What did you say?

What did you say?

Features - Business Management

Here are five sentences that could destroy your business.

March 27, 2012
Allan Davis, CSP

Hang around long enough in the landscape industry and you will pick out destructive behavior in the comments you hear people make. The sentiments behind these comments become the building blocks of the culture that will develop. Here are five sentences that, if ever spoken, could destroy a company culture and eventually the company itself.

“That sounds like a negative comment to me.”

A meeting was held with a group of managers of a large landscape maintenance firm, where a question was posed to the leader questioning a new initiative. “That sounds like a negative comment to me,” was the response.

It was at that moment that everyone learned that you do not question or criticize anything that the leadership does.

All communication upwards became sanitized and nothing constructive was communicated again. There was a feeling that any comments made that might in any way be interpreted as negative could very well cost someone their job. This created what has been called a “yes men” culture.

Every initiative proposed by the leaders of the company was greeted by “yes men,” who were afraid to report bad news and would always shake their heads in agreement no matter how bad the idea was.

If you are in a leadership position in a company, why wouldn’t you want creative and talented people in your organization help you craft plans, policies and initiatives?

Why wouldn’t you want a process where discussion, debate and the free flow of ideas leads you to the best possible result?

You don’t have to be a large corporate entity to develop a “yes men” culture. Small companies are also susceptible to this type of negative practice. If you are a leader in your company, encourage open discussion, critique and sharing of opinions good and bad.

If you are not thanking people for bringing you bad news or sharing criticism, you do not have a sustainable business.

“This office is where it all happens.”

Many important tasks take place in the office, the shop, the facility, or wherever you run your business.

What must never be forgotten is that in the landscape industry, the most important functions take place in the field, on the customers’ sites.

Functions such as financial management, marketing, sales, human resources and others are important, but should only exist to support the delivery of quality service to the client.

All efforts and resources should be used for improvement of front line activities first, and then used for supporting functions as economically as possible. If your organization does not respect the fact that your front line employees are the ones driving the business, then do not have a sustainable business.

“Let’s check the financials first.”

A truly successful landscape business manages by the numbers. Controlling labor is critical. Some firms consider nothing but the numbers in the decision making process.

There is constant pressure placed on field managers from above to control costs, which trains them to skimp on service or reject client’s requests because they blindly follow hour or financial budgets.

A $70,000 client requested extra flats of annuals to fill out a sign bed, only to be told that they already received the exact amount in the contract.

A $150,000 client requested a few overgrown shrubs pruned from in front of a window due to safety concerns, only to be told that there are no pruning hours budgeted for that month.

If your organization cannot consider customer service in the decision making process, you do not have a sustainable business.

“I had to walk the crew around the site and point out what needed to be done.”

If you manage people, and insist on interfering in the performance of their job, they will never take complete accountability for that job and grow into the leader you need them to be.

It is a simple formula that truly works.

Find the right person for the job; give them the tools to perform the job; and get out of the way and let them perform the job.

This doesn’t imply that you should not get involved.

The key is to manage based on the results they achieve and not through the process they employ.

If you don’t already have one, make an organizational chart.

Take this chart and commit to having everyone manage only their direct reports.

This means that everyone only manages those people who have direct lines to them on the organizational chart.

Conversely, everyone reports only to the individual directly above them on the organizational chart and nobody else.

In doing this, everyone who has a responsibility for someone else can take ownership over their job and be judged by the results of their team without interference from others.

If your organization has managers and leaders who micro-manage, and therefore relieve others of the responsibility and accountability of their jobs, you do not have a sustainable business.

“I don’t really pay too much attention to numbers.”

It is critical that the leadership has a financial system that is comprehensive and gives vital information that allows for proper decision making.

This means an estimating system, a budgeting system, a real time profit and loss reporting system and a job costing system, which will illustrate your costs and help you create a sustainable business.


The author is a freelance writer with 35 years of experience in the commercial landscape maintenance industry. He can be reached at adavis@giemedia.com