Meet Pam Dooley, 2022’s Woman Leader of the Year - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Meet Pam Dooley, 2022’s Woman Leader of the Year

Pam Dooley is a well-known figure in the industry and this year she has been named NALP’s Woman Leader of the Year for her innovation and desire to lead by example.

“Being a beacon for other women in the industry that are coming in and just seeing the shift and the arrival of so many women-led landscape companies, I think it’s tremendous,” Dooley says. “I think it’s a tremendous honor. I know there are a lot of other women who could very well have won this year and that is so inspiring to me.”

Dooley has been in the industry since high school, where she earned the nickname ‘Plants’ as she worked at a local garden center. She went on to study horticulture at the University of Georgia. She started her company, Plants Creative Landscapes, based in Decatur, Georgia, in 2005.

Her company is relationship focused and provides residential landscape, design, construction and maintenance.

When Plants Creative first opened their Decatur office, they had around 10 employees and now they’re around 50 team members. In 2019, Dooley decided to revisit some maintenance contracts and shed customers that were no longer a good fit. While it was a hard decision, she says it’s benefited the business greatly.

Rather than focusing on size or revenue, Plants Creative is all about their purpose and promoting personal and professional development.

“We’re people first,” Dooley says. “I tell the team all the time, ‘better people, stronger professionals.’”

Dooley says she wants to continue to develop her strong leadership team and provide the tools, training and vision to free herself up to find new opportunities.

She says it took time to find their purpose, which is impacting people’s relationships with the outdoors, but since finding it they have become more focused on this goal.

Dooley says over the 17 years of business, she has been able to turn visions into reality by being intentional with her time. She says she is constantly thinking about the future and paying attention to the trends both inside and outside of the industry. One belief she lives by is Jack Welch’s saying that when the metabolism of society is faster than that of your company, that’s when you’re dead.

Over her years in the industry, she says some of the major changes have been technology, culture and the workforce.

She says as the company continues to grow, they have are looking for markets that align with their demographics and psychographics. Some of Plants Creative’s recent service additions include becoming a Husqvarna Automower dealer and Hydrate, their irrigation division. She says Hydrate will be more thoughtful with how irrigation systems are designed. Dooley says both of these services are part of their efforts to become more sustainable.

“It’s not necessarily just landscapes,” Dooley says. “When I talk about impacting people and relationships in nature, there are just many ways that we can do that. That is where I see us heading is identifying opportunities that align with that purpose, and then figuring out where we take it.”

Dooley also talks weekly with a business coach, who ignites bigger opportunities to do the work. Both Dooley and her coach believe that you grow from the inside out.

“You’re only as good as the effort you put in to doing the work to grow,” Dooley says.

As a woman in the industry, Dooley says it’s been a fantastic journey.

“For me, it has been fantastic,” Dooley says. “I have had nothing but acceptance and respect and equal opportunities. I’ve been welcomed into peer groups and not just welcomed but given positions to really share beliefs.”

Dooley acknowledges that this is the exception but makes herself available to other females in the industry as a resource and a supporter to let women know that they can do this.

“It’s exciting to see that shift in perspective that women in the industry are having and it’s getting stronger and stronger,” Dooley says.

When Dooley joined NALP’s board of directors in 2020, she was clear that the last thing she wanted to do was to be there for status only. She wanted to make an impact and has been able to do that.

This article was published in the Nov/Dec issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.