Timothy Trimmer started at Professional Grounds, Inc. — founded by his father William — when he was just 15 years old. Since earning a degree in business, he has dedicated himself to nurturing the continued success of the company of which he is now president. We recently caught up with Trimmer to find out more.
What has been your proudest moment in business?
It’s kind of a culmination of a lot of different things. One of my proudest moments came from a very tough business decision. At the end of 2017, we decided to shut down our residential design/build department after doing that work for 20 years. It was one-third of our revenue but 90 percent of our headaches. We knew we didn’t want it to be part of our focus any longer — we constantly found ourselves putting out little fires — still, cutting a third of your revenue is scary. But it had to be done in order to shift our focus to landscape management. The biggest change was completely revamping our systems and becoming more organized. As a result of that, we had our highest profitable years in 2018 and 2019 despite those cuts. I think those efforts played a big role in me winning the 2019 ACE of the year award from Marty Grunder’s ACE Peer Group Program — which was another really proud moment for me. Our systems are so much more efficient now and I’m no longer dragging a weight around that is burdening our employees. We have created a company with a single, streamlined focus — and our team is better off because of it.
What has been your biggest business challenge?
COVID-19 has made recruiting less of a challenge. We have people knocking down our doors to work. Because of that, it has become an opportunity to upgrade our team and rid ourselves of C players and below. More than ever, now is a great time to improve your team. Keep in mind that recruiting is very important, but retention is by far more important. You can recruit all you want but if you don’t retain those new people, you still have to go back to recruiting. So, I say retention boils down to showing employees a career path and streamlining systems so that employees can succeed. We have been successful at creating a defined career path for our people. It has different tiers but within those tiers, you know exactly what you need to do to get to the next step — such as different certifications you can earn and get paid more immediately because of it. The pay is very transparent and that’s been very helpful for employees to understand what they need to do to move up. A defined career ladder makes the review process easier, too. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
Employee development motivates me not only at the start of the week — but every day. We want to streamline our systems and are always working on constant improvement. If we can improve our systems, they’re making more money through commissions. We don’t want our employees to be stressed. We want systems that are efficient and supporting them. We do not have bosses; we have coaches. Employees are more productive and have better retention with that approach. I’m also very lucky to be surrounded by great employees and I genuinely want what’s best for them. They are wonderful and smart, and I want them to be successful. Because of them, I’m determined to make their jobs easier so they can succeed.
Who has been business mentor or idol?
I would say my father is my business mentor. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from him about finances and business — as well as how to be a great leader and how to treat people. That latter part also comes from my mom, who is just so kind. Both of my parents also provided me with a really strong platform to start from. I also work very closely with Jim Cali and Jason New of McFarlin Stanford. They’ve been instrumental to my development. From operations to finance leadership, they always point me in the right direction. And without them our company would not be where it was today.
What is your favorite business book?
Books have been huge in my personal development. They are the best value investment you can give yourself. It is unbelievable — you can buy a book for $10 or $20 and it can change your life. Some of my favorites include the following.
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack
Winning by Jack Welch
What does it mean to you to be a member of the NALP?
Being from D.C., Renewal & Remembrance is an event I’m just so proud to be a part of. We only drive 10 minutes to participate, but I see other companies drive form hundreds of miles away and I’m so proud of that. The field trips are incredible, too. The LandCare and Pacific Landscape Management trips have inspired us and provided the opportunity to learn from the best of the industry. The Workforce Summit was really informative and helpful as well. The NALP organizes some of the best events I’ve ever attended. But being a member also means that we’re supporting an organization promoting and advocating for our industry. My question is how can you not be a member of NALP?
What does it mean to be a landscape professional?
I think the industry as a whole has so many benefits. One of them is flexibility — as all of our lives are busy. For instance, if our sales staff needs to come in at 9 a.m. because they have kids to drop off, that’s OK. We get to work outdoors, too. Living in the D.C. area, all my friends work for the government and sit in these cubicles all day. I just don’t know how I could succeed in that life. We have the benefit of both — the office and the field. I think our industry strategically needs to get the word out to the general public that this is a great career.