Do’s and Don’ts of Developing A Strong Company Culture - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Do’s and Don’ts of Developing A Strong Company Culture

Company culture is one of the strongest tools you have when it comes to recruiting and retaining your employees.

Make sure you’re taking advantage of this selling point of your business and avoid costly mistakes that can damage your culture in the long run.

The Do’s

Matthew Spiece, general manager of Joshua Tree Experts, based in Stockertown, Pennsylvania, says one major step is to have a clear culture through defined core values and communicate them regularly throughout the company. They have a speech and script defining their five core values in detail.

“We share this speech with every new hire in the form of a video, and share the script with all managers and supervisors to help support them in cascading the values throughout the company,” Spiece says.

Dean DeSantis, owner of DeSantis Landscapes, based in Portland, Oregon, agrees you can’t be everywhere as your company grows so you need to write down and communicate what you want your culture to be. This is where their 25 Fundamentals make up the DeSantis way.

Also as you grow, while the owner is a key driver of culture, as the company scales up, it matters who the owner surrounds themselves with because those people establish your culture.

You should also always listen to what your team has to say. Each quarter, Sun Valley Landscaping, based in Omaha, Nebraska, has an employee town hall where company updates are disseminated and team members feel comfortable sharing.

Dave Buckel, president of Ideal Landscape Group, based in St. Louis, Missouri, says other do’s include being humble, gracious and kind at all times. Let your employees know you appreciate them through intentional praise and reward them when you see them doing good.

“Do correct employees when you see them doing something wrong with words of encouragement, such as ‘let me show you the correct way to do this,’ so it doesn’t happen again,” Buckel says.   

You should also make sure the families of your employees know how much you value them at your company. Getting involved in your local community is another way to foster team building and a positive workplace for your employees.

The Don’ts  

DeSantis says you shouldn’t forget it is the actions of your leadership team that creates a culture. Don’t rely on slogans or written communication if your actions aren’t aligned.

Fraynd says one important action to be mindful of is how you speak about people who aren’t present in the room, whether customers, applicants, or vendors.

“Don’t say things like ‘No one wants to work anymore,’” Fraynd says. “If your team hears you say that it sets a very bad precedent for your opinion on the world. Have a positive energy that you enjoy doing it and you’re having fun. I think if you do those things, people will be drawn towards that. People want to work at a place that’s fun and going somewhere.”

Another major misstep is allowing people to stay at your company who don’t align with your culture.

“Don’t retain co-workers who do not exemplify your established values or create drama just because they are high producers,” Spiece says. “This is a difficult thing to learn and a difficult thing to take action on, but it must be done. Some long-term planning may be required to make changes when a high-producing individual is causing culture issues.”

DeSantis adds that if one of your core values is ‘Be kind’ and one of your superstars is a bully at work and you allow them to stay, it’s not truly a core value, it’s a wish.     

Leanna Buckel, vice president of Ideal Landscape Group, says you shouldn’t belittle others or let pride take over when you have a disagreement with another staff member. She says don’t let issues fester over long periods of time as it only gets worse.

“Don’t act like someone else’s problems are not important,” Leanna says. “Have the grace, and humility to be accepting that someone may be having personal issues and may need you to be understanding, as it may be you needing that the next day.”

Spiece says another mistake is adopting core values that should be true of any person. He says this was something they were guilty of with their first set of values.

“An example of this is ‘Honesty,’” Spiece says. “Honesty should be expected out of any person, and should not need to be defined as specific to your company’s values.”   

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.