Friday, October 24, 2014

Chuck Bowen


Let the turkeys out

Editor's Insight

October 13, 2014

Chuck Bowen

A friend of mine, Dan, works as a hired hand at a farm out east of Cleveland. He mends fences and mows and does other odd jobs all around the property as the owners – both of whom work full time in other professions – prepare for the county fair. Dan’s a great guy, and a lot like me in that he can get overwhelmed when he has a lot of different projects in front of him.

The other day he was driving up to the farm and got a text from the owners: “Open the gate and let the turkeys out.” And that text, while maybe strange to folks who aren’t charged with the daily care and feeding of poultry, suddenly made him feel much better. Despite a chore list as long as his arm, he knew that as long as he let those birds out, the day would be a success.

As I drove to work, I thought more about Dan and the farm, and the idea of letting my own turkeys out. Mark Twain is credited with the advice that if you eat one frog when you start your day, everything else you do after that will be comparatively more palatable. But I thought the idea also made sense for anyone in fall planning mode.

One of the best things to do this time of year is to take a long look at your operation and your team and decide what’s working and what’s not.

Jim Huston wrote a column in our August issue about firing a long-time problem employee with an anger management problem, and how that decision made the rest of the company more productive and a more pleasant place to work.

As a busy owner, it’s easy to develop a blind spot when it comes to certain problems. Just like that foreman who does great work but is a jerk, or the earnest tech who’s always coming in late, or the longtime customer who always finds a reason to complain.

So many landscapers have trouble finding and retaining good employees. It’s a struggle every contractor, no matter the segment or geography, is going through. And because it’s so hard to find good employees, it can be tempting to keep some of the mediocre or even poor performers around. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right?

But take some time in the next few weeks to look around – at your company, your team and yourself – to see where your turkeys are. They do nothing to help you and everything to hurt you. It’s time to open the gate and let them out.

– Chuck Bowen

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