July 15, 2014
By Dave Braun
LO President

Dave Braun We’ve survived the provincial election. This election was held after one of the harshest winters and during one of the latest springs in recent memory.  

While we were all working as hard as possible trying to maximize our productivity, Ontario provincial candidates were working hard to get our votes. After watching all of the political ads, I got thinking, what if we in the industry acted like politicians?

I think there’s something to be learned by a few glaring examples of what NOT to do on the part of those who aren’t spared the luxury of anonymity. What pitfalls can we try our best to avoid, in order to quite un-politically, under-promise and over-deliver?

Our pitfall is lying to get the job. You could say that George H. W. Bush was simply being overly optimistic when he uttered the now-famous words, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” The fact remains that he couldn’t, or didn’t deliver on that promise.

One of the biggest problems that landscapers have is everyone wanting the job done early in the spring. Nobody wants to lose a job to a competitor, but if you know you won’t meet the deadline, taking it on is usually a mistake. I know a great landscape company that exudes integrity in everything they do, and they simply don’t overextend themselves. They are immediately upfront with what they’re capable of and do not set themselves up for future failure by knowingly committing to an unattainable deadline. Sometimes, however, circumstances outside of our control throw a wrench in our plans. Whether you’re faced with an Iraqi dictator invading Kuwait like Bush, or a particularly wet spring, leaving little room for obstacles, it makes it difficult to keep overly optimistic commitments. I think George Bush would now agree that it’s better to under-promise because when you don’t, you nearly always feel sorry.

Bill Clinton was one of the most penetrating voices to criticize Bush’s blatant over-promise, under-deliver tax pledge. “The mistake that was made, was making the ‘read my lips’ promise just to get elected,” Clinton told Bush in mid-debate. “You just can’t promise,” he continued, “something like that…if you know there’s a good chance that circumstances may overtake you.”

Clinton didn’t know it at the time, but his own decision to shirk the truth in order to keep his voters (or in our case, customers) onside, would lead to the loss of his reputation. Instead of immediately admitting wrongdoing in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal, Clinton stared right into the camera and denied involvement with “that woman.”

Like the effects of Clinton lying to the American people, lying to cover up an error further erodes the trust of your current customer and your credibility with potential customers. People tend to be willing to forgive, and the quicker we admit wrongdoing, the sooner our customers are likely willing to forget.

Rob Ford continuously denied ongoing drug use. It was not until the most recent video showing direct evidence of very recent bad behaviour that Ford decided to check himself into rehab. My take away from this sad tale is that sometimes the truth hurts. We can’t be so defensive that we become deaf to criticism.

Feedback from customers, even when negative, can often create opportunity for improvement, which allows us the opportunity to improve. Sometimes the most glaring sources of inspiration for how to do better are from those who are supposed to be leading the way. If we can learn from the mistakes of public figures like politicians, even though it’s impossible to be perfect, we’re setting our sights in the right direction.
Dave Braun may be reached at dbraun@landscapeontario.com.