Leadership Lessons: Craig Ruppert

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Ruppert is president of Ruppert Cos. and CEO of Ruppert Landscape, as well as a member of the Leadership Class of 2008.

June 16, 2011

Craig RuppertWhat have you been up to since you won your award in 2008?
We continue to focus on growing our business and keeping our business healthy and profitable.

That starts with the people that work in the company and our focus on providing opportunity for growth and advancement for the real leaders in our business – the ones that run it on a daily basis. That continues to be our primary focus.

What is your take on how the industry will recover from the recent economic struggles?
I think we’ve done what most of our competitors have done.

We’ve stayed focused on our core business. The one good thing about a down economy is that it affects everyone equally, minus the differences in markets and geography we serve.

In your 2008 profile, you talked about recognizing and having parties for employees. Did you cut back on those parties because of the economy?
Generally, the answer is no.

That’s an area where we consciously decided it’s not in our best interest to cut back. Have we changed our approach in certain areas? Yes. We’re always evolving and adjusting. We probably have more branch focused activities and less corporate focused activities in part because we feel like our decentralized branching structure really puts our branches more in touch with what employee milestones and recognitions should be recognized.

We still try to be creative and disciplined in terms of remembering the importance of people and working hard to find the creative ways of recognizing them. 

But we do many of the same things we did four years ago. Things like years of service recognition where we give commemorative coins and an appreciation letter on each employee’s anniversary with the company, an annual awards banquet where we recognize our top performers, birthday cards, appreciation gatherings in every branch at least four times a year, and outings that build the team and maintain a high level of morale.

Where do you think the industry will be in 2020?
I think that the industry will continue to evolve. The world’s appreciation for our environment and the green movement will continue to increase.

People will continue to appreciate trees and landscapes and the outdoors and their patios for barbecuing. The growth in our industry will remain faster than the growth of the overall economy. I think our future is bright.

You are seeing municipalities continue to raise standards and require more attention to the environment – more tree planting and erosion and water-quality control and water conversation. All the green trends that we’ve seen will continue. We’ll also continue to see an expectation of high quality service, high quality work and the best value possible.

We’re seeing continuous improvement in communications. Mobile communications devices have gone from almost non-existent 30 years ago to very powerful today, as many in our field carry a BlackBerry or an iPhone.

Technology particularly in the area of communications has come a long way. That’s allowed us to provide our customer a greater service without a lot of price increase over the years.

Are the advances in technology a good or a bad thing?
It would be hard to say it’s a bad thing. I can’t see how it’s a bad thing.

It’s more change and change requires adapting, and adapting is work, and we’re adapting all the time.

Obviously many customers want to communicate more through email or texting versus by phone or face to face. So it’s about figuring out what’s most efficient for our customers and then positioning ourselves to deliver it in whatever way will make their job easier.

We wrestle with that and it’s evolving weekly, as various levels that interface with our customers want communication through email or some other way.

And we have to be able to adapt in order to continue to offer the best possible service to customers.