Optimism and leading with positive emotions are crucial differentiators between a good and a great leader in the workplace. The latter leads by reinforcing optimism in the workplace.
This is what Michael Wood, Senior Director of Franchise Operations, US Lawns believes has led to his successful stint as a leader in the green industry. Read his full interview with Kristen Kinsella, Lead – Customer Success at Attentive.ai.
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Setting the tone for the organization
Employees are always better equipped to deal with industry challenges if they are supported by the right work environment. A harmonious workplace brimming with high energy helps workers stay excited about work and deal resiliently with setbacks.
“It’s always been about helping set the tone of the pace of the organization, manage emotions, and lead with optimism. Besides, I’m a huge momentum guy. And I think there will be challenges. But it’s nothing we can’t overcome if we keep moving forward,” remarks Michael.
However, that doesn’t mean you go into things blind. “Instead the focus is on getting accurate data and then being able to speak intelligently and overcome challenges,” he adds.
Top priorities as a leader
The skill of your team holds the key to every problem. Consider the biggest challenges facing the industry right now, such as inflation. Market dynamics cause the prices to shoot up. However, the success of a landscaping business depends on its ability to find people who buy into the success of the organization, place them appropriately within the organization, and help them be more productive with technology.
“From a high-level view, we strive to help the brand grow at an accelerated pace. And give employees, franchisees, and the brand the ability to grow with confidence,” says Michael. It is about keeping momentum, maintaining high energy, and moving ahead with optimism.
This can be done by cleaning up some of the noise, distractions, and things that are getting in the way. “From a tactical standpoint, we’re just committed to providing our franchisees in the home office with best-in-class resources, whether that be technology, tools, or training,” notes Michael.
Delivering on the promises made to the customers is a must. On top of that, consistent branding and communication throughout all channels for the brand and franchisees is key, suggests Michael.
“Branding is super important that starts with its standardized proposals, standardized communication, and certainly standardized delivery of services. That’s our promise to our customers. So, branding is huge, even if you’re outside the franchise model. It’s really important to know who you are to clearly communicate who you are as a business,” mentions Michael.
Top challenges faced
More than 1 million people are employed in the landscape and lawn care sector, which includes 604,163 landscaping service companies, up 4.9% from 2020. However, the industry is now continuously being pulled down by a shortage of labor.
“Labor crunch and uncertainty with the cost of doing business are key challenges. However, another massive challenge is the industry not being open to change. The construction industry has adopted tech way before us and they have developed faster than our industry,” says Michael.
This was also echoed by Shawn Prince, now the Head of Business Development, Attentive.ai, and an industry veteran – “the labor crunch continues to be one of the most pressing concerns, as hiring for field positions is difficult.” However, the adoption of technology can solve many of the challenges by simplifying processes and making them sustainable, as agreed by industry leaders.
Strategies to overcome these challenges
Establish a robust sales program
Establishing robust sales programs can help sales teams overcome a lot of challenges. “In some cases, it’s hard to be the incumbent. Especially when you’re relying on old data, stuck in your old ways, with some preconceived notions,” says Michael.
Read how Attentive.ai can help your landscaping business with end-to-end sales automation. Right from taking site measurements to sending out the proposals, Attentive.ai takes care of everything.
Michael adds that when you’re going into dealing with a new customer, it’s key to consistently find ways to make it work with a solid sales strategy in place.
Michael also emphasizes the power of continuously bringing in new customers. When you bring on a new customer feels good, and adds excitement to the whole organization. It provides new opportunities and helps you overcome some of the rising costs.
Bid with new rates
“Encouraging enhancement sales is another great way to overcome some of those challenges. With rates continually changing, it’s really important to keep bidding for more jobs with new rates. Historically, we’ve seen higher margin work, and this way you can keep up with changing expenses,” says Michael.
Knowing what market verticals are accepting bids, what time of year, and at what sale price is crucial. This way, sales teams know what the close rates are.
Encourage the team to raise service prices consistently
Michael says that working with partners and providing consistent professional-grade services to customers is a must. It’s really hard to have a discussion to increase your prices with a customer if you’re not providing great service to them, he notes.
Invest in tech and eliminate positions needing manual work- have them work on other strategic tasks
“It’s important to continue to invest in technology, certainly to support every area of our business, um, from the sales process, operations in the admin team.” He further explains how technology has helped eliminate repetitive manual tasks.
“For instance, our operational platform was actually able to eliminate one whole admin position in an office by utilizing technology and not having someone manually enter job hours once it’s done so that they can turn that into useful information on an Excel spreadsheet for the owner to make decisions. This is all done instantly. They’ve got access to all the information they need right on their phone,” he adds.
Besides, if tools like autonomous mowers maintain the lawn, it will free up staff to concentrate on more complex chores like trimming, plant diagnosis, estimating, selling, etc. Increased productivity and accuracy can also be provided by drones, online estimating tools, automated sales software, business management tools, and crew tracking apps.
Hiring and retaining the best people
Michael believes that setting the right tempo at the workplace paves the way for more sales opportunities. Staying excited, staying energized, and creating new opportunities are excellent ways to retain the best talent and make the most of them.
“There are enough people out there working in the landscape industry to fill any of your open spots. It’s just that they’re working for somebody else right now. So, how do you get them to come work for you versus the guy down the street? That’s really the challenge.” This can be overcome by bolstering the recruitment and onboarding processes and getting started with employees on the right foot.
How to grow sustainably
One of the best ways to multiply your sales consistently is to stay connected with customers. Providing first-rate services to customers and getting feedback from them should be an active part of your sales strategy.
Amidst constant price increases, companies must make a note of all cost changes. And they must use actionable data to make decisions while taking emotions out of decision-making regarding labor and fuel. “We must use real data to make decisions versus relying on emotions,” he adds.
Besides, it’s smart to keep selling enhancements to overcome rising costs, proposes Michael. When looking for customers, cast a wide net. Why? Because there’s no one singular way to grow your top line. “The funnel of opportunities is really about consistency. Make sure you’re casting a wide net with social media and deploying direct marketing cold calling,” remarks Michael.
While having a robust inside sales team referrals and getting involved in organizations can help but it’s all about consistent efforts. It’s also necessary to keep looking for new ways to get in front of new and existing customers.