April 15, 2010

By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

Jacki HartIt’s April! And for an industry of plant lovers and outdoor space creators, we’re off to the races. We are launching into crisp spring mornings with enthusiasm, passion, and hopefully an improved plan and systems created from this month last year. For us all, the professional development season is officially over for the next six months.

Did you manage to learn the stuff you planned to this winter? Have you put it in place? If you joined the Prosperity Partners program, or continued your prosperity journey this past winter, you have a great business kit to use to improve all areas of your business. It’s one step at a time.

That’s how we developed the Prosperity Partners program, one step at a time. We asked, you told us, and here it is – a program designed to demystify the frustrations of business, and get you on the right track; your track. What we figured out, is that members know they must learn to run their businesses better.

It is far easier to request training on a particular skill than it is to actually learn it. When seminar participants fill out feedback forms at Congress conference seminars, or any LO-organized training venue, we listen, and we build courses and lectures around your requests. Build it and they will come? Only in a perfect world that would be true.

In the Prosperity Partners seminars, we talk quite a bit about this phenomenon. It’s the same reason why you might have lots of unread books and pristine study guides among the well thumbed plant, landscape and technical books on your shelves. As adults, we will unconsciously choose to improve our skills in preferred tasks, rather than start to learn beginner skills in something we don’t like doing. This happen over and over again. It is why most landscape owners tend to lean away from the office work, and instead, stay outside most of the time.

Most green industry businesses will see the owner(s) on a regular basis in the yard and on the job. He/she is passionately tending to the operations and production of the business. And, they studiously avoid ‘the numbers’ found in billing, collecting, training, paperwork and difficult conversations.

It’s a true that many of our members know what they ‘should’ learn. It’s obvious in the information found in various feedback forms. Most requests revolve around improving profit, work-life balance and people management – all of which is baked into the Prosperity seminar offerings. And then many do not sign up, or if they do, don’t show up. The technical skills courses are full. Hmmmm. Imagine that. An industry passionate about producing beautiful plants and landscapes, and yet the technical skills courses are full of professionals who already hold technical skills. They already are great at at the very thing for which they study in the course.  

Meet homo sapiens habitformensis. It’s human nature to lean into the stuff we like and lean away from that which we don’t. We regularly throw the cover on that cage into which we’ve shoved that ‘little bird’ that usually tweets around the subconscious with advice from the gut – the stuff which quietly nags at us now and again. It’s the, ‘ya I know I should but...’ stuff.

We avoid change

In the same way that we avoid learning new stuff (as adults), we avoid changing stuff. Status quo, please. Change is uncertain. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. We innately avoid being uncomfortable. We stay in our comfort zone by nature. And this limits our capacity to learn new opportunities, technologies and trends if we don’t leap out of the comfort zone into the deep abyss of uncomfortable, unfamiliar and the potentially unsafe.

Let that word linger for a moment. Unsafe. It is the biggest paradigm shift I’ve seen business owners take – to realize that when people are fearful, they contract and stop exploring. Alternatively, when people feel safe, they can expand and explore. Creating the atmosphere in your workplace, which supports the impression that this is a safe place to learn, is paramount to making sustainable changes in business finances, team dynamics, levels of team engagement, and positive productivity. When people feel threatened by change, they resist. When change is clearly explained and measured, they will accept it and allow you to assess and improve. The Prosperity Partners program has created a safe, peer-supported way to learn how to improve all of these things in your business.

The single-most common issue I hear business owners discuss is rooted somewhere in the behaviour of their staff. Yet, most admittedly continue learning about technical skills, and keep complaining about their people.
In the Prosperity Partners program, we have the answers to many of the people management issues that are as perennial in most businesses as the plants we install. We know how important it is for you to be able to recognize the things that you will naturally lean away from in your business – and we know how to make it relatively painless to navigate your way through to a better team, better company and better results.

So, as spring unfolds, the wheelbarrow tires are pumped back up and you race off in all directions doing what you do best, keep a notebook in the glovebox, and at end of every day, write down what you did best, and what frustrated you the most. When you look back at it later in the season, my guess is that you might surprise yourself with your broad scope of ‘bests’ – and that your biggest frustrations can be drastically prevented for next year (or the fall) by taking the Prosperity Partners Building Your Prosperity seminar, Best Practices or Round Table Solutions seminars. Bookmark www.horttrades.com/prosperity for updated information.

Improving your business is a journey. Being an owner is a lonely place – and we know that. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed this spring, because your business seems to be running you, come and take advantage of the Prosperity journey. You won’t regret it, and it might just make your life a whole lot easier.

Jacki Hart may be reached at prosperity@landscapeontario.com.