True professionals make a big difference

As a business owner, I know how easy it is to develop myopic vision – to get wrapped up in and involved with keeping the wheels of commerce rolling in a forward direction. I don’t need to go into detail about how the last couple of years have made it even more difficult for all of us to see the “big picture.” What is that picture? Simply this, we often forget that the companies we run and the industry we serve have a tremendous impact on the socioeconomic structure of our communities and the health of our environment.

We make a difference in the communities we serve, in their appearance, and their living standard. We make a difference with the environment by installing and maintaining landscapes that sequester carbon dioxide, generate oxygen, purify the air, act as natural air conditioners, control erosion, abate sound, and improve the quality of soil, among other benefits.

Our companies add to the health of the business community, too. We contribute to the local economy, create jobs, and provide for an attractive business environment. While doing all this, we also improve the quality, health, and life of our families, employees, clients, and community residents.

This is how we make a difference just by being in the industry we’re in and by being responsible and professional business owners. The truest professionals among us go the extra mile and make a big difference in any of several other ways: by participating in Renewal & Remembrance, the PLANET Day of Service, and other volunteer projects and events.

Another 100 or so industry veterans and professionals have raised their hands to be PLANET Trailblazers. Nominated by their peers, these individuals set aside a full day each year to mentor up-and-coming PLANET members. It occurs to me that the Trailblazer Program has to be the largest green industry consulting service in the world, and best of all it’s free to PLANET members.

Do Trailblazer volunteers make a difference? You bet they do as evidenced by the following comments from two recent protégés.

Jeanette and Rollin Haas from Master Landscapes, Inc., in Salinas, California, visited Trailblazer Maurice Dowell, CLP, from DOWCO, Inc., in Chesterfield, Missouri. With regards to their experience, Rollin said, “We had a full day, from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Now we are home and working on putting together our list of goals and prioritizing our efforts to implement the ideas that we got that day. It was probably the best use of time that we have EVER spent.”

Chris Eckl, CTP, from Georgia-based Earthones, LLC, recounts a similar experience with Community Lawn Care’s Gary Clayton, CTP, in Kennesaw, Georgia. “We discussed and reviewed pretty much all aspects of my operation,” Chris said, “and Gary’s input was invaluable … Gary was also hugely helpful with many documents and checklists that he was kind enough to share with me.”

The Trailblazer Program is unique and truly epitomizes the difference we can all make as individual company owners and professionals. By sharing our expertise with others, we are helping them avoid some of the pitfalls inherent in running a business and take advantage of opportunities early on in their business lives. That one day may not seem like much to industry veterans who have spent a lifetime in the industry, but it can mean a world of difference to less experienced landscape contractors and lawn care operators. Indeed, it can mean the difference between success and failure, and them having the ability to share their new-found knowledge with other business owners. As Rollin so aptly put it, “We will one day have more systems in place and return the favor to another up-and-coming landscape business.”

When I first started my business 15 years ago, there wasn’t a Trailblazer Program. To learn more about the industry, I attended a Professional Lawn Care Association of America-sponsored workshop on starting a lawn care business. Robert Andrews, owner of The Greenskeeper, Inc., in Carmel, Indiana, conducted the one-day program. This workshop was one of the most important contributors to the success of my company. To this day, I refer back to the sage advice that Robert generously shared. Thanks Robert! You made a huge difference by convincing me that lawn care was a great business to be in, and I learned a valuable lesson about the benefits of membership in an association such as PLANET.

I want to double back for a moment and touch on the “biggest difference” we all make as members of the green industry. A good place to start is at the beginning with an excerpt from the Book of Genesis:

And with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. – Genesis 9:10

Regardless of a religious preference, most of us would agree that life exists because of a thin layer of soil, abundant sunshine, and rain. Because of the miracle of photosynthesis, we have food and shelter. We are quickly finding out, however, that soil, sunshine, and rain have to be in balance to provide life, and in today’s modern world, this balance is tenuous.

As members of the green industry, as professionals, we are charged to ensure this balance and protect our environment. We are truly in a privileged position to make a difference. Life on earth is a miracle, and it’s a miracle that we have to work at to sustain.

These are just a few examples of how PLANET and its members have made and will continue to make a “huge” difference. Be proud of your profession. I know I am!

Bill Hildebolt, Ph.D., CTP, CTP-CSL
PLANET President

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