Top 10 Stories of 2019 - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Top 10 Stories of 2019

top 10

NALP strives to help its members better run their lawn and landscape businesses. We want to grow your professionalism, as well as industry professionalism. So we publish weekly stories about how you can best tackle employee and business issues. The information we share comes from industry experts and your fellow member companies.

To celebrate the year, let’s take a look at the top 10 most popular stories from 2019. Based on analytics, members told us they liked these stories the best, so you don’t want to miss these business tips, tricks and ideas. Enjoy! Happy New Year!

#1. The Top 5 Landscape Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2019

What did your customers crave in their landscapes in 2019? NALP told you with its official list of the top 2019 landscape trends report.

Drawing upon the expertise of the industry’s 1 million landscape, lawn care, irrigation and tree care professionals, NALP annually predicts trends that will influence the design and maintenance of backyards across America.  

“[2019’s] trends reflect current lifestyle preferences as well as innovations happening in the industry that are transforming landscapes across the country,” says Missy Henriksen, former vice president of public affairs, NALP.

NALP predicted these five trends that were influencing outdoor spaces in 2019. Check them out and let us know if they were happening in your area.

#2. Having A Hard Time Recruiting Employees? Try This Strategy From Timberline Landscaping

If recruiting employees is one of your greatest challenges, you aren’t alone. Many landscape business owners say recruiting—and retaining—good talent is an ongoing source of stress. As a result, achieving success in this area might call for some out-of-the-box thinking.

Doing just that, Timberline Landscaping in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has created a gap year opportunity. The idea plays off other traditional “gap year” programs in which graduating high school students take a “year off” to decide what they want to do—and what career they actually want to pursue. Through the program, they’re hoping to recruit new hires from across the country who want to give the landscape industry a shot.

#3. How LandCare Built a Positive Team Culture

Mike Bogan

When Mike Bogan took over the helm of LandCare in 2014, it was his goal to remodel the company in a way that would “fit the type of culture” he felt was missing from the industry. It was a positive team culture he experienced in his former role at Brickman, where he spent his last 23 years, retiring as executive vice president.

“I saw the possibility to take a large national company and produce a culture that treats people in a way that helps them grow and thrive,” Bogan says of his goals as the CEO of the company, which has 50 branches across 20 states. “We want LandCare to be a place that provides fulfilling, long-term careers.”

To do that, Bogan looks at “culture as a strategy,” being deliberate in all decisions that impact both employees and customers. Bogan shares four of his best culture building tips that help set LandCare apart from the pack.

#4. How Greenscapes Land Care Finds Qualified Workers

Casey Hurd

Like so many others, Casey Hurd, owner of Worton, Maryland-based Greenscapes Land Care LLC has been struggling with labor. More specifically, he says the trouble is “finding qualified workers.” Hurd, the 2019 NALP Young Entrepreneur of the Year, says he’s learned you must be proactive when it comes to hiring great people.

“People aren’t going to just come to you—you have to go to them,” he says.

And that’s exactly what he’s done.

Hurd has been out there, explaining what the landscape industry has to offer and why young people might consider becoming part of it. When it comes to hiring, there is simply no room for complacency these days. The companies that are most successful will be those that are actively pursuing new hires, Hurd says.

We asked Hurd to share a few tips on how this has worked for him.

#5. Employee Issue of the Week: Higher Wages = Higher Expectations

Bret Achtenhagen discusses how higher wages were possible by setting higher employee expectations.
Bret Achtenhagen

Like so many other landscape business owners, Bret Achtenhagen, president and CEO of Bret Achtenhagen’s Seasonal Services in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, was struggling with attracting, hiring, onboarding and retaining quality individuals to add to the company’s production teams.

As a result, Achtenhagen says the company was growing faster than its ability to develop foremen and other leaders.

He had to do something.

So, Achtenhagen increased wages. But this came with one request: higher wages must come with higher expectations.

#6. Experts Forecast 3 Residential Landscape Trends for 2019

Many landscape experts are forecasting their 2019 residential landscape trends to prepare homeowners for the upcoming year.

Wondering what residential landscape trends your customers are reading about? Here’s what we’ve seen so you can prepare for what they might ask for in their outdoor spaces in 2019.

#7. Meet Lizeth Miller, HR Manager at McHale Landscape Design

Born and raised in the beautiful city of Medellin, Colombia, Lizeth Miller has spent most of her life in South America. She earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Medellin-Colombia and completed an internship in the Bank of Bogota as a credit analyst. But Miller was looking for something different. In 2014 she made a life-changing decision to move to the U.S. with the purpose of learning a new language—and culture. In 2016, Miller joined the McHale Landscape Design team as an HR assistant. As a testament to her hard work and dedication, the Upper Marlboro, Maryland-based company just named her HR manager.

We caught up with Miller to find out more.

#8. 3 Things McHale Landscape Does to Reincentivize Employees

Kevin McHale talks about how to reincentivize employees.
Kevin McHale

Employee retention has never been much of an issue at McHale Landscape Design, a $20-million full-service landscape and maintenance company based in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. In fact, the company has many long-term employees who have been with the business for two decades or more—including McHale’s 50 foremen. But Kevin McHale, president, says he was getting concerned when he realized employees were “maxing out” their hourly wages. After all, there are only so many trees to be cut in a day or sidewalks to be shoveled. That’s why McHale says that they needed to reincentivize employees, particularly long-term employees, with something new.

The solution came with implementing a gross margin bonus—something McHale tried for the first time two years ago. As part of the bonus incentive, McHale shares half of its gross margin profits with the foremen. The program has proven successful so far.

Building a successul program involves focusing on the following key components.

#9. How LG Scott is Addressing Its Labor Challenges

Like a lot of landscape companies, the owners of L.G. Scott have struggled with finding good quality labor over the years. But with the introduction of the NALP’s Landscape Management Apprenticeship Program, they see hope on the horizon … maybe even a solution to labor challenges.

Luke Scott, who owns the business with his brother Larkin, says the Providence Forge, Virginia-based company, which does about $1 million a year in revenue, is excited about the possibilities that this program will offer when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified workers.

Currently, they have two apprentices enrolled and Scott says they’ll ideally look to enroll another two down the road (keeping it to two at a time from both a cost effectiveness and management viewpoint).

We asked Scott to share some of his thoughts on the program so far.

#10. How Utopian Landscapes Switched Its Schedule to Help Employees Achieve Work/Life Balance

Landscape business owners often feel like there is an “us versus them” mentality when it comes to employees. They feel like everyone is just in it for themselves.

Nikos Phelps switches to four, 10-hour days weekly to improve work/life balance.
Nikos Phelps

Nikos Phelps, founder of Utopian Landscapes LLC based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says that he sensed tension building in his company and took a step back to ask himself, “If I were an employee, would I want to work for this industry?” When the answer was “No,” he knew something had to change. They weren’t losing employees to other companies—they were losing them to other industries.

Trying to identify where things were going wrong, Phelps says he could hone in on one thing: Employees didn’t have much of a work/life balance. They were putting in 50- or 60-hour weeks and even though they said they wanted the work, there was noticeable animosity.

Phelps realized the solution would be risky and would mean completely re-structuring the company’s work week. By moving to a “4-10 schedule,” that is, four 10-hour days each week, Phelps says the culture at his company has been transformed.