A compassionate coach

Sean Blair’s affinity for fitness lets him lead crews through back-breaking work with expertise and empathy.

Photos courtesy of Sean Blair

Tommy Bursi, owner of Buford, Georgia-based Legendary Landscaping, admits that Sean Blair was “pretty green” when he brought him into the green industry back in 2018. Nowadays, Blair is Bursi’s go-to guy and second in command, serving as the company’s senior project manager.

Bursi says its Blair’s dependability and driven nature that make him such a standout and a shoo-in for this award.

“Sean is always going to do the right thing,” he says. “Sean is going to be reliable and trustworthy and all those great character traits that we all aspire to have.”

Formative fitness.

What led Bursi and Blair to begin working together was one of Blair’s passions — fitness, specifically CrossFit, powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting.

“I’ve known Sean Blair for a long time,” Bursi says. “We did CrossFit together and I met him at a CrossFit gym where he was a coach…. our paths just kept crossing over the years, and we built a friendship together. And I came to the realization one night that he’d be a great person to invest time into training and I felt like it wouldn’t be wasted.”

Blair says fitness has been a fundamental part of his life for a long time.

“I’ve competed and coached in Olympic weightlifting for 15 years and I still compete now in powerlifting and bodybuilding,” he says. “I still live the fitness lifestyle. I eat my six meal-prepped meals every day, I hydrate, and I still compete, so I am still very much into it. And I still coach on the side.”

In fact, Blair says it’s his background in fitness that allows him to effectively lead Legendary’s crews each and every day.

“It’s given me the ability to work with people better,” he says. “That experience of having to explain things and look at them from different points of view to have people understand, made me a better communicator for sure. And communication is just one of the biggest things.”

Blair says that coaching has also taught him plenty about tolerance and patience — more essential qualities for leadership.

“If something doesn’t go as planned, I’m able to not get frustrated or angry and find another way to come up with a solution,” he says.

Bursi adds that everyone on the team knows about Blair’s fervor for fitness, and his physique has caused quite a few “mishaps” on the job over the years.

“The man is a bodybuilder, and I’ll say I’ve never seen a human rip more jeans than Sean,” Bursi says. “The man rips his jeans on a weekly basis.”

Highlighting healthy choices.

Nothing goes hand-in-hand with training more than nutrition and hydration, so Blair’s become a bit of an expert over the years. And he’s adamant about passing that knowledge down to the company’s crews in order to keep them safe and healthy.

“When people first come into this industry, they don’t realize how really physical it is. And when you don’t take care of yourself, that’s what leads to accidents and injuries,” says Legendary’s Office Manager Suzannah Hall, who nominated Blair for the award. Hall adds that Blair is always educating employees about the importance of eating right and staying hydrated — especially while they’re out working in the hot, Georgia sun.

Blair says he initially noticed some employees getting fatigued easily, and relying on sugary, caffeinated beverages to get through the day.

When Sean Blair isn’t working or in the gym, he says his favorite thing to do is spend time with his fiancee, Kristen.

“A lot of the guys think that it’s fuel, and that’s not the case,” Blair says. “I try to explain to the guys that to be happier, healthier employees you’ve got to be hydrated, and you’ve got to be well-rested, and all these things that will make you better at your job.”

But it took a while to get people on board. Blair says he had to get out there with them and get his hands dirty to show them what making the right choices could do for them.

“Initially, I had a lot of pushback,” Blair says. “You could tell everyone was thinking, ‘What does this guy know?’ but, when I have to grab a shovel, I’m not getting tired and I’m able to perform better. The guys noticed that. I’ve had conversations one-on-one with them and say ‘I’m drinking water. I’m eating properly…I’m not smoking four packs of cigarettes a day.’ All these little things on just being healthy, they allow me to do more.”

Once crews saw how well Blair was able to perform the tough, demanding jobs, they started to come around. Some even have such a desire to get healthier that they’re willing to put in the time outside of work.

“I’ve had several guys ask me about it, and I’ve had some start going to the gym. Some stopped carrying around a 12-pack of Coke and got a case of water,” Blair says. “Things like that have helped productivity with a lot of guys.”

