The importance of relationships

Ed Laflamme, LIC Harvest Group co-founder

My Harvest Group co-founder and friend Bill Arman and I were reminiscing at the end of the day at the recent Lawn & Landscape Technology Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. It was a great conference. We were thinking about how far the industry has come and how lucky we are to work in the lawn and landscape industry. Entrepreneurial business owners work daily to improve their business, look for productivity solutions and share best practices with their peers.

While enjoying a great glass of wine, Bill asked, “What one word explains success in our industry?” Without hesitation I said, “yes, it’s relationships!”

Later, on my four-and-a-half-hour plane ride home to Connecticut, I thought deeper into just how the relationships I fostered all these years helped me every step of the way. Truthfully, I never really thought about it before. So, I put together the following list to impress on you just how important relationships are.

Suppliers/Subcontractors: When I first started my business, I began a friendship with a college student working in a garden center. He taught me how to price my work and helped me get a substantial client. Other suppliers helped me get the best prices on materials and extend longer credit terms when my cash was tight. The largest account in my 30 years of business came from a subcontractor that set up a lunch with a facility manager that resulted in a yearly $2 million maintenance contract.

Consultants: I used four over the years. Because of our relationship, they not only taught me how to make more money but connected me with people that proved invaluable in my career. My horticultural consultant, a professor at our state college, sent me his top students to work for my company. He also helped me produce a “killer proposal” that led to the award of the world headquarters of General Electric.

Customers: Because of the friendships I fostered with my customers, they referred me to their friends, which led to further great contracts. These folks also served as great referrals when I needed them.

Organizations: A turning point in my career was when I joined ALCA, now called the National Association of Landscape Professionals. As a result, I met my Harvester partners and dozens of landscape friends across the country. I also joined the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and the local chamber of commerce in my city. After selling my business I became a member of NSA, The National Speaker Association. There I’ve made many friends and even some celebrities that have helped me immensely.

Bankers, Attorneys and Accountants: These professionals became part of my “mastermind group.” Over the years they helped me grow, save a fortune in taxes and got me out of a few messes as well. I valued the relationships I had with them and couldn’t have enjoyed the success I had without them.

Business Magazines: The first that influenced my life was Inc. Magazine. I attended the organization’s annual conventions, built relationships with their writers and they even did a story about me. But the most amazing relationship has been with Lawn & Landscape Magazine. This started more than 30 years ago. This led to publishing my book, Green Side Up, the Turnaround Tour, the Backstage Pass and the column you are reading right now. Our relationship has been truly amazing.

The Bottom Line

I could go on and on but I’m sure you see the point. The relationships you build are everything. In order to build these relationships, you need to listen, and I mean really listen to people when they talk. Don’t interrupt. Think about how you can help them. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be totally honest. Share your knowledge, advice and friends. Do favors for them and, above all, stay in touch.

My final words of advice (and you’ve heard this before) are, you need to be a friend to gain a friend, so foster these relationships because they will lead to more so my friend. That’s what it’s all about.

Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company.

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