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Archive for the ‘business’ Category

DIY paperwork

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Here’s a great resource available from Marty: a big stack of business forms ready to integrate into your operation. Everything from HR to production to sales.

Check it out today – it might save you a few years of headaches.


August 14th, 2013 at 7:18 pm

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Class and candor for unhappy clients

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Ben Bowen at Ross NW Watergardens in Portland today has a good read on negative Yelp reviews, and the frustration that comes from dealing with these anonymous and unfiltered review sites.

Short version: The company got a bad review from someone they’ve never done work for.

Longer version from Ben:

What makes this really frustrating is what we didn’t do. We didn’t prune the wrong bush. We didn’t burn the lawn. We didn’t install a leaky water feature. In fact, we never did any work for the person at all.

W.S. left us a 1 star review based on a missed appointment. I believe I know who W.S. is. And I think I know what happened. If he had left the review using his name I would certainly reach out to him.

To W.S. I would like to say: “I’m sorry that I missed the appointment. I obviously misunderstood our last email exchange. Can I send you a Starbuck’s card for your trouble?”

Ben handles this with class and candor. He wrote a great piece for us earlier this year about dealing with unhappy customers, and it’s nice to see him practicing what he preaches.

It’s a great, quick read, and you can find it here.


August 13th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

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From biggest to best

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In the early days, Bob Pedatella wanted his company, Kodiak Landscape Design in Haskell, N.J., to be one of the biggest on the block.

But working to get his hardscape company through the recession and fighting for every scrap of market share he can get has changed that outlook.

Before, I used to be proud of how big we were and how many trucks we had,” he says. “Now, I’m proud to be in business. I don’t need 100 trucks to make money. And I’d rather have 50 quality accounts than 100 that don’t pay me on time.”

You can read more from Pedatella and how he’s focused Kodiak on quality, not quantity, in our September issue.


August 1st, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Caffeine-enhanced data

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This is a chalkboard a friend of mine sent me from a coffee shop in England.

I’m keen on any kind of data, especially when I can pore over it with an ample supply of coffee. But what I like most about this is that the shop is explaining to customers (and employees) in real time how business is going, and how much they’re making.

It’s sort of like the 100 penny story: Your crew leader is complaining about how you never buy new equipment/pay him poorly/etc. So you sit down at your desk and pour out 100 pennies. You show him how many it takes to pay for wages, how much for overhead, how much for marketing. At the end of the story, you’ve (basically) organized your annual budget in tiny piles, and your crew leader has a better understanding of where all your revenue goes.

I hear from a lot of owners who say they wish their crews would think like more like them – worry about the P&L and understand how their actions in the field each day effect the company’s bottom line.

Something like this might not be a bad idea.


July 9th, 2013 at 8:15 am

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Keeping it in the family

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A great story today in the NYT earlier this month about Brooke Denihan Barrett, co-CEO of Denihan Hospitality Group, and the culture at her business as it relates to employing family members.

The interviewer asked her about the culture at her company, and she described it as a big family, then sort of corrected herself. Here’s the money quote:

But I always have to be careful when I use that word “family,” because a lot of times it can be misinterpreted as taking care of people to the point of not holding them accountable. You have to set certain standards that you want people to live up to. And if people need help, then we want to help them along the way.

I think people naturally want to do the right thing, and do their jobs well. Sometimes organizations can fall down if they don’t also ask: How do you give people the tools they need to be successful? How do you get that person to understand what change needs to happen, and how do you help them along the way? Because people can’t always figure it out on their own, and nor should you expect them to.

I love her focus on having standards to hold everyone accountable. And it’s the owners job to ask the questions – regardless of the employee’s last name – like “What else do you need from me or this company to be successful?” or “Do you know what’s expected of you?”

We cover family businesses almost every issue, but we gave three of them the cover a couple of years ago to find out in detail how they make it work.

Thanks to Marty for the link.


May 28th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

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Lifestyle business vs. enduring enterprise

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Great post this week from Jim McCutcheon at his blog:

I am not running a company; I am building a business.

How many business owners can truthfully say this?  I am proud to say I can.  It has not always been this way but it has always been a goal. The moves I have made over the years have gotten me to this point.  This is a critical step in building an enduring enterprise.

I believe that business owners must have a personal vision and a vision for their business.  And it goes without saying that they must be aligned.

The personal vision starts with deciding what kind of company you want to build.  In my mind there are two kinds: the lifestyle business and the enduring enterprise.

