Still better together

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Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. The old saying should have an addendum: “so the two enemies can join forces and create a growing landscaping company.”

That’s the gist of our December cover story on Cutting Edge Landscapes. The story may seem familiar to you, and for good reason. We profiled their fresh merger and the steps that led to it exactly four years ago in “Better together” in our December 2015 issue.

We’ve checked back in because the marriage is going well; organic growth, new acquisitions and the launch of a facility management division. Across all three, Helton and Wheeler are growing a national footprint – all because they were competitors who decided they were better together.

The two owners, Bob Wheeler and Ben Helton, weren’t exactly enemies, but as noted in our 2015 story, when the two talked, it usually was about recruiting each other’s employees or customers. In fact, when Wheeler told his staff about the merger, they had to check the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day.

I’m guessing some of you have the same relationship with your competition. I hope this story forces you to think about what a partnership with a competitor would look like. You may be surprised to find out your competition excels in areas you are weak, while you are terrific in areas they are below average.

It’s also a lesson to be competitive, but not a jerk. I know that can be hard when you view that same competition as someone taking food off your family’s table.

I never understood bad-mouthing competition. It’s a bad look and if I was hiring a landscaper who was talking poorly about another company, it would make me question the trash talker.

Helton and Wheeler had a healthy competition but didn’t put each other down, and now they run a thriving business together.

Combining resources can make sense if it’s done correctly. No one knows what the next four years will hold, but if Wheeler and Helton continue to work better together, there’s no reason to think they will fall short of their lofty goals.