaknesses in 3 Steps

Even though weaknesses are normal, the only way to tackle them is to identify them and address them. That way a weakness won’t derail you.

Risa Mish shares 3 ways to overcome weaknesses.

Risa Mish

Risa Mish, a professor focusing on critical and strategic thinking, leadership and businesss management at Cornell University, recently spoke about this topic at the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Leadership Academy, conducted in partnership with Cornell University’s SC Johnson School of Business. She suggests these three strategies to overcome weaknesses.

  1. Get a little bit better at your weakness. For instance, if you’re a poor planner, start keeping track of your time, holding yourself accountable to that schedule.
  2. Use one of your strengths to work around your weakness.
  3. Partner with someone who has a complimentary strength.

No one is born with every one of the strengths and characteristics to run a successful landscape business. Use these simple strategies to overcome weaknesses and increase your chances of success. As Jeffrey Gitomer, American author, professional speaker and business trainer, says: “Obstacles can’t stop you. Problems can’t stop you. Most important of all, other people can’t stop you. Only you can stop you.”

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The Workforce Shortage is Real … Here’s How the Landscape Industry Plans to Cope

Last week, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, through the Industry Growth Initiative, held a Workforce Development and Recruitment Summit at its office in Fairfax, Virginia, to address the industry’s workforce shortage.

Approximately 50 attendees from major regional green industry associations, as well as experts from other major industries attended the event, sharing their respective experiences in dealing with the realities of the workforce shortage, as well brainstorming solutions.

The Workforce Shortage is Real

“I don’t need more business; I need more people to do the work.”

That is the underlying sentiment that landscape contractors and association representatives expressed at last year’s Workforce Development and Recruitment Summit. And the times haven’t changed; in fact, the situation has escalated.

Landscaping has the second worst unemployment rate by industry—only construction has it beat, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And for the first time in history, there are more job openings than there are eligible workers to fill them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that there are 6.7 million job openings and just 6.4 million available workers.

The “No. 1 problem for businesses is finding qualified workers,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s. “At the current pace of job growth, if sustained, this problem is set to get much worse. These labor shortages will only intensify across all industries and company sizes.”

So, we feel your pain; the workforce shortage is real. Now what are we going to do about it?

Workforce Shortage Solutions

At the Workforce Development and Recruitment Summit, attendees started by sharing their current workforce challenges and wins. The goal of the meeting was to realize that “while we compete with other industries for people, we are also in this together,” explained Missy Henriksen, vice president, public affairs, NALP. “We must share our voices so we can educate each other and work together to fill vacancies.”

Experts from other industries, including Greg Sizemore, vice president of HSE and workforce development for Associated Builders and Contractors, and Jay Lim, vice president of workforce development policy at the American Trucking Association, presented their related workforce dilemmas and how they are battling them.

Carolyn Renick from the U.S. Department of Labor talks about the advantages of apprenticeships.

Carolyn Renick from the U.S. Department of Labor talks about the advantages of apprenticeships.

Then, Carolyn Renick from the U.S. Department of Labor and industry representatives dove into the topic of apprenticeships and the programs currently in place, as well as those being launched (NALP plans to launch a national apprenticeship program in early 2019), and how landscape professionals can take better advantage of using these programs to enhance their workforces.

These are the common themes that resonated during discussions among the group:

  • Landscape, construction and trucking are word-of-mouth industries. To attract talent, we must continue to tell our stories. This also will help combat the stigma that a person is not successful unless he or she goes to college.
  • These are rewarding careers people don’t need degrees to land. We need to show prospective employees how they can learn and grow within our organizations.
  • Educating children at a young age (and their parents) about the importance of landscapes and the benefits of a career that helps the environment is a good idea. We must change their perception of landscaping as a career by showcasing the many options available.
  • We must highlight the advantages of working outdoors, especially in an increasingly indoor reliant society.
  • Landscape professionals should take advantage of regional and national apprenticeship programs to draw in workers. This could encourage millennials and Generation Zers to start earning while they learn versus acquiring debt by attending college right away.
  • The industry should tap into all categories for potential employees, including retirees, veterans/former military and former prison inmates.

NALP will continue to present Workforce Development and Recruitment Summit updates. Look for more news on NALP’s landscape management apprenticeship program soon! Thank you to all the companies supporting the Industry Growth Initiative for enabling difference-making opportunities like this one. 

