One Contractor’s Journey Toward a Stronger Team - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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One Contractor’s Journey Toward a Stronger Team

Article Author Lisa Perdue, is a Manager of Professional Development for LandOpt, an NALP Consultant Member firm.

Thomas Fancher can’t hide his pride in his team members. The owner of Dallas-based The Plant Concierge knows his team is his most valuable resource, and he is committed to finding unique ways to keep them engaged.

When Fancher and his team began to evaluate ways to enhance the business, they realized that they had a communication problem as many of their Account Managers weren’t proficient in Spanish, and some of the crew members weren’t proficient in English.

Fix Communication Issues

Fancher’s first step was to enlist the services of a language tutor. “We started off with both English and Spanish classes,” he shares. “The guys who spoke Spanish were excited to see us using more Spanish, and we were excited to see them using more English.” He noticed an immediate improvement in the company culture, especially among the team members whose first language was not English. “They appreciated it so much.” Another unexpected benefit quickly began to emerge. “Our guys were not only developing within the organization, they were also experiencing personal development at home.” Fancher sees the tutoring initiative as strengthening his business in three significant ways.

Invest in Your Employees Pays Off

Just how valuable has the tutoring been for his team? Fancher is quick to provide an example. “Because we’re such a small company, we were stretched so thin that we as managers didn’t have enough time to dedicate that two hours on a weekly basis. Originally, we were only going to do this for three months to get the basics down, but once we got past that three-month period, our Spanish-speaking guys went to our tutor to ask what it would cost to do it themselves.” Fancher quickly realized keeping the tutor in-house was a minimal investment with a big payoff. “Initially, I offered to match what they would pay, but the more I thought about it, the more I saw it as a great opportunity for us to develop our employees into positions they didn’t think they could advance into without learning English.”

Better Language Skills Leads to Job Growth

Fancher notes that, in addition to increased confidence and motivation, communication between the crews and the Account Managers has also rapidly improved, largely because the crew members began to see and understand the potential of moving up in the business. “From the moment we hire our team members, we try to show them the growth path. We not only show them their roles and responsibilities, we also give them the next two role descriptions so they know every step of what we expect from them.” Fancher favors helping team members develop a four-year growth plan. “When our crew members see what’s possible, they make it a priority to gain confidence in communication.” When helping his non-English-speaking team members develop their plans, Fancher frequently stresses the importance of strong client communication. This is often enough to motivate them to invest in continual personal development and improvement.

Support Career Training and Certifications

As rewarding as the tutoring experience has been, Fancher knows he is going to have to continue to be proactive about providing other unique avenues of support to his non-English-speaking team members. “I encourage all my guys to go for their NALP certifications, and I offer to pay the cost to take the tests.” He says this simple gesture has dramatically changed his crews’ perceptions of their roles, and of the industry. It has also helped to increase their buy-in. “We’re always following up with them, asking them how things are going and what we can do to make our training process even better.” Because Fancher’s crews know their feedback is valued, they embrace the open-door policy he fosters. “I always reinforce that none of us are the smartest guys in the room,” he shares. “It’s all about the team.”

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