Expanding your toolbox

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Dr. Jermaine Davis told attendees at Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 event that communication comes down to compassion.

June 30, 2021

Photo courtesy of Dr. Jermaine Davis

Dr. Jermaine Davis remembers conversations with his mother fondly.

When she passed away in 2005, he spoke at her memorial service and recalled that he could go to her with anything. But he admitted that if an old adage is true — that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail — she wielded her voice like a jackhammer.

Davis said that even today, when someone yells or curses at him, he shuts down. But the problem is that he naturally gravitated toward that communication style, and it was something he had to shake.

“Great leaders, great supervisors — they have multiple tools so they can adjust. You can’t motivate everyone the same. People are different,” Davis said. “I want to have an open relationship with my son. If he makes a poor choice, I want him to open up and share it. But I know I have to earn that.”

Davis spoke at Lawn & Landscape’s annual Top 100 event in Nashville, Tennessee, where executives from the largest landscaping and lawn care companies nationwide attended to celebrate their successful years amidst a pandemic. And, in what Davis said was his first live presentation since the pandemic began, he told the attendees what he’s learned in 25 years of working in communication at Frito Lay, Keebler Cookies and IBM.

Among those lessons? Leading while trying to gain someone’s perspectives, even when you disagree, is the most effective way toward progress.

“When an individual is brutally honest, it can shut people down. I’m going to recommend you put some more tools in your toolbox so you can be more effective,” Davis said. “What if you were honest while being compassionate? It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t mean you’re soft. I’m going to say it in a way where people hear you.”

Welcome the conversation.

Davis said communication happens in one of three areas: someone’s private life with immediate family; someone’s personal life with close associates or friends; and someone’s professional life at work or in a particular industry.

Conversations in any of those arenas can turn contentious in a hurry, and Davis recommended putting a stop to it and implementing a few quick tactics to avoid the talk from spiraling completely.

Dr. Jermaine Davis presenting at the Lawn & Landscape Top 100 event in June.
Photo by Jimmy Miller

“Next time you’re having a conversation that’s going south, be mature enough to say, in your own words, ‘hey, is this conversation working for you?’” Davis said.

Davis recommends asking:

  • “Is this conversation working for you?”
  • “Would you like for it to work for you?”
  • “What’s one thing you need from me to make this conversation work for you?”

As for identifying when those conversations need these tactics, Davis said it’s important to acknowledge the productivity of the talk. There’s a major difference between dialogue and debate. “A dialogue is an exchange between you and your stakeholders. They share, you share and then you make sense,” Davis said. “But in a debate, there’s yelling, screaming, jockeying for position. It drains people. When people are drained, (there’s) no motivation to do the work.”

Measured approach.

Davis said he practices a carpenter’s golden rule: measure twice and cut once. In other words, he says know your goals — reaffirm your goals — and then make decisions.

Additionally, he also said establishing trust with your teams to help accomplish those goals is essential. Particularly as business leaders, making sure that employees feel empowered helps drive them toward effective communication.

“When people trust us, do you know what happens? Communicate goes up,” he said. “When people trust us, they take more risk. When people trust us, they open up more. When people trust us, they share their creative ideas. When they don’t trust us, they hold back. They’ll watch the organization tank.”

Finally, Davis also told attendees that when a “champion” loses a game, they go back and watch the game tape. They get feedback to review what went wrong. He recommends company leaders do the same thing several times throughout the year.

“Feedback is the breakfast food of champions,” he said. “(Using it shows) here’s how you position yourself for success next time.”

Scythe receives $18 million in funding

The company produces an all-electric, commercial grade autonomous mower, scheduled for distribution in Fall 2022.

Scythe Robotics (Scythe), the creator of commercial-grade autonomous robotic solutions for the landscaping industry, announced its first offering: an all-electric, fully autonomous mower, designed completely in-house.

Scythe also announced its $13.8 million in Series A funding led by Inspired Capital with participation from existing investors True Ventures, Zigg Capital and Lemnos, bringing the company’s total funding to $18.6 million. The new investment will be used to grow the company’s existing operations in Texas, Florida and Colorado, expand with new customers and accelerate development of further products.

The machine features eight HDR cameras and a suite of other sensors that enable it to operate safely in dynamic environments by identifying and responding to the presence of humans, animals and other potential obstacles. Simultaneously, the machine captures property and mower performance data.

Founded in 2018 by Jack Morrison, Isaac Roberts and Davis Foster, distribution of the mowers is scheduled for Fall of 2022.

“To date, commercial landscape contractors haven’t had a technology partner who enables them to keep up with demand and to operate emissions-free. We are that partner,” said Jack Morrison, co-founder and CEO of Scythe. “Our autonomous mower gives them the ability to grow their business, while staying green. It’s designed from the ground up to be an order of magnitude more reliable, more productive and safer than any existing machine by incorporating state of the art autonomy with a rugged, all-electric design.”

WorkWave acquires Real Green

This move follows WorkWave’s recent acquisition of Slingshot, a provider of customer call center software.

HOLMDEL, N.J. — WorkWave has signed an agreement to acquire Real Green Systems.

“(This acquisition) marks the beginning of a new chapter where WorkWave will help our customers focus on the future, helping them to go beyond service to create effective, fast-growing, highly profitable service organizations that also deliver the best service experience possible,” said David F. Giannetto, CEO of WorkWave.

While the Real Green solution and PestPac will remain separate, additional product offerings that support customer growth, including Coalmarch and WorkWave Agency groups, will work together.

Serent Capital, the former investor in Real Green, and Real Green Founder Joe Kucik will roll significant equity and join TA Associates as minority owners of WorkWave.

“Real Green believes in this same mission, and together we will allow every solution in this expanded WorkWave product portfolio to deliver greater value,” Giannetto said. “We have tremendous respect for the Real Green team, and the goal of this acquisition is to not just allow them to continue to lead the green industries forward, but to help them make an even greater impact.”

Bill Nunan, president and CEO of Real Green, will stay on as the head of Real Green operations within WorkWave.

“After years of watching WorkWave develop alongside Real Green, we’ve long known that the combination of these two companies would create something special,” Nunan said.

This move follows WorkWave’s recent acquisition of Slingshot, a provider of customer call center software.

BrightView acquires Baytree, West Bay Landscape

Baytree generated $45 million in 2020 revenue, while West Bay is a landscape maintenance firm in Bradenton, Fla.

BLUE BELL, Pa. – BrightView Holdings acquired Baytree Landscape Contractors, a full-service landscape firm based in Atlanta. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“Like BrightView, Baytree has achieved success across the spectrum of landscape services: design, development, irrigation, maintenance and enhancement. We look forward to bringing their skilled workforce and leadership into the BrightView family,” said BrightView President and CEO Andrew Masterman.

Baytree operates from six primary locations: Atlanta; Johns Island, S.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Charlotte; and Nashville. At peak, Baytree employs more than 370 team members. The company also ranked no. 49 on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 List this year.

“The team at Baytree is excited about the many opportunities that being a part of the BrightView organization will bring,” said Andrew S. Watkins, Baytree president and CEO. “The people part of our business is everything. BrightView has put a priority on that from day one of this process.”

BrightView has also acquired West Bay Landscape, a landscape maintenance firm in Bradenton, Fla. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

West Bay’s primary focus is commercial landscape maintenance, serving clients within a 30-mile radius of their base in Bradenton, south of Tampa Bay, on Florida’s Gulf Coast.