Standing out

Departments - Words of Wilson

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February 27, 2019

Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.

© burwellphotography | iStockphoto

Over the years, the landscape industry’s C-suite has undergone a significant change. While the basic skills required for running a business haven’t changed, there has been a seismic shift in what’s needed for today’s landscape business owner to stand out.

Being the hardest working member of your team isn’t enough. Forward-thinking CEOs need to be more willing than ever to seek and try anything that makes them and their companies better. In meetings with owners across the country, I’m seeing a keen interest in performance, an intense focus on issues and an ability to inspire action. On top of that, a new generation of CEOs as savvy message managers are harnessing the power of communication and technology to create more awareness and appreciation of what our industry represents to the public. And by giving and sharing their time and resources, these CEOs are having a positive impact on their communities and the world around them.

Here are their secrets:

1. They empower others.

Smart CEOs know that power comes from expanding the power of those around you. Learning to let go will allow you to build trust with your teams, be more productive and enable talented and committed people to contribute to your company’s big picture.

2. Keep employees engaged with continuing education.

Providing growth opportunities at all levels of a company is a high priority for forward-thinking CEOs. Proactive owners offer continuing education, not just in professional and technical certifications, but training in technology and business. Developing talent will improve the overall quality of your workforce and distinguish your company as a sought-after career home.

3. Focus on long-term profitability.

Instead of short-term profit, learn to operate in two spheres at the same time, striking the right balance between growth and profitability. Reverse engineer your way back from where you want to end up, preparing for tomorrow while simultaneously focusing on results you need today.

4. Give back.

Corporate matching gift programs, philanthropy, charitable works and overall community support are instrumental to how the public ultimately perceives your business. Having a corporate social responsibility program is one of the best ROI decisions you’ll ever make. Annual days of service, donated time and materials for public gardens, parks, hospices, military families, Habitat for Humanity and other humanitarian efforts create a better, more innovative culture and makes your company a more compelling place to work.

5. Create a home-grown talent circle.

Because so many companies face labor and talent shortages, reskilling and promoting existing employees are revitalizing bench-building strategies. Training employees for upward or lateral mobility has lots of advantages. You send a message to other employees that their performance is valued and actionable and that you want to motivate and incentivize high performers to achieve and contribute more.

6. Build loyalty and trust.

Your ultimate journey to the top will depend on your ability to lead from behind. Generating excitement around shared values is an evolving journey. CEOs in our industry who respond to the needs of the team are finding substantially increased organizational success with engaged, more self-reliant people doing their best work.

7. Have sound financial and ethical practices.

Managing for organizational integrity isn’t just about doing the right thing. In today’s litigious environment, an integrity-based system will offset risk, misconduct, deal responsibly when things go wrong and put long-term relationships over short-term profits. This can be applied as settling disputes by giving in rather than jeopardizing longer term relationships and reputation or replacing dead plants even when they are not the cause rather than jeopardize the trust built over time.

8. Stay on top of the game.

There are six organizations every CEO in pursuit of moving their organization faster should consider joining: professional networking groups, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Young President’s Organization, Vistage and National Association of Landscape Professionals peer groups. These groups will not only make it less lonely at the top and help you become more resilient, but they offer great guest speakers and learning events, go deep on substance and offer immeasurable opportunities to build strategic win-win alliances.

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