January 1, 2013

Landscape management credentials:

A Canadian leadership story


Why should a green industry pro take steps to earn management certification? Bob Tubby is clear-eyed and realistic that three letters after his name will not drive customers to beat down his door. But he does say the benefits are real: earning the designation will upgrade skill sets, regardless of starting level. Since everybody needs operating capital, a management designation gives you the skill and credibility to deal with banks and lenders. It will increase your confidence and, used wisely, improve your business.

Tubby’s company, Arbordale Landscaping, in Toronto, is widely respected for its professionalism. Tubby participated in introducing landscape industry management certification to Canada; he was one of the high-profile industry members asked to review the program’s material, specifically the financial management module, before its launch. The Landscape Industry Certified Manager program came to Canada about 10 years ago under the Certified Landscape Professional brand; Canadian certified managers continue to use the initials CLP after their names.
Bob Tubby’s educational background is the Humber College landscape program. He supplemented his landscape education by taking every business course he could find —  from personnel and marketing to launching a small business. At that time, there was no landscape management designation to provide an educational outline; today, he believes its modules present the ideal structure for learning. In Tubby’s opinion, the specialized business content of the CLP program should be seamlessly integrated into horticulture training, and students should graduate as CLPs.

When it comes to professionalism, how does one quantify that Tubby and his company “get it”? Tubby points to several objective measures. His company has stable finances and consistent profitability. Staff retention is exceptional; employees have been on board for 11, 18, 25, and even 29 years of his company’s 30-year history. Built-in systems ensure project efficiency, and he has systems in place to analyze the profitability of any job — in 15 minutes. Tubby says consistently applying financial analysis to field projects lets you understand where you make money. His callback rate is below two per cent.

At one time, Arbordale Landscaping did maintenance in addition to its core construction business. Analysis told Tubby his maintenance jobs were not making much profit; so he turned to a more lucrative niche, founding a second company, Moonstruck Landscape Lighting. “Moonstruck was born because of profitability,” he says.

Of course, a business is more than its numbers. Sharing a sandwich with employees around Arbordale’s company lunch table reveals a team that is cooperative, respectful, professional and sincere.

Tubby is a soft spoken but powerful business mentor and advocate for management certification. He believes sound business foundations are paramount for the industry and so, in addition to promoting management certification, he founded Landscape Ontario’s Prosperity Partnership (www.horttrades.com/prosperity). The program helps entrepreneurs build a practical framework for profitability. “Guys who are in the business because they love landscaping tend to fail,” says Tubby. “Profit motivation should be key. I love business, and I enjoy numbers.” Behind the scenes, Tubby has helped countless landscape businesses grasp the tools to succeed.

In practical terms, Tubby has advice on how a perpetually-busy business owner should approach earning the designation: “Save it for the winter. Make study appointments for yourself, set deadlines, and consider it part of your job description. Do not put study for certification into a separate pile; this is your job, too.”

Persuading green industry pros to attain landscape management certification is a tough sell, no question. Tubby responds to the challenge by pointing to the evidence: not one of his associates regrets the time or effort invested to earn this distinction. In fact, the benefits of recognition as a pro are about to accrue to a new generation; Tubby’s son Blake is just starting on the same journey.

The path to landscape management certification
Now is a great time to pursue the Landscape Industry Certified Manager designation, offered through Canada’s provincial trade associations. To earn the designation, candidates must complete written examinations on the program’s seven modules. Detailed information can be found at www.cnla-acpp.ca/CertifiedManager, where you may also order study manuals. Evaluation opportunities scheduled for 2013, to date, follow. Contact your provincial association for details or additional exam dates.

March 1-2               Victoria, B.C.
March 26-27           Olds, Alta.
April 19-20              Truro, N.S.
July 5-6                  Langley, B.C.
July 18-19              Milton, Ont.
September 26-27    Kemptville, Ont.
October 10-11        Milton, Ont.
October 18-19        Langley, B.C.
November 1-2         Truro, N.S.