January 15, 2015
Over 55 Landscape Ontario members gathered Dec. 4 to take part in the annual Governance meeting.

The day-long discussions, organized by the LO Membership Committee, saw representation from all nine LO chapters and Landscape Contractors and Landscape Designers Sector Groups.

Entitled, You Matter — Growing Landscape Ontario, the day was filled with intent discussions on how each attendee saw the future of the association. Round-table discussions tackled a number of topics, followed by overall deliberations on ideas such as Brainstorming the Future of LO, Member Discounts, and Come Alive Outside.

The round-table topic, Should Meetings be More Formal?, raised the importance of social aspects, relevant guest speakers and topics, maintaining professionalism in running the meetings, the importance of family-focused events, better attendance at evening meetings and attracting new members to meetings.

This round-table was lead by Lindsay Drake Nightingale of Yorkshire Garden Services, Concord.

Host meetings via webinars

Emerging as a topic for future discussion was the idea of having webinars, so more people may engage. The round-table wanted to look at the idea of hosting a meeting where the speaker is plugged-in via the web, such as Skype, with a round-table following the presentation. It was felt this would reduce the costs of having speakers attend.

In the round-table entitled Communications — Making it Happen, led by Terry Childs of Nature’s Way Landscaping in Gananoque, a number of issues were chosen to be future discussions and action items.

Some of these include the need for an updated contact list, keeping the main pages of the websites updated, and adjusting the enews as a way to eliminate the hierarchy of chapters.

Other issues from the round-table were maintaining a list of community projects that Chapters and members are involved in to promote on horttrades.com and the LO website, and a system to sign-in to horttrades.com and select what kind of notifications members want to receive and what format they receive it in. Discussion also took place on better promotion of the Awards of Excellence winners, and setting up emails so that the chapter event info is clickable and can be immediately added into a member’s personal calendar.

The round-table on Distance Communications was led by Laurie-Ann Stuart of LA Gardens in Barrie. This discussion centred around improving electronic communication, such as telecasting chapter meetings, Google hangouts, and seminars online.

New ideas

Some new ideas came from the round-table on Promoting LO to the Public, led by Paul Doornbos CLT, CLP, of Thornbusch Landscaping in Lansdowne.

It was felt that a short form ‘elevator speech’ be prepared so members could better promote what the association is about.  As well, the table wanted to see promoting the message better at chapter levels, so that LO is made aware to the public. It was also felt that LO members could educate their own staff members about LO. “They represent the company, its owner and LO. Can this be incorporated into employee training?”

The other idea was using the Green for Life brand to show the public who we are as members, but also what we do.

Michael LaPorte CLT of Clearview Nursery in Stayner led the round-table discussion on Volunteer Time—Managing Burnout. Issues raised in this discussion centred around boredom, time management, setting limits, succession planning, better communication between staff and volunteers.

The round-table on Peer to Peer was led by Ed Hansen of Hansen Lawn and Gardens in Ottawa. Two main issues were raised in this discussion.

The group’s first recommendation to create a company profile and set goals, connect with another LO member within the association (not just a chapter) who have a similar profile (two new members in the same sector  group) and partner in a mentoring kind of relationship, which would remove the competition between members that are very close geographically.

The second recommendation was creating a foreman swap across chapters to remove the competition, but foster the learning and leadership skills that could be learned from this experience.

The issue of Membership Dues was led by Margot Byers of Ladybird Garden Design of Markdale. The group wants to see a membership dues committee led by Byers to evaluate the fees as well as other topics. Some of the issue includes introductory one-year membership at a different price point than an active membership and creating a membership category for companies with small staff, designers, etc., as their needs are different than larger organizations.

The round-table discussion on the horttrades.com website asked, “Are we giving it away?” This round-table was led by Nick Solty of Solty and Sons in Cookstown.

The group felt that a facelift is needed to make the site more user-friendly.

The group also felt that non-members have too much access to materials that should be exclusive to members, such as professional development, resources and services be reserved for members only. To resolve this, the group wanted the home page to show the logo and basic info, with a box for member and one for non-member. A simple pass code for members would open the entire site.  

The group also wanted to see compatibility with smart phones and the latest technology.

Limit access to members

Other issues were chapter pages having a map showing borders; a password reset by LO at the time of dues renewal, so that companies who do not renew, no longer have access to resources; resources should include how-to videos, seminar videos, and access to board meeting minutes; a better search system; online magazine should be password protected for members only; when clicking on tabs it should open a separate page, as now you are taken away to the other website, making it difficult to return to horttrades site; and ability to pay and view educational seminars through website.

Membership Committee chair Lexi Dearborn of Dearborn Design and Associates of Barrie, says that from the meeting, regional gatherings will take place. The groupings will include Ottawa, Upper Canada and Durham in one region, Golden Horseshoe, Toronto and Georgian Lakelands joining together and Waterloo, Windsor and London in another regional meeting.

Dearborn says that from these meetings, notes and updates will be analyzed to formulate a plan. Specific issues that came out of the Governance meeting are creating updates to LO websites horttrades.com and landscapeontario.com.