Methods in the mayhem

Departments - Words of Wilson

October 10, 2017

Words of Wilson will teach you each month to better understand, develop and manage your most valuable resource – your people.

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For most CEOS in The landscape world, late fall is the planning season. Owners and their management teams are running contingency scenarios and looking for new opportunities that can be leveraged for profitability.

These planning exercises include how they want to grow, where they want their customers to come from and what type of customer will continue to be the most profitable.

You have ideas, now what?

Idea generation is the easy part. Converting sticky notes into a clear path forward requires real work. Prioritize your notes around solutions to problems, suggestions for process improvements and big ideas for the future of your business into the following chapters of your plan:

Organizational alignment.

Clear lines of responsibility, authority and accountability will make it easier to track progress. Ensure internal alignment between sales and operations. To avoid disruptions and loss of productivity, determine the type of work operations that can support profitability and which types of customers best fit the company’s operational model.


The marketing and communications piece of your plan will establish a consistent messaging baseline across service segments. Marketing is the strategic customer-facing piece that will include a tool kit to drive your brand in the community, reach your revenue goals, shape your conversation with the public and keep you out in front of customer preferences, buying behaviors and trends, instead of chasing them.


A good strategic sales section in your overall plan will include creating ways to acquire new clients and maintaining existing ones, a plan for service recovery, an analysis of both your high- and low-margin customers, identifying your ideal customers and the customers you don’t want, and what to do with slow pays. Include thinking around your competition, your expectations and a fresh look at your region’s demographics. Consider a consistent program for customer surveys and how you can use that insight.

Encourage staff to own key program initiatives and meet regularly for progress on goals.

Most companies want to grow, and grow profitably. Growth is not hard for most good companies because they do good work and grow by referral. Unfortunately, profits are not automatic, so growing profitably is different. The problem with referral-driven growth is not all referrals are equal. Density is compromised since referrals can come from anywhere and are not limited to profitable clients. As companies get bigger, lost contracts can become numerous and referrals may cover the losses but not enable growth.


Integrate HR and a coherent plan for bench-building to ensure that you have the right number of people with the right skills to help you grow. Consider business trends, legislative regulations regarding H-2B, workforce demographics, turnover, compliance and screening. An integrated approach to hire, onboard, train and retain talent more imaginatively is critical.

Financial planning.

Planning how your business will grow requires forward-looking financials and metrics. Without this piece, your strategic plan is only interesting ideas. Once you start looking at your organization in a financial context, you will know what can be realistically achieved and where you can factor in stretch goals. The financial section of your plan should include an expense budget, cash flow, income projections, projected balance sheet and a breakeven analysis.


There are a lot of good DIY tools and templates for strategic planning. However, an experienced professional can often bring objectivity to the process and ensure that your plan is executable, includes organizational priorities, a focus on how the plan will engage your workforce, ways to improve culture and eliminate complacency, and insight to help you manage your plan.


While technology exists to automate business systems, there is no self-driving mechanism that allows a strategic plan to run on its own. Encourage staff to own key program initiatives and meet regularly for progress on goals.

As a final step, run your plan by a CEO peer or a trusted adviser for a reality check or to challenge your thinking. It could result in a better plan.

Bruce Wilson is principal of green industry consulting firm Bruce Wilson & Company.