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What Will the Landscape Company of the Future Look Like?

There are three kinds of thinking: inside the box, outside the box and no box.

This according to Michael Hostetler, who specializes in teaching strategy, decision-making, leadership, innovation and change management in the MBA program at Cornell University. He spoke at the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Leadership Academy, conducted in partnership with Cornell University’s SC Johnson School of Business.

The landscape company of the future looks bright.He challenged the room of approximately 20 landscape professionals to use no box thinking to discuss the landscape company of the future. He defines no box thinking as having no constraints, no limits and no judgement; all ideas are fair game.

The room brainstormed, coming up with the following insights about the landscape company of the future:

  • The speed of data sharing in the digital world will lead to a power shift in the landscape industry where consumers will drive how providers offer services (just-in-time services, sustainability practices, etc.).
  • Robotics will replace human workers due to worker shortages, disinterest, unreliability and fragility.
  • Industry consolidation will increase, which will increase the size of dominant players and put pressure on profitability.
  • Land degradation, water shortages and climate zone shifts will impact the choice of plants, and how landscapes are designed and maintained.
  • Ground and equipment sensors, self-driving equipment, robots and analytics will reshape landscape work and shift production from labor-intensive activities to monitoring and problem intervention.
  • Landscape companies will need to change the skills they hire for, including information technology, customer relationship management, data analytics, finance, brand management, civil engineers, landscape architects, botanists and arborists, to remain relevant.
  • Landscape companies will need to offer integrated services, either through acquisition, internal growth or strategic alliances.
  • Travel will increase the spread of pests and plant diseases, which will impact landscape and design and management practices.
  • Landscape companies will need to better understand their customers and the segments they serve.
  • Landscape companies should lead technological innovations and education for the industry.

The landscape companies of today will look totally and completely different in 10 years, the group deduced. They said: “Those who can adapt, think with no bounds and redefine themselves will be the ones who survive.” -Nicole Wisniewski

Top 5 Requests from the Workforce of the Future

After Hostetler and the Leadership Academy attendees brainstormed the future of the industry, he brought in a panel of students from a variety of Cornell schools, including hospitality, information technology, engineering and labor relations. He asked them if the roughly 20 landscape businesses in the room were to hire them, what benefits or perks would they rank as most important.

These are the top five themes that rose above the rest; use these ideas when strategizing your landscape company of the future:

  1. Company culture trumps everything. They want a culture in which they feel valued, listened to, and have access to the people making decisions. Top down leadership is not something these future professionals seemed open to.
  2. They want a clear career path and access to peers who they can exchange ideas with and connect with as a support network as they advance in their careers.
  3. Future workers want an environment that values and promotes teamwork and camaraderie.
  4. They want to feel a part of a “bigger purpose” and to feel like their job has meaning.
  5. Compensation is important; but not as important as all of the above.

Learn more about NALP’s Leadership Academy.

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Landscape Spending Sets Records

Americans are spending more on gardening today than ever before.

Americans are spending more on gardening today than ever before.

Some might say gardening is something enjoyed only by the older, wealthier retiree.

Today’s research proves that is not the case, according to Garden Research’s 2018 National Gardening Survey. In fact, the group found more American households are gardening today (77 percent) than ever before, and increasingly that gardener is much younger.

Landscape Spending is Up

First, let’s talk about landscape spending.

This year, American gardeners set a record spending amount of $47.8 billion in lawn and garden retail purchases. This includes everything from bulbs to outdoor furniture, Garden Research reports.

The average household set a spending record of $503, which is up nearly $100 over the previous year.

Who Are They?

While older consumers (over 35-years-old) make up 35 percent of gardeners, those between the ages of 18- to 34-years-old set a record high, making up 29% of all gardening households. Males in the 18- to 34-year-old age group, specifically, increased participation in lawn and garden activities (from 23 percent in 2016 to 27 percent in 2017).

“From small beginnings with a succulent here and a houseplant there, the under 35s are now truly engaged in the full range of gardening activities,” explains industry analyst Ian Baldwin, who participated in the Garden Research survey. “It’s a strong sign that they are finally ‘in.”

What Are They Buying?

When we take a closer look at what gardeners are spending these extra dollars on, container gardening and landscaping are the two categories that set new highs in sales, Garden Research reveals. “More consumers are choosing not to dig holes in their leisure times,” Baldwin says. “If they have the finances, they are investing in raised beds.”