Click here to read up on both kinds, and why you can only have one.


February 22nd, 2013 at 2:31 pm

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Making a million

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Making a million is quite a achievement in the industry. We’ll feature a piece in our March issue about how exactly hit that goal. In the meantime, check out what Dave Fairburn, president, and Andrew Pelky vice president of NP Holdings, an outdoor property services company in New England, said about making the mark.

The achievement “gave us a point where we could breathe,” Fairburn said  However, “we simply reached a benchmark which will lead to others”   He said it’s not an end mark.  It simply gives the company a moment to pause, reorganize, and plan our next steps.

“I processed it, and I haven’t really thought about it again until your magazine has asked us this question,”Pelkey said.  “What this is really about, is that we are on this planet for only 80 or 90 years. It’s what we do to exercise our minds for that time to feel fulfilled. This is not to understate the value of a million dollars; it is just to value the million dollars in terms of life.”

Some good insight about reaching a goal, but not settling for it.

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February 15th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Quick hits with Huston

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Longtime L&L columnist Jim Huston was in town last week, and he stopped into our offices for a quick visit en route to Michigan.

Jim spends a fair amount of time on the road, speaking at various conferences and visiting with clients. Apart from the bounty he brings in from his travels, he always has an interesting perspective on the industry. Here are three quick points he made during our talk.

  • By and large, contractors have adjusted to the economy and it’s sporadic and anemic growth during the past few years. Those who survived the recession have learned how to grow in trying times.
  • One of those ways to grow – cutting overhead and getting lean – has worked, to a point. Many contractors have leaned out as far as they can go.
  • Housing markets – traditionally such a driver of the landscape industry – are up across the country, which bodes well for many.

All in all, he hears positive things from his audiences and clients, which dovetails with what I’ve been hearing in my own travel and reporting as well.

You can get more from Jim every month in his column.


January 29th, 2013 at 5:43 pm

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Naked apologies: the art of pleasing an unhappy customer

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Ben Bowen (no relation), the landscape manager at Portland’s Ross NW Watergardens. He’ll be contributing to From the Field more this year. I encourage you to check out more of his stuff here.

Is there a business that doesn’t have to deal with unhappy customers?

I asked myself that question and immediately thought of my local humane society. Who could possibly be upset with the folks who rescue abandoned cats and dogs? Curious, I looked up some reviews online. Sure enough, they had a high number of glowing reviews – and a handful of dreadful reviews from genuinely upset customers. If a non-profit that saves puppies can’t keep all of its customers happy, what chance do the rest of us have?

Managing your customers’ complaints isn’t about your landscaping expertise or even your business acumen. The whole thing relies on your interpersonal skills. Here are three simple tools to get you headed in the right direction.

1. Look in the mirror. It’s easy to say that you make mistakes. But can you own up to specific errors? When confronted by a client who is unhappy with your work, assume the client is correct. Try to understand how you or your company caused (or at least contributed to) the client’s issue.
Haggling over blame is a waste of your time, energy and any goodwill you have built up with the client.

2. Master the “naked apology.” This is not nearly as exciting as it sounds. Be quick to apologize. And if you are going to swallow your pride, you might as well make it work for you. Give a “naked apology” – no justifications or explanations attached. Just say the issue is your fault, you’re sorry and that you will make it right. Clients will respect you for it.

3. Examine your bedside manner. A recent study found that while all doctors make mistakes, not all get sued for malpractice. Which doctors get sued? The ones who make mistakes and had poor bedside manner. Doctors who took a little extra time with a patient, could make a joke and appeared to care were much less likely to be sued – even when they made major errors.

We can all learn from this. Take just a little bit of time to really talk – and listen – to clients. Be nice. When problems arise your client won’t feel that she needs to punish you with a bad review – or worse.

Yes, customer complaints are an unavoidable part of business. Sometimes it’s clear cut: A customer has a problem that you can fix. Other times you find yourself with a problem customer – a client you just can’t seem to please. Either way, if you approach your client’s issues with skill and art you can keep them, not just as clients, but as happy clients.


January 22nd, 2013 at 8:11 am

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Great post from Seth Godin this week:

When making a b2b sale, the instinct is always to get into the CEO’s office. If you can just get her to hear your pitch, to understand the value, to see why she should buy from or lease from or partner with or even buy you… that’s the holy grail.

What do you think happens after that mythical meeting?

Read the rest here to find out.

(h/t to Scott Brickman for passing this one along)


December 20th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

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