Holding down the fort

Employee of the Year - Employee of the Year

Sometimes the best employees are the ones behind the curtain.

June 7, 2016

Kelly Anne Zynn, with Tom Knopsnyder, (left) VP of operations, and Chris DeJohn, a service manager, volunteered at Arlington Cemetery.
Photo courtesy of Green Lawn Fertilizing

When it comes to having a successful landscape company, it’s important to hire good crew members to do the job and be the faces of the company in the field. They’re in the public eye every day and because of this, it’s easy to overlook the back office employees – the ones who often go faceless to the customers who call in.

However, it’s important to remember that they’re equally, if not more, important to keeping your business afloat.

Take Kelly Anne Zynn for example. As one of 96 employees at Green Lawn Fertilizing, Zynn started off as an office associate seven years ago, moving to office manager a few years later.

“We lost our office manager and realized we needed somebody with some experience, as well as a get-it-done type of person. She fit the mold,” says Tom Knopsnyder, vice president of operations at the West Chester, Pennsylvania, company.

Knopsnyder credits Zynn with changing the culture in the office to a more structured setting. She’s put office systems into place and created training manuals for different positions so everyone knows what they’re expected to do.

“She was given this leadership role because she exceeded expectations,” says Matt Jesson, president and owner of the company.

People don’t call their landscape company to thank them. They typically call for an estimate, a service or more improvements to be done. While this monotony may get to people after a while, Jesson says it doesn’t with Zynn.

“Kelly has an amazing, positive attitude,” he says. “She really sets the right tone for customer service. It starts with attitude, and she has a super positive one.”

A sunny disposition.

A positive attitude is important to have in the customer service field, but Zynn takes that to the next level.

“It’s customer service and I don’t mind at all. I love people, as crazy as that sounds,” she says. “When you talk to some people, they groan. I love my job. I love what I do. It makes it very easy when you love what you’re doing.”

And Jesson says it’s more than just her attitude. Zynn has done a lot to help the company, which crossed the $10 million revenue mark for 2015, something he credits to employees like her.

He says she led the office team, which handled more than 90,000 phone calls and helped to reduce cancellation by 500 year over year. “Her efforts have earned us the Angie’s List Super Service Award, the best of Home Advisor award and 4.6 stars out of 5 on Google,” Jesson says.

All in one place.

Because Green Lawn Fertilizing manages almost all of its business from the office, Zynn’s staff has a lot of tasks.

The company uses Real Green Systems software and Zynn attends the annual conference each year to bring back updates to teach to her staff of 10.

She’s created a training manual for the system to help her team know how to use it. She’s also worked with crews in the field to see what they treat and what products are used, so her employees have as much information about the business as possible.

When a new person is hired, Zynn takes them through the whole training manual, which takes about two weeks.

The manual itself is used to help her staff get through calls that could be difficult without needing to ask another coworker or supervisor for help. Zynn says she knows customers don’t like to be passed around and put on hold, so she tries to make the manual as detailed as possible so her team knows what to do with any call they get.

“I wrote down questions that I continually got when I was a (customer service representative),” she says. She labeled them FAQ and gave suggestions on the answers to give the customer. “You may not know exactly what you’re saying at the time, but the customer thinks you do. It makes them feel good. It empowers them,” she says.

Some work and some play.

While she’s a very strong employee and leader, Zynn also appreciates the fact that people sometimes need to let loose and have fun.

Knopsnyder says she puts together occasional social events for the company, such as a bowling night.

“She really builds a team atmosphere,” Jesson says. “She decorates the office for every holiday, brings in candy to share with the staff and organizes events like the Thanksgiving feast and ugly sweater holiday party.”

Despite her strong role with the company, Zynn is very humble about the part she plays.

“I didn’t get here by myself,” she says. “Not one person can do it all. One person doesn’t take the congratulations. It’s everybody.”

Zynn says it’s important to be involved with your employees. If they’re struggling with something, help them. If they want to apply for another job in house or at the corporate office, push them to move forward. And stay in tune with the people you work with.

“Be nosy,” she says. “Because knowledge is power.”