Tips from the Top

Dale Micetic, President, ISS Grounds Control

There’s a first time for everything – the first sale, the first expansion, the first mistake and maybe even the first award. To help gain insight into the successes and lessons learned by successful business owners, every month Lawn & Landscape will talk to companies who have surpassed those milestones and have become some of the newest members of our Top 100 list.

Over the years, your company has grown both geographically as well as in the services that you provide. Can you tell me more about that?

ISS Grounds Control is the result of mergers and acquisitions. My company was originally in Phoenix, and I sold it to a company in Texas in 2002, who then bought three companies and that’s what we see today. Fifty percent of our revenue was to come from construction and 50 percent was to come from landscape maintenance. Over the years, our focus has become more about growing the recurring revenue side of our business, which is landscape maintenance.

We also focus on internal relationships. If you’re not taking care of your employees, two things happen. One, you have higher turnover, and two, when your employees turnover they don’t necessarily understand the relationships and the history with the clients. So, our goal has been to provide an environment where our employees feel like they are an integral part of the business; where their opinions count, they have a career and they have a future. We realize that if you have a stronger, cohesive team within the company, we can deliver a stronger, cohesive service outside the company.

How do you manage that with a company of your size?

It can never be that Dale has a relationship with every employee, but each individual that we have managing does have a relationship with them, so they realize that this is more than just a place where we can bring bodies in as producing units. Often when you hire people you get their hands and their feet, but it’s a rarity when you actually engage their head. And our goal is to engage their head and their heart so they are excited about their teammates and being part of ISS. We have a newsletter that goes out via email to our employees and we have a videocast that goes out monthly, so we’re using those tools to try to build a closer family, but its not easy.

How do you avoid getting complacent?

It’s a function of your involvement in your community and staying current in what’s going on in the industry. You have to reenergize yourself by being introduced to new ideas, whether it’s with people or reading different books or case studies, and that’s pretty stimulating to me. It takes a little bit of everything to make it work. Sometimes you can get a little complacent; you can get a little discouraged. You pour your heart into getting a project that you just know you deserve, then you find out you were number three out of seven bidders. You realize you’re not going to win everything, and those are discouraging times.

You have to recognize that for yourself and for your employees. Part of being a good boss is being a good cheerleader and recognizing the efforts, whether they are successful or not, and encouraging people.

Obviously if you do the same old thing the same old way and get the same old results that aren’t good results, then you need to change what you’re doing. Sometimes it might be people, but a lot of times it’s looking at the processes and seeing what’s broken with these processes and asking, how do we do it differently?