Lift them up

John Guth, vice president of lawn at Green Lawn Fertilizing, has made it his mission to bring out the best in his team and that’s translated into tremendous growth.

Under John Guth's leadership, the lawn care business at Green Lawn Fertilizing has grown exponentially.
Photo courtesy of Green Lawn Fertilizing

Green Lawn Fertilizing COO Josh Willey says he’s known just how special John Guth, vice president of lawn, is for the last 20 years. In fact, the pair’s paths have crossed numerous times at different green industry companies.

“I’ve worked with John in multiple capacities for 20 years, Willey explains .

Within a year of starting at Green Lawn, Willey says he knew he wanted to bring Guth onto the team in 2018. Now, with both on board, the company reached $37 million in revenue and landed at No. 82 on this year’s Top 100 List.

Guth oversees both the operations and customer service departments for the company’s lawn care segment.

“It’s my responsibility to create a culture where it is safe to take calculated risks, challenge the norms, ensure data is available to drive our business and to provide my team the ability to be life-long learners,” he says.

Throughout his five years with the company, Guth has helped add hundreds of employees and millions of dollars of revenue to Green Lawn Fertilizing’s bottom line. In 2018, the lawn care division made $8.7 million and had 36 technicians. Today, they’re doing $31.5 million and employ 130 techs.

“The first year was all about building a foundation — gaining trust, creating relationships and learning the culture,” he recalls. “The second year is when things really began to come together. My branch leadership teams started to manage their own P&L’s, they were gaining confidence in themselves and were starting to make business decisions on their own.”

Willey says he believes Guth’s success at growing the lawn care business is attributed to his unique leadership style — something that takes some people awhile to recognize.

Willey remembers a few instances where Guth took over a team and early on there was some pushback, as the team didn’t really understand his leadership style. Willey says Guth tends to focus more on results and is a straight shooter.

“Within six months though, the dynamic completely shifts. They see who he is and understand where his heart is at, and there’s no one who has a more loyal team than John does,” Willey says. It’s about who he is not what he says or how he says it.”


A determined director

Since they started working together two decades ago, Willey says Guth’s tenacity and leadership has helped him push projects to the next level.

“John brings a level of consistency and attention to detail to everything he does. That is something we don’t have otherwise,” Willey says. “That’s why he’s been such an integral part of my career as well. I’ll get something off the ground and to about a B+, he’d say a C, and then he comes in and takes it the rest of the way up to where we need to be executing — an A or A+.”

Willey notes Guth is no cheerleader, and it’s his tough-love attitude that has transformed so many employees at Green Lawn Fertilizing into high achievers.

“He also is not bashful when it comes to taking issues head on or having tough conversations with folks,” Willey says. “He has a unique ability to call things out and level people up while they still stay engaged and understand he has their best interest at heart.

“It’s a unique skillset he has in building relationships and just being a trustworthy guy,” he adds. “People will take a lot more pressure from John because of his ability to deliver for them and he really levels up team members that way as well.”

Guth says his desire to be a firm but fair leader comes from the influences he’s had in his own life.

“The impact I’ve been able to have on developing people is rooted in gratitude for the mentors who have invested in me,” Guth says. “A handful of people developed, pushed, challenged me and they changed my life and the lives of my family. I simply care deeply about giving others that same opportunity and am willing to do whatever it takes to see people achieve their full potential in this industry. That includes tough conversations when necessary and showing up for people regardless of the need or circumstance. “


Aiming for greatness

This mentality was essential when the company was launching its quality assurance team three years ago, as Green Lawn was looking to cement itself as an industry leader.

“We were experiencing rapid growth, we needed to hire many new team members, and we had to develop a way to deliver our 5-Star Service continuously. So, we created a quality assurance team. The QA team’s sole responsibility was to develop, implement and provide ongoing training to

our team members with no ties to a production goal,” Guth says. “As the QA team evolved, they then completely redesigned our agronomic programs, created cross-training to other departments within our company, introduced infield audits and created weekly safety and agronomic trainings along with tests.”

Willey says Guth’s assistance in establishing the QA team has been instrumental in bettering the company across the board.

“John has raised the level of execution on everything we do,” he says. “There’s not an area of the business that he hasn’t touched in terms of just leveling up performance and execution. That includes everything from operations, customer service, sales, marketing and even finance.”

Prosperous progress

Since Guth has come onboard, the company has continued to grow exponentially — experiencing about 300% growth over the last five years.

Guth says he attributes this growth solely to the people at Green Lawn Fertilizing.

“When you talk about growth within our company though, it’s not just about growing revenue. We have invested heavily in our people,” he says. “Our internal leadership development program has produced over 25 leaders in the last three years. We have also created a technician advancement program for technicians that do not want to be future people leaders and are interested in honing their craft as an industry professional. My role has been to help lead these initiatives, to prepare our company for current and future growth.”

Willey says he expects Guth to continue pushing the lawn care business to more than the $100 million mark.

“That’s the short-term target,” Willey says. “For John, running a $100 million business unit is a much different endeavor… our goals for John are to take the business to that level and to successfully run a business of that size.

“In a rapid growth environment, which is what we’re in, you can only grow in this industry as quickly as you can develop people and have them take on increased responsibility,” he adds. “John is integral to the business in that way.”

The author is assistant editor with Lawn & Landscape.


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