Left to right: Calloway, Stack, Caruso and Grunder.
About 150 landscapers came to frigid Dayton, Ohio (those from Florida felt a temperature drop of 70 degrees) for Marty Grunder’s GROW 2011. The three-day seminar featured presentations from: Grunder; Joe Calloway, consultant; Gene Marks, The Marks Group P.C.; Matt Caruso, Decra-Scape and Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro.
The speakers gave industry specific lessons along with general business advice to those in attendance.
Here are some highlights:
• Grunder said you should never tell someone you aren’t hiring. You have to always be looking to upgrade talent, so always have someone fill out an application and tell them you’ll put it on file because you are always looking for good workers. One thing to look for is how much they lead volunteer groups. Anyone who is willing to organize a group or fundraiser for free has the makings of a great leader. While upgrading talent, you should be evaluating what you have. Go through your org chart and ask yourself if you would hire that employee again. For the ones that you definitely would hire, highlight them in green and look for opportunities where they can grow in your company. For the ones you might hire again, color them yellow and develop a plan that will help them improve. The ones that you wouldn’t hire again color in red and fire them immediately.
“They’ll hold your company back forever,” Grunder said. Grunder also said meeting with your clients, especially when work slows down, is important for an owner to continue to build business. Asking clients what you are good and bad at can help accentuate your positives while improving areas where you are weak. In addition to meeting with clients, you also have to communicate with your employees. Get some employees together for lunch and ask them to bring three ideas. Grunder said he takes it one step further and tells them if they don’t bring three ideas, you have to pay for your own lunch. You will find ways to be lean if you just ask questions.
• Calloway reminded contractors that they should always have their antenna up for ways to improve their company and “be looking for good ideas everywhere you go.” When you experience good or bad customer service, you should ask yourself if you are doing that same thing at your company, he said. “Innovation doesn’t happen on retreats,” said Calloway, adding that the best ideas are normally thought of when doing something mundane. He also told attendees to not get to outside the box with ideas because when you win inside the box, you win in general.
• Ever have an employee who has been with your company for so many years you can’t even think about letting them go? You know the employee’s family, and they’ve been to your home, but they’ve becoming complacent and haven’t been performing at a high level anymore. Caruso said he had the same experience with an employee who mentally checked out and he was slow to fire the employee, but eventually had to do it. “It’s sabotaging your business and stopping you from becoming the leader you know you can become,” he said. Caruso also spoke about his experience hiring a board of directors, warning attendees not to ask friends, accountants or people who serve on boards solely for money. “You don’t want someone who makes a living out of being on the board,” he said.
• Using technology for marketing purposes can help a company increase its awareness in a community and can especially keep customer’s updated. Marks said companies should be sending out newsletters to clients, but make the subject eye-catching. Don’t just send out a newsletter with a subject like “Here’s our monthly newsletter.” Instead, say something like “Five signs your gutters are about to fall down.” Marks said a business owner should also have a customer relationship management system that keeps track of interactions you’ve had with customers. If a customer tells you they’d be interested in having a service done in a few months, make a note of that in the system so the customer doesn’t have to chase you down. “You don’t have to change the world,” he said. “You just need one place where you have a list of everyone you do business with,” so nothing falls through the cracks, he said.
• Stack gave some insight on how to be more productive in your company by not wasting time on administrative tasks. Whether it is salespeople, account managers or the business owner, tasks such as sending e-mails to clients or prospective clients can get pushed to the side. Stack said something as simple as entering an e-mail address in your customer relationship management system from a business card you received can save time. Once you enter an address in your system, you should never need to type that address again since it should be filed in your system. Stack also said there is software available that saves all your passwords so you won’t have to go searching for log-in information and your password for websites you use.