Saturday, October 25, 2014

Marty Grunder


Lessons from the end

Industry Voices

October 13, 2014

Marty Grunder

I like to tell my team at Grunder Landscaping and my coaching and consulting clients to work like a defensive end does in the NFL. A good defensive end never settles. What is their job? To get to the quarterback, right? To make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, right? To do whatever they have to do to limit the forward progress of the offense. I think there are a lot of great parallels between a great NFL defensive end and a great landscaper. Here are three of my favorites:

1. They don’t make excuses. What happens to the teammate on an NFL team who makes excuses or blames others for their performance? They don’t stay employed on a team for long. Great landscapers don’t make excuses either. Owners don’t want to hear their team talk about them not wanting to chip in and cut grass for the day. Owners and managers don’t want to hear their team say, “You know, I just don’t feel like working today because it’s too cold.”

And owners, your team doesn’t want to hear about how bad you’ve got it. Or how horrible Mrs. Smith is to work with. Or how unlucky you are. They don’t want to hear why you’re having trouble making payroll or why you didn’t get them the materials they needed for the job. Your team expects you to do what you said you would do and never throw them under the bus.

They are watching how you behave and looking to you for leadership – not for excuses. I like what former football coach and current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz said: “Don’t tell me how rocky the sea is. Just bring the darn ship in.”

Amen, Lou.

Great owners take the blame when things go wrong and put the praise on others when things go well. They realize they are part of a team and they have to chip in, too. It’s pretty hard for you to get upset at your team making excuses for poor performance if you make excuses, too.

Just state the facts, learn from your mistakes, be grateful you have a team and show them that by your actions – not just by your words. If things are not going well, ask for help, lead the way and get better.

2. They don’t take no for an answer. No matter what these elite athletes are doing, they don’t take no for an answer. Sure, it’s nauseating sometimes to see their confidence and cockiness. However, if you just look at it for what it is, it’s really pretty admirable.

What if all of us owners ran our businesses with the bravado that an NFL defensive lineman did? I think we’d be better off. If we all approached our work with a can-do mindset and took on whatever was across the line from us, we’d find success more times than failure.

Today, at Grunder Landscaping Co., we had a slight mix up. We sent a whole crew to a job site with plants and guys to do a job. When we got there, the client came out and said, “Whoa, you can’t do this today; we’re going to be gone and we won’t be home to water.” Most landscapers would say, “Oh, okay, we’re sorry; we’ll come back when you get back into town.”

The landscapers at GLC – the ones that have this defensive end mentality – said, “That’s OK, we’ll water for you when you’re gone and just plant it now.” We won’t charge them to water. It will be cheaper to do it for them than going back later to install the plants. Problem solved, job done, moving on, right?

How many times do you just lie down and accept it when you are told no? Probably too often. Owners and team members would all do better if they didn’t take no for an answer. Try to find a way around. Be a defensive end and shove aside the obstacles in your way, or at least try to. Many times things will work out really well for you.

3. They take breaks. If you think about the performance of an NFL defensive end, they work really, really hard for about 20 seconds every three minutes or so. There’s no way they can give it their all for hours and hours at a time.

I think many landscapers, me included, don’t even remotely grasp this concept. Great ideas don’t come to you when you are fully exerting yourself. They come to you when you are relaxed.

Sometimes the best thing I can do is take a 10-minute break and recharge my batteries. Sometimes, rather than working till 8 p.m., I go home early and then go in early the next day.

Short breaks, vacations and things other than work are where we find our zest for work. It’s when we’re not working that we see what could improve and how we could do better. If an NFL defensive lineman can figure this out, we landscapers should be able to figure it out, too.


Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author; he owns Grunder Landscaping Co. See; mail