I have been signing my business correspondence with the designation “CLP” now for more than 10 years. Many of my clients are commercial property managers who also sign their business correspondence with designations from their own professions (e.g. CPM, CCIM, SIOR, and so forth), and while few questions are asked about what these designations are or what they mean, it is generally understood that there is education and accomplishment involved, that the individual has been ambitious enough in his/her industry to attach value to standing out in the crowd, and that the individual was diligent and disciplined enough to do the work to earn them.
PLANET certification is not an easy process, but I had ambitions that involved not only achieving the designation that would put me in the company of other successful contractors, but also learning basic tenets of business and management that I didn’t pick up with my English major at Washington & Lee University. Certification is also a requirement for serving on PLANET’s Board of Directors, and I had ambitions for that as well. I was more than a little intimidated when the box arrived containing the required reading for the exam. It could have held a backpack blower.
If you go to the Certified Landscape Professional (CLP) Certification page on PLANET’s Web site, you can see what the test covers: Corporate Financial Management; Leadership and Corporate Citizenship; Risk, Law, and Contracts; and Strategic Planning, for starters. Some of it was totally unfamiliar territory, but if you’re going to run a business, you can’t just stick with the things you already know. Many in our industry grew their businesses organically from modest beginnings, and grew them by doing a lot of the work themselves. Over time, they became accomplished business owners, with employees and benefits packages, and payroll and taxes, and increasingly complex financial dealings. They also had to start concerning themselves with industry regulations, bankers, and suppliers.
The certification process helps focus on those areas where contractors might be deficient in their knowledge. It leads you to becoming a better and more well-rounded business owner, or in the case of some of the other designations, a more knowledgeable horticulturist, a better technician, or a solid turf professional. Most important, it instills the confidence necessary to win the trust and business of potential clients who, while they may not know what that CLP on your business card means, will give their business to the contractor who exhibits a broad knowledge of business, proficiency in matters of horticulture, as well as solid professionalism, all promoted and delivered by the PLANET certification program.