And those aren’t the only measures Blair’s taking to make things better for employees, he’s also updating Legendary’s employee handbook.

“It was one of those things that needed to get done, so I just put my mind to it,” he says. “It’s really about what we can do to make onboarding easier. If they have a clearer vision of what we’re trying to do, then I think it’s easier for them to transition and become part of the team.”

Leading through service.

For Blair, making sure his crews are healthy and performing at their best isn’t all about the bottom line; he genuinely cares about them and wants them to succeed. And he hopes they know that.

“I think from a caring for people perspective, if someone feels you care about them — they’re going to be willing to work harder and be more understanding,” he says. “If someone feels appreciated, they won’t just halfway do something — they’re going to try and do their best job.”

Blair says it’s the little things, like just being positive, that have a big impact.

“I always try and start the day fresh and in a good mood and in high spirits to set the pace for the day,” he says. “If you come in and are already negative, then you’re just going to have a terrible day. That’s why I try to say, ‘Good morning’ and ‘Do you have everything you need?’ and approach it as a way that I’m trying to serve and help them as opposed to barking orders or things like that.”

Legendary’s Maintenance Manager, Dan Plourde, says he saw just how effective Blair’s leadership was right when he started with the company last November.

“He was very helpful in terms of getting me acclimated to the company,” Plourde says of Blair. “He’s very accommodating and was always willing to help me adjust to the new job.”

Plourde spent his first few weeks riding around in Blair’s truck and learning the ropes. He says he noticed how communicative Blair was with the crews and how he was always there to listen to any problems they had — on the job or otherwise.

“Employees can sometimes have difficulties pop up, in terms of their personal lives, and he just listens and helps them along,” he says. “He helps the guys personally as well as professionally. He provides them friendship and a listening ear.”

Blair recognizes this allows him to better connect with his crews, so resolution can be found faster if problems arise.

“Sometimes hard situations come up and you have to be a stickler or an unmovable rock, but a lot of the times, compromise is what makes the world go around,” he says.

Bursi says all of this has contributed to Blair becoming such an integral part of the day-to-day operations at Legendary.

“At the end of the day, when I have Sean handle a situation, I know he’s going to work hard, handle it the best he can and do the right thing,” Bursi adds. “When you’re growing and developing a business and a brand, it’s such a relief to have somebody like that.”

Cool, calm and collected.

Blair’s co-workers say his easy-going nature is another reason why he’s a great asset.

“He’s empathetic and kind, and just exudes joy and happiness,” Hall says. “You can’t be in a bad mood around Sean. He’s very easy to be around. You never know if he’s in a good mood, bad mood, or whatever because he always has a great, big smile on his face.”

Plourde says Blair’s calm disposition is the trait he admires most.

“Whenever a crisis occurs, such as a crew truck breaking down on the road, he approaches the problem calmly and systematically to help find a solution,” he says. “Even if it is not his crew, he will jump in to assist everyone involved.”

Hall adds Blair’s ability to remain unraveled really showed last year during a difficult situation. “I was completely frustrated, and Tommy was too, but I never saw it in Sean until that situation resolved itself,” she recalls. “And then he let out this huge sigh of relief. He just doesn’t ever let the bad show.”

Bursi says that Blair’s work ethic and personality has spread throughout the company.

“Sean has a positive attitude and he’s goal-oriented and growth-oriented,” he says. “He wants to do good work. He’s not trying to cut corners and he’s preaching to the guys that you’ve got to do a good job in the right amount of time.”

In it for the long haul.

Blair says he has no plans of giving up the green industry anytime soon.

“I love the physicality of it,” he says. “I tried the whole sit at a desk thing, and it wasn’t for me… I’m a very hands-on guy. This job is great because it lets me get in the mix with the guys every day. It’s always changing and there are always new challenges to overcome. It keeps it from getting dull and boring.”

He adds he’s eager to see what the future holds for the business.

“We are set to have our best year yet,” Blair says. “We’ve grown tremendously since I’ve started four years ago, and I feel like we’re on the upswing. I foresee us continuing to grow.”

And with Blair by his side, Bursi too is looking forward to the future.

“I hope that we get to continue to work together for years to come,” he says.

June 2021
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