Planet Trailblazer

Trailblazer visit

This past week, our trailblazer stopped by our place of business. The trailblazer is a program through the national association of landscape professionals (NALP) in which an experienced veteran in the industry is sent to visit a less experienced entrepreneur. With the Trailblazer program, we are given the choice of whether we want to visit their business, or we want them to visit our business. This year, we opted to have them visit our business since the past two years we visited their business.

Our Trailblazer’s name was Bob and he runs a big fertilizing company down in New Jersey. Although it is not the exact same industry as lawn care, it is similar in that it is still in the green industry and it entails servicing someone’s property repetitively.

We didn’t have much planned for Bob but knew he would be helpful. I had kind of an outline laid out and a rough plan, but figured I would do whatever it was that he suggested we do. I started off by introducing Bob to some of my staff, but focusing on our management. I started to show him our systems, our shop- but right off the bat, kind of abruptly he told me that these are the things that are working for me. Not to be rude, but he wanted to focus on the things that WERE NOT working for me. Which makes sense.

We drove around to a few properties, and since we don’t have an office we went to a couple coffee places and out to lunch. The day actually went by pretty quickly.

We didn’t really dig into any numbers, either, and I am a numbers type of guy. It was more just loose, open, unfocused conversation.

One thing he kept drilling into my head is that the business did not need anyone but ME. Everyone else was replaceable, even people I leaned on the most. I have gotten this advice before, but hearing it again from a different person does help drill it in. It also helps to give you confidence, and changes your behavior and how you look at your employees when you start to hold this type of mentality.

The other main piece of advice he gave me was that I need to start making more decisions. Which I have also heard before. I tend to run the company as a sort of democracy, in that I take into consideration everyones feedback and opinions. I am a very hands off manager, and let things fall into place. Bob’s advice on this was that I should get more involved, take the bull by the horns type of thing, and make things go my way.

Omar, my main man, was agreeing with everything he was saying. He wants me to take more charge and “be more involved”. With the two of them, I did feel very criticized the whole time, but I know he had good intentions.I also disagree with some things-for example, my office manager I give a ton of freedom and decision making power. She is good at it though- and she loves it. Why would I revoke her ability to give contributions, when they are such good contributions? I think that if I were to do that, we would not only lose the benefit of her great contributions, but also definitely decrease her job satisfaction to the point that she may leave us.

For these reaons, I think that my type of management does have some positive things as well that Bob’s business may lack. I will take his suggestions into serious consideration, but I will not completely change my management style.

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