Indoor gardening is also making what Baldwin calls “a big comeback” with 30 percent of all households buying at least one houseplant, bringing more of the outdoors into their homes.

What is the younger gardener spending their money on? “Knowledge,” Baldwin says. “Rather than getting glossy, coffee-table books, many of these gardeners [want] gardening apps and information from gardening websites.”

Want more statistics on consumer landscape spending and trends? Check out NALP’s Industry Growth Initiative 2017 Harris Poll.

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Which 2019 Garden Trend Will Improve Your Business?

If you haven’t noticed yet, we are living among the “Indoor Generation.”

Too much screen time has people craving the outdoors. Photo: GMG

Too much screen time has people craving the outdoors. Photo: GMG

What does this mean? It means 90 percent of people worldwide (yes, 90 percent) spend nearly 22 hours a day inside without enough daylight or fresh air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation. In A YouGov study, one in six people actually admits that they never go outside. A National Human Activity Pattern Survey also studied this, finding that Americans spend roughly 93 percent of their time enclosed either indoors or in vehicles.

People stuck indoors crave time outside. Photo: GMG

People stuck indoors crave time outside. Photo: GMG

The statistics seem even worse when singling out children. Prisoners at U.S. maximum security facilities are guaranteed two hours of outdoor time daily, whereas one out of two children worldwide spend less than an hour outside, says a study conducted by the National Trust. Today’s children basically spend half as much time as their parents did outside.

As a result, there are a variety of movements and recommendations encouraging people to eliminate the “blue lights,” #DeleteFacebook, bring more of the outdoors into their homes, and set reminders to get outside. In fact, the 2018 National Gardening Survey found Americans are setting records in lawn and garden spending because they crave nature.

Garden Trends: Reconnect With Nature

Garden Media Group just released their predictions for 2019 garden trends, and much of it is based on this trending data.

“People are awakening to Mother Nature to find balance and peace,” explains Katie Dubow, creative director, Garden Media Group, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. “This awakening cultivates a healthier relationship with technology, draws people outside and brings them in touch with their roots.”

Here is a look at the top garden trends Garden Media Group forecasts for 2019:

Garden trend #1: The indoor generation, disconnected from natural rhythms, craves a connection with nature. Pinterest searches for indoor plants are up 90 percent, Dubow says. The National Gardening Association reports 30 percent of all households bought at least one houseplant last year, millennials being responsible for 31 percent of houseplant sales.

Garden trend #2: Spending too much time in front of a screen causes  physical and psychological problems. Adults spend 11 hours a day looking at screens and check their phones every 10 minutes. Parents will continue reducing screen time for their children and encouraging gardening activities.

Garden trend #3: More people will continue to choose brands (one-third of people worldwide) for their social and environmental impacts.

Garden trend #4: Generation Z is stepping up to volunteer for environmental movements. Volunteering among 18- to 24-year-olds set a record at 25.2 percent, exceeding the national rate, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. By 2020, people engaging in “responsible tourism” is expected to increase 350 percent, the UN World Tourism Organization forecasts.

Garden trend #5: People are upcycling or eliminating waste that normally ends up in landfills. Think plastic straws. Last year, Google saw a 700 percent increase in the search term “zero waste.” A desire to eliminate food waste (EPA says food is the largest waste in landfills) will increase composting.

Butterfly gardens will continue to be popular next year. Photo: GMG

Butterfly gardens will continue to be popular next year. Photo: GMG

Garden trend #6: Forty percent of pollinating insects—particularly bees and butterflies—risk global extinction. To get ahead of this problem and restore ecosystems, people are installing more insect gardens. Also, invasive insect species are growing; the U.S. Forest Service says invasive insects and diseases put 70 million acres of trees at risk. Early detection and response is the best defense for dealing with invasive species, Dubow says.

Garden trend #7: Gardening will continue to rely on technology—from drones to phones—to make the task easier. People are planning, planting and watering remotely; robotic mowers, wireless plant sensors and irrigation systems and high-tech tools will continue to increase. Drones enable bird’s eye views of landscapes for better landscape planning and design.

Garden trend #8: Moon phase gardening is rising. More people are using moon phases to determine planting, weeding, pruning and harvesting timing. Flowers and plants that glow at night (lamb’s ear, white echinacea or white Muscari (the 2019 bulb of the year), and night-blooming fragrant flowers like evening primrose, Angel’s trumpet or moonflower) appeal to those who entertain outdoors.

