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Columns - Industry Voices

August 12, 2014
Marty Grunder
Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

Recently, I took my 16-year-old daughter Lilly to visit High Point University, in High Point, N.C. As I went on the tour of this beautiful school, I could not help but think about the impression the school made on Lilly and me right away when we first arrived.

With my mind always spinning and looking for lessons to share with my students as well as looking for ideas to make my businesses better, I could not help but learn a lot from this visit.

As we pulled through the pristine gates, I saw High Point University was a different place. A uniformed guard came out with a smile on his face and greeted us. He was neatly dressed in a pressed gray uniform and the guard shack he came from was spotless. He asked if we were the Grunders from Ohio.

I think he saw our license plate and figured it was worth guessing. He directed us to a parking place that had Lilly’s name on it. Talk about making a great first impression. That wasn’t the only time we would be impressed.

The whole tour was impressive. It exceeded our expectations. I love my alma mater, the University of Dayton, but they could learn a lot from High Point. In fact, all landscapers could learn a lot from the tour I went on at High Point University.

High Point University is led by Dr. Nido Qubein. He is a member of National Speakers Association and I am, too. That would be where the comparisons would stop. He’s smarter than I am. Dr. Qubein came to the United States when he was 17 years old with 50 bucks in his pocket. He worked his way through High Point College and graduated from there in 1976.

Today, he is chairman of Great Harvest Bread, and since 2005 Dr. Qubein has been the president of his alma mater, High Point University.

Here’s what I saw at High Point University that you don’t see at most colleges or universities:

  1. The first person you meet is friendly and makes a favorable impression on you. Every single person we met there was friendly. ALL OF THEM, not just some.
  2. The grounds at this school are impeccable. There isn’t a piece of trash, a paper, a weed, a leaf or anything. All reading this would be impressed.
  3. The college’s logo is everywhere. Just like Disneyland, you can’t go three feet without seeing it. Even neighboring restaurants have High Point University umbrellas at their tables.
  4. Subcontractors wore a uniform identifying them as subcontractors. Construction is an issue on a college campus. They made it as nice and safe as possible.
  5. The school made you feel appreciated, valued and important. I do not consistently see this at other colleges and universities that I have visited.

So, now to your business. What is the first thing your clients or potential clients see? Is it your trucks? Is it your people? How are your phones answered? What happens if someone stops by your office? How does your website look? What do your prospect and clients see?

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. I have said this for years when I teach landscapers how to make their businesses better. If Nido Qubein can do it at a university, you can do it at your landscaping company.

His university has more employees and touch points than our companies do. I am almost certain that if I dug deeper into what High Point University does, I would find an extensive training program.

You don’t get security guards acting like people you would expect to see at the Ritz-Carlton if you don’t hire carefully and train and set expectations clear.

At the end of the day, the first impression is not the main reason that a person picks a landscaper or a school. However, it tells all who come in contact with you that you mean business, you want their business and you are who you say you are.

If you look at High Point’s marketing, its says a lot about the university that is impressive. There is no difference between what the school says it is and what it actually practices. It is rare to see this in business. Often, I wonder if the employees of a company have ever read what their marketing department puts out. What about at your company?

I don’t know if Lilly is going to end up at High Point University. She has a lot of options to consider. What I do know is High Point University has a very good handle on what most colleges and universities don’t do well that they have perfected. And that is the key to success in businesses like ours. So, what are you waiting for?


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