Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Katie Tuttle

Katie Tuttle, GCI

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Tips from the top: Dale Elkins

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Dale Elkins talks about why it's important to keep your eye on the ball.

May 1, 2015

I had always wanted to be a landscape architect, but when I enrolled in Auburn University’s LA program, I discovered I enjoyed the horticulture and science classes more than I did the architectural side of the industry. So I shifted my focus and curriculum to ornamental horticulture and landscape design in the School of Agriculture.

And if anyone who knows Dr. Harry Ponder at Auburn, he is the most engaging, positive and supportive person who guided many of today’s leaders in this industry. Dr. Ponder is not just a college professor, he is a wonderful mentor, adviser and friend to all he comes in contact with. His following is incomparable.

This man not only has an unbelievable memory of his students over the last 35 to 40 years but genuinely cares for every single individual who comes through his classes. All you have to do is take a Dr. Harry Ponder class and you’re hooked.

I am the region president for ABM Landscape & Turf Services (formerly OneSource Landscape & Golf Services). We are a subsidiary of ABM Industries, Inc. Our landscape and turf service offerings consist of commercial landscape, golf course and athletic field maintenance.

We have a presence in many warm-season markets across the country. Our sites are set on many other geo-markets in states such as Louisianna, Tennessee, Virginia, Oregon and Washington, to name a few. At a minimum, we will have opened operations in Alabama, Georgia and Texas by the end of April.

The growth is right in front of us, which is very exciting but we need to be able to perform at a high level on day one of a new contract. Recruiting great people, executing our processes and operating production schedules on a high level are all non-negotiable.

Work your hardest In the service industry. Things change quickly and you need to be ready to handle both the upsides (growth) and the downsides – loss of work. Because we’re human, we naturally feel there is an opportunity to slow down when things are really clicking along and it takes a very disciplined approach in watching the business during those times that you can’t get off your patterns of watching all your team metrics. Our top lines can change quickly and being prepared will minimize the stress on your time, your people, your clients and your finances.

As soon as you take your eye off the ball, you will lose some of what you worked hard to build. You’re going to give some of that security back if you’re not careful.

On key accounts, you’ve got to have multi-layer customer contacts with these companies that you’re working for. You must make sure that if one of your contacts leaves, your service agreement is still secure. This particular client was a customer that we only focused on building a relationship with one person. When he left, our relationship and this major job left.

So now we make sure that we know all the potential decision makers at our clients’ facilities.

There’s also another side to the multi-layered requirement. Your lawn and landscape company must have more than one person who is very familiar with that client. If your employee leaves, you’re not starting from scratch with building a valuable relationship with a new face.

Your company and your people come first.

Invest your “extras” – time and money – there. Your current clients and prospective clients will be on board because of that philosophy. Loyalties and subsequent growth will happen.

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