January 15, 2009

By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

Jacki HartWelcome to 2009! This is a fresh new year for you and your business. With so much media attention on the economy, I want to make a suggestion for you to consider: Refuse to participate in the ‘recession.’

I have been in this industry since 1979 (ooohh, this year is my 30th anniversary), and I have seen ‘recessions’ come and go. They are sort of like a bad flu. The more that you think about it, the worse you believe it is affecting you. Remember though, in tight economies, historically people tend to stay closer to home, and engage in home improvements, rather than travel. YAHOO! That means US and OUR services!

So, what do training, positive thinking and recessions have to do with you and your career or business? EVERYTHING. The Prosperity Partnership program is about helping improve the prosperity of this industry, one business at a time. It’s 150 down and 3,000 to go.

Hearing from those who have taken the program

After a year’s worth of articles from me about Prosperity Partners, I turn this year over to your peers who have taken advantage of the Prosperity Partners training initiative. Each month I will feature a different company – or two – and let you learn first-hand how this program helped each owner’s ability and confidence to successfully run their company.

To start off, I decided to start at the beginning – with a brand new company – whose owner took the introductory seminar just weeks before ‘opening his doors for business.’ I hope you are as inspired as I am by Grant Harrison’s story. Grant graduated from Humber College’s Landscape Technician course, worked for Forans Fence and Deck, followed by grounds management work at Clintar, prior to starting up his new company.

FEATURE COMPANY: Escapes Outdoor Living Design

Q. When did you start up your company?

A. Spring 2008, just after I took the introductory Prosperity Partners seminar.

Q. What are your primary services?

A.  Playset installations, garden structures including pergolas, arbors and gazebos, decks and fences — some hard and soft landscaping.

Q. What geographical area do you serve?

A. London and surrounding area.

Q. How many staff do you have?

A. One subcontractor and part time helper

Q. What is your company vision that you ultimately hope to create?         

A. To enrich the lives of our customers by exceeding their expectations with the quality and timeliness of our work, and with the professionalism of our employees.

Q. What are the core values that are ‘non-negotiable’ in your every day business dealings?

A. Honesty and integrity with our customers, suppliers and subcontractors.

Q.  What are the things that keep you awake at night most often?

A. Ways to improve the services we currently offer, and the best methods to build the business and yet not let it control me – which after the seminar, I can see how so many people get buried quickly.

Q. What stuck with you the most from the Prosperity Partners Introductory Seminar?

A. I learned a lot at this seminar. The most important thing is to stay focused on what we do and where we are going as a company (equipment purchases, jobs quoted, staffing). To quote you, Jacki, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it with HUGE accuracy.” So now I’m more clear on what I’m aiming at with everything I do. You also taught us to leverage our strengths. To do this, you had us do an inventory of our resources, and from that, and speaking with you afterwards, I decided to leverage the uniqueness and talent of our woodworking skills to other landscapers. This has turned out to be a fantastic way to steadily grow my business, and in a different direction from what I had originally thought.

Another important lesson I took away from the seminar is the importance of ME keeping up with my financial data and the paperwork of running the business (getting invoices out and money collected on time!!!). I really learned from the gap analysis where my blind spots are, and what I am least likely to want to do – but might need to do the most. Now I know what to watch for, and where the gaps are in my business.

The invaluable lessons come from other people’s experiences. The networking/group discussions in the seminar were exciting and informative.

Q. How have you applied the things you learned in order to improve your business?

A. I learned to look at different parts of my business carefully, and to focus on and leverage the strengths I have available. As a result, we have focused the business on wood structures and have been very intentional about networking with other landscape contractors to expand this part of our service.

I have also been staying on top of accounts, payable and receivable, on a daily basis. I am continuing training towards CLP certification – and now understand that even though as my business grows, and I might not be doing every job myself, I need to know what everything looks like when it is being done well, so that I can delegate, hire, train and ensure productive, effective use of our resources.

Also, through the networking and seeing the benefits of being involved with my peers, I am now serving on our local Landscape Ontario chapter board.

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