Business best practices: Common rookie concerns

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Updated Jun 1, 2018

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This is part two in a two-part series. Click here to read part one.

Hiring friends and family  

Speaking of hiring quality employees, what about hiring friends and family?

This can be a touchy subject for some employers, as each situation can turn out differently depending on the individual and the relationship.

“I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer here, as the dynamic will be different in all cases,” said Glenn Bertha, success coach and recruiting manager with LandOpt. “That said, the key to success if traveling down this road is to set very clear expectations up front about how things could change moving forward. Generally speaking, things either work out or they don’t, and it can be critical to the relationship to talk about either scenario up front.”

Overall, professionals ruled that each case must be viewed on an individual basis; there is no standard answer that will apply to every company. However, it is recommended setting standards upfront and being sure not to budge on them, regardless of the relationship of employer to employee.

“If you can say that that individual is trustworthy and a team player, yes,” said Mike Eisenhuth, LandOpt success coach. “It is all about the expectations you set with employees, either friends and family, or someone you have never met before. Each new hire needs to be put through the same recruiting process and be held to the same standards.”

Continuing education

There are some in the industry who believe they’ve learned all they can because they’ve been in business for many years, but is that really true?

“When a company takes on the attitude that they have ‘been around the block’ and know it all, it is in trouble,” Bertha said. “They should never stop learning and making those types of investments in their companies/team members.”

According to these experts, there’s always something new to learn in the green industry, which is why continuing education classes are incredibly important.

“Stuff changes every day, so you want to be on the forefront of that,” said Sonny Trimm, senior account manager with SGK Landscapes, based in Starkville, Mississippi. “You definitely don’t want a customer knowing more than you do about something. We’re always doing continuing education, and I would encourage anyone to keep doing any kind of classes, seminars or anything NALP offers in your area. You’ve never been in the business long enough to not learn something.”

Experts agree that the industry is constantly changing, and staying updated to what’s changing, what’s new and what’s obsolete can save you time and resources on projects in the future.

Monkey see, monkey do

With the idea in mind that practices are always changing and updating, another frequently asked question is, if I see another landscaping company doing a project a certain way, does that mean it’s the right way?

As mentioned in the first article, ‘crape murder’ continues to be a practice that many landscaping companies do, but just because a company is reputable and does this doesn’t mean you as a new company have to follow their example.

Typically, Trimm says the company will do things a certain way because it’s the way it has always been done, but if a crew member finds a better method of performing a task and can back it up with research, Trimm said he’s not opposed to giving it a try.

Bertha and Brad Irving, owner and general manager of Jay’s Landscaping in Beaumont, Texas, agree that conducting research is mandatory before beginning a project, but they also recommend not assuming the way another company does something is necessarily wrong just because it’s not the way you would do it.

“There can be multiple effective approaches to accomplishing a task, and it is important to always be open to alternative solutions,” Bertha said. “This is a great example of why continuing education is so important, as what they saw may be a better way, but they won’t know unless they look into it.” 

Customer satisfaction

“The customer is always right,” is a phrase everyone has heard at one point in time but is that always the case?

When a customer is unsatisfied with the work your company’s done or is angered by a plant dying unexpectedly, how are you supposed to handle it?

“The customer always has a voice; sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong,” Eisenhuth said. “A landscape contractor should always be clear and concise to their clients, take ambiguity out of the equation. Understand that word of mouth can make a huge impact on your business. How you deal with these situations will determine if that word is either positive or negative.”

When dealing with unsatisfied customers, experts agree that getting to the root of the problem is the first step. Coming in with an understanding attitude and calm demeanor can help the process go more smoothly, and it can help ensure you don’t lose dedicated customers.

“Most of the time, I have found the things that make customers upset comes from poor communication instead of poor performance or a bad product,” Irving said. “We will try to do all we can to make things right with customers even if we lose money. A great reputation and happy customers are worth more than the small cost of fixing a problem.”

While it may not always hold true that “the customer is always right,” it is true that building relationships takes compromise. If you aren’t willing to work with your customers to ensure their satisfaction, there’s a good chance that they will find another company that will.

This doesn’t mean you have to always be in the wrong, though. If you do a project a certain way and your customer isn’t pleased with the results, Trimm suggests bringing your research with you to talk to the customer. This will show them that you did the project by the books and there’s potential for excellent results because you did the project a certain way.

Ultimately, attitude is everything. Coming into a confrontation with a good attitude and a humble approach will get you much further with irate customers than saying they are wrong and not budging on it. A simple give and take can work wonders for the client/service provider relationship.

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