June 15, 2014
By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

Jacki HartLast month in Part 1, I predicted that the communication processes set up in each business among staff, customers and managers would be coming apart at the seams by now.

Many of you are probably scrambling to keep on top of the sense of urgency that every client creates for his project, order or property needs. Communication at all levels is unravelling. You ask yourself why you and your staff never seem to get it all pulled together when it really counts.

Years ago my friend and mentor, Jean Paul Lamarche, gave me this sage advice. He told me that in order to become a better captain of the ship, I needed uncharted waters to hone my skills. At the time, I thought he was just offering a bit of friendly lip service to get my spirits back up in an impossibly busy and complex spring. In June of that year, the combination of a messy marital breakdown and intensive business challenges drove me to my knees. The year 2006 was my ‘make or break Jacki’ year. I’m still here, and I truly believe I am a better captain of my ship as a result. JPL was very right.

What I now know for sure is, when you’re in the thick of it and it’s completely counter intuitive to stop dead in your tracks and take the time to think and communicate clearly, is the time when you need to do it most. Let me give you an example.

My new business partner Karen is a VERY smart lady. She is focused, passionate about success, and very capable — and right now, she’s managing like I did 10 years ago. She and I are like two halves of the same brain. Just like many people in our industry, right now, Water’s Edge is in the thick of it, and Karen is running 90-plus hours a week connecting dots; herding details; receiving, sorting and shipping plants; hiring; firing and answering phones. You can add to this list I’m sure. I can’t drink enough coffee to keep up with her.

I watched her in action this morning, thinking about this article, and, thinking about you. I have met so many readers of this column through Prosperity Partners, and at this time of year I always wonder if what I write here makes a difference.

Here’s what happened today: Two growers showed up with large deliveries in our yard at 7:30 a.m. They were an hour late. We discovered we’d had a break-in on the weekend and plants were stolen for projects scheduled this week. Two people called in sick and three new employees were starting and needed paperwork, uniforms, etc. Our weekly lead hand meeting was jammed with tons of questions. We realized we forgot to book a barge. The Internet was down (again), and our schedule, etc. is in the cloud. Maybe this sounds like the start to one of your recent weeks.

With the utmost respect, I watched Karen on this particular morning run up and down the office stairs seven times in 10 minutes. She was juggling so many things that she wasn’t able to do any of them to her best ability. She was making more work for herself, and was wound-up tighter than an eight-day clock. When the crews were all out of the gate, I convinced her to sit down and create a deliveries schedule for the week, juggling hundreds of plants, yards of this and that, people and places in an orderly efficient way. What she thought she didn’t have the time to do, ended up being the most effective 10 minutes she spent all morning. Instead of being jostled about in the chaos of more moving parts than one person could possibly manage, she took time out to literally get her bearings, chart a course, and could then move on with priorities and a plan.

Ten minutes later, I went out to the nursery, and there she was calmly sorting and blocking-out plants for delivery later that day, and the rest of the week. She was busy, but un-frazzled and focused. Imagine that.

So, guess what I’m doing. It’s counterintuitive, but by reading this, I’m getting you to do what this column is all about – SLOW DOWN. Take a breath. Shift your mind from the rough waters. Give yourself some mental space, squeeze out of the vice, and sit with me for a moment. Listen carefully.

In the most stressful, busy, jam-packed time of the year, I promise that if you slow down long enough to look at the rough seas around you, and take stock of your current position, you can re-set a course toward less chaos. Right now, you need to slow down to go faster. I promise.

When you’re feeling like your head is jammed in the company vice and if you let up, it will trigger a switch and blow everything up — please take this advice to constantly force yourself to take stock, chart a course, set priorities, delegate, communicate, connect dots and keep the balls in the air. You should do this for at least 10 minutes every day; preferably every morning, AND again in the afternoon. No phones, no email, no texts. Check your notebook for loose ends (see last month’s article), and manage your day so that you can manage the communication and resources within your business to the best of your ability.
Jacki Hart may be contacted at prosperity@landscapeontario.com