Mint is the new trending color for 2019-2020.

Mint is the new trending color for 2019-2020. Photo: GMG

Garden trend #9: People love a new neutral color in home décor and gardening: mint. The global trend forecasting network, WGSN, predicts mint will dominate the world of fashion and interiors in 2020. From hydrangeas to orchids to shrimp plants, mint-colored flowers will be in demand.

As Dubow says: “Finding joy in nature will help save the environment and, in turn, save us.”

Interested in identifying that one landscape or garden trend that could take your business to the next level? Attend LANDSCAPES, Oct. 16-19 in Louisville, Kentucky.

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How to Better Manage Negative Customer Reviews

One negative customer review can lose a company 22 percent of its business, according to marketing firm Moz. What’s worse is that four negative customer reviews can chase away 70 percent of potential clients. Those are not positive statistics for any small business, including lawn and landscape companies.

Obtaining regular customer feedback is important to prevent bad customer reviews.

Use client feedback you obtain from surveys or site inspections to improve your service experience and help prevent negative customer reviews.

Despite the fact that online reviews are less trustworthy than customers think, according to the Journal of Consumer Research, Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of American adults “sometimes” or “always” read online reviews before engaging in a new relationship with a service provider. And 65 percent of them believe customeare generally accurate.

So what does this mean for you, the landscape professional? You can better manage the rise of bad customer reviews by listening to your clients with these strategies:

  1. If you can convince customers that you are taking their issues seriously, you can prevent three out of four of them from venting their frustrations via bad reviews, says a Corra study. Do this by making sure you respond publicly to negative reviews so customers feel heard and valued. Unfortunately, 96 percent of dissatisfied customers won’t tell the company how they feel, but they will tell 15 of their friends, so seeking out these negative customer reviews, while time-consuming, is important.
  2. Track signs of customer disengagement. Are your customers unsubscribing from your email lists, asking not to receive your direct mail or deleting your apps? Find out why.
  3. Ask customers for feedback on what they want on a regular basis to stay ahead of trends. You can also use customer feedback garnered from surveys or site inspections to improve your service experience.

The good news: Ninety percent of customers will give a company a second chance before giving up, the Corra survey says, so know that your efforts here will not go unnoticed.

For more customer service tips from landscape business experts, as well as insights into marketing and sales strategies and financial management, consider attending the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ LANDSCAPES event, Oct. 16-19 in Louisville, Kentucky.

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H-2B Cap Relief Pushed Until After the Mid-Terms

Last week, Congressional leadership reached a bipartisan deal to fund the government through the November mid-term elections. The appropriations committees in the House and the Senate filed a conference agreement on the FY 19 Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense appropriations bills, known as a “minibus”. The minibus includes funding provisions supported by Republicans and Democrats, and a funding level for the DOD that should encourage President Trump to sign the funding package despite his public statements aimed at shutting down the government without border wall funding. The minibus also includes a “continuing resolution” (CR) to maintain funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal Departments through December 7, 2018. The Senate passed the agreement (93-7) yesterday and the House is expected to approve the deal when they return from recess next week. Continue reading

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Rising Concerns with Distracted Drivers

Authored by Claire F. Martin, of Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, P.C., H.R. Advisors to NALP members. This article appears in the September/October issue of the Landscape Professionals Magazine. 

Many industries require their employees to drive, either their own vehicles or company-owned vehicles, as a part of their job duties. However, the landscape industry is one industry that overwhelmingly requires its employees to drive for the job. With the rise of smartphones and the ability to multitask while driving, drivers, employers, and legislatures have grown more concerned about distracted drivers. Continue reading

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Lawn, Landscape, and Sports Turf Field Day at Virginia Tech

Author Tom Tracy is the Executive Director of the Virginia Turfgrass Council 

Turfgrass, horticulture, arboriculture, environmental sciences, and other industry segments can operate in self-imposed isolation.

Working towards achieving cohesiveness between different industry segments, Virginia Tech’s new School of Plant and Environmental Sciences conducted the second annual Lawn, Landscape, and Sports Turf Field Day on August 14. This event, administered by the Virginia Turfgrass Council, was held in Blacksburg at the Virginia Tech campus and more than 90 people attended. Continue reading

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