Each year, NALP presents a member with the Lifetime Leadership Award who had dedicated his or her life to the landscape and lawn care industry. This year, Jon Cundiff, president of Weed Man Kansas City in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is this year’s winner. With more than 30 years in the industry, he is also a past president of NALP. We recently caught up with Cundiff to find out about his time in the landscape industry.
What led you to the landscape industry in the first place?
I got started in high school and college working on the grounds crew for the Kansas City Royals. It got me out on the sports field and growing grass and seeing how rewarding that can be. I realized that I loved being outside. Going through college, I got interested in the business end of it. We had to write our first business plan and I was sold.
What do you like most about this profession?
There’s nothing better than being able to take care of customers and see a smile on their face when they can come home and can fully enjoy their outdoor space. To know that you were a part of that — and that you took something off their slate — is rewarding. It’s also really fun to turn a property around. The other thing that’s really great is having the chance to create opportunities for employees and help them continue to grow.
What have been your biggest challenges in business?
The two biggest challenges we’ve faced are labor and staying on top of regulations. NALP has been strategic in staying active on the legislative side and having a voice there. From a people management standpoint, we are always trying to find the best people you can out there.
But that can be a two-headed monster because once you find them, you have to work on developing them, too. That comes down to proper training and giving them good growth opportunities. We’re coaching employees on ways they can grow both personally and professionally. We’re helping them to understand that their personal life and their professional life run parallel so focusing on both is key.
What impact do you feel that you’ve had on the industry?
There is really not one thing I feel like I’ve done. But I’ve had the privilege to sit on some really good boards and meet some fantastic people. When you sit on a board and get to be in that position to be a part of a group of people who are really passionate about the industry and what we do, you’re able to make real change.
It means finding other people who want to nurture and grow the industry, just like you do, so that we can all make it great for the next people to be part of this. It’s truly a collective effort.
In your time in the industry, what changes have you seen?
Without a doubt, the biggest change has been technology. It’s just off the charts from when I started. My wife and I started back in 1987 and have grown from there. But when I look at what we started with and what’s available today, it’s almost unrecognizable.
Why is it so important to be a leader in the industry?
I think being a leader is about having a voice. I think God puts us on earth to help others. This industry has been great to our family and the people in our operations and our life in many ways — and we want to keep this industry great for future leaders. Over the years I’ve seen many types of leadership styles and the one thing they all have in common is a passion for the industry. It’s that passion that we owe to the industry.
What does it mean to you to win the NALP Lifetime Leadership award?
It’s a humbling experience. You always hear the cliché that it’s great to be nominated and recognized by your peers but it’s very true. When I look at this group that I’ve had the privilege to work with, it’s incredibly humbling to know that they thought of me for this honor.
This article was published in the Nov/Dec issue of the magazine.