Offseason questions

Departments - Green Guides

October 10, 2017

Green Guides features a rotating panel of LCOs sharing their real-world experience on how to build and grow a successful lawn care business.

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It never ceases to amaze me when people think that in the summer I’m busy in the lawn care business. They think that since our workers are busy out treating lawns, I’m just as busy making sure they’re doing their jobs or maybe out working myself. Fact is, for more mature businesses, if things are going as planned, summer should be the easiest time of the year. It’s a matter of execution at this point in the game.

For owners and leaders, fall and winter should be the busiest and most important time of the season. This is the time to analyze and reflect on this past season’s plan and performance, while beginning to formulate strategy for next spring. And that strategy and plan must always start with a simple, basic question: Why are you in business?

It starts with why.

As 2017 begins to wind down, it’s a great time for business owners and leaders to take assessment of why we do what we do. This needs to happen before we even begin trying to determine the exact numbers to hit for 2018. So many people jump right into the details, procedures and plans before taking a hard look at the “why” of businesses. Where are we going? What’s the end game? What’s the reason for our existence?

And notice that it’s we, not just the owner. Team members need to know the “why” of the business they work for, understand it and believe in it. And it has to be more than just for the benefit of ownership. Good ownership is vital, and owners should be rewarded for the risks and responsibilities they take. However, employees and customers are both equally as important.

The three-legged stool.

I always communicated to our staff that we were like a three-legged stool with customers, employees and ownership representing each leg of the stool. The business existed to care for each of the three legs equally. If one leg was weak or absent, the stool would fall. If the emphasis fell too much on one part, such as making ownership happy, the other two would be short-changed, and the stool would become weak. So, providing ownership rewards for their risks, providing employees a great place to work and giving customers great-looking, hassle-free lawns and landscapes is a huge part of the “why” of any business in the green industry. So, take assessment annually as to the wants and needs of each of the three legs of the “business stool.”

What about a four-legged stool?

As I look back after selling the majority stake of my business last fall, I’m convinced more than ever that there is a fourth leg on that stool, with another important reason for the existence of a business. A business also exists for the good of the community, our nation and the world. At LawnAmerica, we’ve always tried to give back to our community with donated services and cash donations from profits. It was more than just PR and trying to build a positive brand. It’s just the right thing to do. And personally, along with much of our staff, it’s a matter of being true to our Christian faith while in the world of work. It’s more than just the quality of the grass and the environment, while as important as that is in what we do. It’s also about helping people in our community and beyond, and leaving our world a better place than we found it.

I find that most team members really take pride in being part of a company that is about more than just growing and turning a nice profit, as important as those are. Most employees like to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves and that makes a difference in our world. And it doesn’t have to be huge things to make a difference. If all businesses did more and took seriously their commitment to our communities, collectively, we’d help change the world.

Take assessment of your why.

So this fall, before you start creating the spreadsheets and documents in planning, take a deep breath and spend some time soul-searching to get to the base of your business. Why does it exist, and for whom? All decisions then need to be made with this in mind, whatever that is for you.

Brad Johnson is founder of LawnAmerica.