If you’ve been in the industry for any period of time, you know that your fellow landscape professionals are always willing to share and connect with one another. One platform in particular that allows pros to help other pros succeed is the ECHO Means Business (EMB) website.
In 2016, ECHO formed the User Advisory Group (UAG) to serve as volunteer campaign advisors for the EMB site. Roughly 30 professionals make up the UAG. They start conversations on the EMB platform, such as how do you quote a mulch job or how are you responding to rising gas prices.
Aside from sharing their professional experience and inspiring others, the UAG provides independent and objective end-user testing and feedback to help ECHO better understand the needs of the community and industry professionals.
“The very first thing we needed to do was find professional landscapers who are active in social media that have a desire to want to help one another,” says Ken Osberg, marketing director for ECHO.
Osberg says they weren’t looking for influencers, but rather instigators who could stir up conversations in the industry that would help others grow their businesses. He says they also sought out landscapers who weren’t using ECHO products.
“ECHO Means Business is our way of helping the community in a very unbiased and non-branded way,” Osberg says. “In order for this platform to be successful, in order for this platform to have the credibility in the marketplace and be a source and sought out by pros, it has to be neutral. It is not a selling arm for ECHO. It is a platform that we sponsor to provide a safe place for these conversations to happen amongst the pros. So, it’s our way of giving back to the community and helping them be better business owners.”
While it was hard at first to find UAG members, now ECHO gets thousands of applications each year that they review. They cycle different members off to make sure they’re always getting fresh voices and perspectives.
“We’re looking for people who truly want to help others,” Osberg says. “We take a look at some of the content that you might have online. We take a look at what kind of business you’re in.”
Mike Bedell, owner of Bedell Property Management, LLC, based in Milford, Michigan, who has been a UAG member for the past five years heard about it from other members who encouraged him to apply.
“I think the community aspect that we have here is by far our strongest point,” Bedell says. “Your network is your net worth. As people come and go from the group it doesn’t mean the relationship comes and goes.”
He notes that you don’t necessarily only need to go to the site when you’re dealing with a problem. Every day you can find an opportunity to become better by coexisting and passively learning in the community it provides.
“Just by viewing things, sometimes you learn different ways to do things or why somebody would do something a different way,” Bedell says. “I know that it’s led to little improvements in my business.”
Osberg says while the EMB site started as a forum for the pros to come together online and interface, it has expanded and evolved beyond that. The website has three main buckets – education, resources and connectivity.
Visitors to the site can access everything for free including how-to videos, product comparisons and resources like door hangers and commercial service agreements.
“We really feel that having full access to the content there is important, and so it is free of charge,” Osberg says.
The essence of the site is to partner with other entities to bring all these resources to a central location where people can learn and be better in their business, be safer and be more profitable.
“We’re all very approachable people, probably more approachable than some of my college professors,” Bedell says. “That part I can’t reiterate enough is it’s free. You really are missing out if you’re not part of the community.”
While you can consume content without logging in, you do need to create credentials to interface directly with other pros. Currently, there are roughly 22,000 registered members on the EMB site and it is still growing.
“Join up,” says Scott Horoszewski, another UAG member and owner of Acme NLS, LLC, based in Swanton, Ohio. “Take advantage of it. Put a question in the forum or just watch the videos. There’s so much to learn and in any type of business, you got to keep learning. This is a great website just to keep learning from and to keep growing. There are hundreds and hundreds of things on there that you can learn from on the website.”