The wow factor: A leader’s guide to excellence

Bruce Wilson - November, 2022

It certainly is an unsettled economy, but so far, business has remained strong for most landscape companies. Inflation is a definite factor, as are rising interest rates. As of this writing, the labor market has eased up a bit, probably due to seasonality rather than other factors that might be longer lasting.

As I look toward next year, I do so somewhat cautiously in how aggressively I budget. It does seem like the supply chain will continue to improve, making it easier to get equipment. But there are signs customer renewals might be at risk if you are expecting large price increases. I would say that is my biggest concern right now.

The relationship between renewals and value is becoming increasingly more complex. With customers demanding higher-quality services, we need to strategically rethink what quality and consistency means and the role excellence plays in keeping customers renewed, happy and loyal for the long term.

But what is ‘excellence’ exactly? Excellence can mean very different things, depending on whether you’re delivering it or experiencing it. If your company is concerned about renewals or growing retention, excellence is a strategic necessity, requiring every employee to work together to deliver the best possible value for customers in the best possible manner.

Steps for achieving excellence

Slippage. Commit to continuous improvement. Evaluate internal processes, bad habits that block performance, and structure. Take a critical look at what needs tightening up, what needs automating, and where workflow can be improved. Many companies reporting rapid growth over the last few years also experienced some service slippage due to being short on labor and a lower quality work force.

Delivery. Strengthen consistency. Unpack each step in the customer’s journey in terms of actions and missteps. Review operations and production from spring start-up through fall, and take an honest look at what went well and where you might have had issues. Assess what can be done between now and next spring to make sure you get off to a good start.

Culture. Identify gaps in morale and knowledge, and make learning, training and workforce development part of the external and internal recruiting process. Make sure that every employee understands their role in driving revenue and can see how value flows from what they do to how the customer experiences it.

Elevate and engage your workforce. Explain why excellence is everyone’s business, what the rewards are for achieving it, and why and how everyone succeeds if the company succeeds.

  • Communicate and reinforce the concept of operational excellence and continuous improvement to all employees
  • Create organizational standards for performance, processes and procedures
  • Empower employees to collaborate, make changes and improvements where they see opportunity, and give them responsibility for results
  • Develop a training and career growth program, and roadmap for advancement
  • Establish a promote-from-within culture to improve morale and attract, develop and retain high-performing employees
  • Recruit all the time, not just for openings
  • Turn passionate employees into recruiters to refer people that are a cultural fit
  • Establish a ‘train your replacement’ program so everyone can move up
  • Coach and mentor for performance improvement on a daily basis
  • Recognize and reward excellence, and celebrate incremental wins

Rising costs and the speed of business make operational excellence, workforce development and customer retention strategies more important than ever. A culture of excellence, strengthened and supported through learning and training, will give your company a team of employees empowered to make your company a leaner, more flexible, and more customer-centered organization ready to outpace rivals and leapfrog the competition when the economy rebounds.

Reprinted with permission. GIE Media. Lawn & Landscape November 2022 (c)

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