Coming to the lawn and landscape industry from the Marines, Joe Lewis, account manager for Environmental Management Inc. (EMI), based in Plain City, Ohio, has found more crossovers than he ever imagined. His experience and training in the Marines gave him effective training tools to use at EMI. And that’s important, as Lewis believes effective training can lead to better retention and ultimately help with the labor crisis.
We recently caught up with Lewis to find out more.
Environmental Management Inc. (EMI)
Headquarters: Plain City, Ohio
Year Founded: 1992
Client Mix: 88% commercial, 2% residential, 10% government
Service Mix: 33% maintenance, 52% design/build + install, 16% snow
Annual Revenue: $32.9 Million
What is your proudest moment at EMI?
I think it’s when we earned the Landscape Industry Accredited Company certification. That certification says we don’t just do good work but that we’re safe, we’re professional, we operate our business responsibly. Simply put, we’re one of the elite few that have earned it. That makes me really proud of this company and its people.
A close second to that would be when I’ve attended the National Collegiate Landscape Competition and have witnessed the future of this industry. A lot of people talk about the labor shortage, but this shows we’re doing something about it as an industry.
What is your biggest business challenge?
Training. But instead of seeing it as a challenge, I see it as an opportunity. I think there is this mindset that you have to stop everything you’re doing—cease business—to train. And for that reason, people put it off or they don’t do it. But I take a Marine approach to this. In combat arms, we can’t say, “Excuse me, we need a cease fire because we need to do some training on this.” No, it needs to be constant—just part of what you do. I don’t believe training is this one-time thing. It’s ongoing. At EMI, training and safety are just part of who we are and what we do.
When it came to developing training here, I took a lot of the basic training I received for the Marines and took out the word “Marine” and changed it to “crew member.” So many of the same concepts apply. You have to have loyalty, leadership, trust and respect. We’re using battle-tested philosophies that have been proven to work.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
The opportunity to make an impact motivates me. There has always been this sense of personal and professional pride ingrained in me. That was something that was reinforced in the Marines. And here at EMI, I get a lot of satisfaction out of any opportunity I have to make a difference in peoples’ lives whether it be within the company with our clients.
Who is your business mentor or idol?
I have three. The first would be Gary Clark, one of the owners and founders of EMI. I am always impressed by the way he’s available to the employees and genuinely cares about each and every one of them. When he talks about EMI growing, he talks about it in light of being able to provide for the employees and that’s inspiring. He really cares about the team.
The second would be Mark Wehinger, who is the president of the company. Again, he exemplifies a leader who truly cares about his team. You don’t always see that. But I feel it’s a key reason why EMI is so successful.
The third is Michael Lynch, one of EMI’s most successful salesman. What inspires me about Mike is that he goes above and beyond his job role on a daily basis. When I got to EMI from the Marines, I had a lot to learn. Sure, I’d done my own yard work, but I had new skills to learn. Mike is who stepped up to help me. I never met a person who has devoted more time to volunteering to help train people, even though it’s not part of his job title. He’s also done so much advocacy to encourage growth of the industry. The impact he makes is admirable.
What is your favorite business book?
It would have to be “Above & Beyond: Former Marines Conquer the Civilian World.” It is in line with applying my Marine training to the work that I now do for a living. I also like “Catalytic Coaching: The End of the Performance Review,” which talks about training and coaching in a more effective way than what a lot of people have grown used to.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
It means that this industry means something more; It’s not just a job. When you say “professional,” you’re talking about a person who has dedicated time and energy, who has trained and who is perfecting their craft. To be a landscape professional is saying I choose to carry myself a certain way and to not bring discredit to the industry, myself or my team. It means to do the right thing regardless of who’s watching.
What does it mean to you to be a member of NALP?
It means I am part of a collective voice, and that’s powerful. The initiatives NALP is pushing are admirable and as a company, we want to be a part of that.
Where do you see the business in the next five years? Where will you be?
I see EMI doubling in growth in the next five to eight years. We are excited for what the future holds. As for me, I see myself wherever the opportunities lie and wherever I am needed.