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So this month, I’m going to share one thing that has worked and one thing that has not.

October 11, 2012
Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

I don’t like to hand out advice. Advice, to me, is what you think might work. It’s what you would do with someone else’s money. I like to share experience; experience is what I’ve done. As a rule, I align myself with mentors and teachers who have done what I’m trying to do and I try to live my life this way too. Sure, once in a while it’s fun to share an idea (advice) with someone but it’s far better to tell them what has worked and, more importantly, what has not worked.

So this month, I’m going to share one thing that has worked and one thing that has not.

Don’t hire family. For me, this is my experience. More clearly, don’t hire people based on who they are related to. Hire them based on what they know and how they act.

At one time, I had my cousin and my brother working for me. Neither worked out. My brother and I just never saw eye to eye on things and it affected our family life. He left 22 years ago for a different career, and he’s doing way better than he would have with me and we get along great. I wasn’t fair with him, expected too much from him and gave him all the hard jobs.

My cousin worked for me for many years. There were many good things he did but in the end what I wanted and what he wanted were not even remotely close, and I had to terminate his employment. It has severely strained our family relationship and I regret ever hiring him. Family members can look like a simple solution to hiring problems. Resist the urge to do it. It brings a dynamic to work that will be tough to manage. While I see a lot of instances where it works, it’s better if you can grow without hiring family and keep business, business. Hire the best person for the job that isn’t related to you. Hire for attitude and train for skill. Keep as much of your operation business and learn how to make your hiring decisions based on facts, not emotions.

Hire industry-passionate people. If you aren’t hiring people who love plants, gardening and landscaping, you are making a big mistake. At my place, we always ask applicants what their hobbies are. If they say something like, “Anything but gardening,” then we don’t hire them. If they show us photos of their gardens or know a lot about plants, we know we’re on the right track. When people are spending time in their passions, the work doesn’t feel like work and that’s what you want. I fancy myself as a pretty good teacher. People often comment to me how impressed they are with my energy level.

They say, “You were just as good at 4 p.m. as you were yesterday at 8 a.m. Why is that?” I love to teach. I also love to garden. You should see my home landscape if you don’t believe me. Hire people with a passion for the work you do. It’s been my experience that greatly improves your chances for success.

I can almost bet some of you are ready to send in a letter to the editor of Lawn & Landscape commenting about how wrong I was with the lessons of this column. Remember, this is MY EXPERIENCE and that’s what I have to share with you. I know there are countless companies that are chock full of family members. I see them every day and I marvel at how they are able to pull that off. I could not.

It is my experience that hiring family members does not work well and you are better off not hiring Uncle Joe or your cousin George. That’s my experience and it’s a fact at Grunder Landscaping.

It’s also my experience that you are better off hiring people with a passion for the work you sell, but I know countless companies that don’t do that and it works for them. I heard Tony Hsieh from Zappos say he really doesn’t like shoes! I don’t relate to that, but I do understand that and I try to learn from his experience.

Okay, now here’s the other lesson about experience. Learn from one another, log away what people tell you they tried that worked and did not work and then be your own person. Advice is what we think might work. Experience is reality … or something like that.


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