Friday, November 30, 2012

Are you pinning? Consider a business account

Did you know Pinterest added a new feature: business accounts? I just read about it today. I'll have to investigate whether it's the right move to convert Landscape Management's account, but I'm leaning toward yes, based on what I've seen so far and based on the fact that it offers analytics.

I encourage you to look into it, too. Or, if you don't already have an account, this may be the time to jump on board. Luckily, Pinterest offers some case studies to show how other businesses are benefiting. One in particular, an interior design firm's, offers some clues for Green Industry businesses. 

See if joining Pinterest or converting to a business account makes sense for you. Then, pin away! --Marisa Palmieri

Friday, November 16, 2012

An altruistic gesture

A landscaping firm is showing that altruism is alive and well. In honor of its 20th anniversary, Blue Ridge Landscape & Design in Winchester, Va., thought it only appropriate to give back to the city that has brought it so much success. So, Blue Ridge has donated 20 trees to the the city's Jim Barnett Park.

Blue Ridge owner Carl Thomas told the local paper, the Northern Virginia Daily: "We wanted to donate something to the city who has really been good to us over the years. [We] started calling it 20 trees for 20 years."

The gesture comes after the city and park lost 200 trees in a storm last summer. The team at Blue Ridge has children who play in the park, and people noticed there were no more shady trees by the playing fields. So, Blue Ridge planted a variety of trees that would provide shade, including dogwoods and maples. 

The generous move is proving to be contagious; two other businesses--Skyview Tree Experts and Greenleaf Tree Service--have each committed to donating 15 more trees. 

The landscaping industry does a lot to show they care about their communities. Way to go, Blue Ridge, for doing your part!

--Beth Geraci

Monday, November 12, 2012

U.S. Lawns makes franchise list

In a report that appears on, Kiplinger rounds up "Seven fast-growing franchises." U.S. Lawns made the cut.

"All have demonstrated solid growth despite the harsh business climate," the site reports, "and none of them require exorbitant startup fees. We focused our search on franchises with growth of 70% or more since 2006 (or 10% or more since 2010 for new franchises). Then we narrowed that list to those with franchise fees of $50,000 or less. Finally, we sorted by franchises in industries that are doing well and are expecting continued growth, according to experts."

Of the Orlando-based firm, the report states that "during hard times, commercial lawn care services are more likely to keep their customers—office parks, shopping centers and municipal centers—than residential services are. Businesses and governments regard lawn care as a business expense, while homeowners tightening their belts regard it as more discretionary. U.S. Lawns doesn't require potential franchisees to have previous landscaping experience. Franchise growth has been impressive: 77% since 2006."

You can see the full list here: Congratulations to U.S. Lawns on the recognition!

— Heather Gooch

Thursday, November 08, 2012

One night only: trading my pen for a mic

I'm a writer and a reporter for a reason. I'm most comfortable behind the keyboard, telephone or notepad as the one asking the questions. That's why I'm nervous but excited to have the tables turned on me by LM friend and columnist Jody Shilan next week. I'll be the featured guest on his FD2B Talk Radio show. We all should get out of our comfort zones every once in a while, right?

At least I'll be discussing a topic I know well: How landscape companies can grab the attention of the media and get featured in various news outlets, like their local papers, regional magazines or the trade press. Let me now if you have any questions you'd like me to address beforehand--or you can even call in live during the show.

If you're not familiar with Jody's show, you should check out some of the archived episodes. Personally, I can't always listen to the show live, but I've made it a habit to tune in to the archives during my commute. There's a lot to learn from some interesting Green Industry players, like Kevin Kehoe (another LM columnist!), Ed Laflamme, Chris Heiler and others. 

Tune in next Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. Eastern. To get updates about the show, click here and click on the "follow" button below the logo.

--Marisa Palmieri

Five steps for successful strategic planning in 2013

By Jeffrey Scott, Landscape Business Consultant

Now is the time to assess this past year and make plans for improved performance next year. Involve your staff and create a strategic plan that everyone can support. Here are 5 steps towards improved profits.

1. Assess your financials. Compare your numbers to last year, and of course, to your budget.  But don't stop there! Assess each of your divisions as separate profit centers in order to see which areas are dragging you down. Then go deeper:  Assess each of your crews as profit centers. Are they all meeting their budgets and making money? Now take it one step further: Assess each of your client types. Are any of them dragging down your profits or simply falling outside your business model for profitability?

For those of you who want to drive your success even further, you should compare your numbers to industry benchmarks. Not just financials, but other key indicators. I have developed a set of these for our Leader's Edge landscape peer group,

2. Set goals that motivate. Update your long-term goals (2 to 5 years), and set your one-year goals. Get your employee buy-in to your goals. Get their input at some point during this process, either in creating the goals or assessing the goals. Also, does your company have a "mission" statement that empowers your employees? Most mission statements are boring and too long! If you have to pay someone to recite it in front of your team, it fails the litmus test. You are better off with a "one sentence" call to action that is emotional and ingrained in everyone. 

3. Create a budget. Set a budget for next year, with clear objectives/milestones and metrics. The budget should not rest on your shoulders to execute. Your employees need to buy in to the budget in order to drive it. It is not enough to have year-end budget numbers; they have to be broken down into monthly objectives, with milestones and clear ways to measure performance. You also need clear assumptions, so as conditions change, you are made aware that you need to make changes in your plans. 

4. Make roles clear. At this point, you want to make sure your roles and job descriptions are clear. Does everyone know who will be doing what? Just as important, you need Relationship Agreements in place, where key employees know how they support one another. (This is the magic sauce to making an organization hum!) Your company should have a clear organizational chart so everyone can see the reporting relationships. You need both a current chart hung on a wall for everyone to see, and a second chart that reflects your 2 to 5 year goal. (This one should have blank roles not yet filled in, shown in a different color, so it is clear when you look at it who you need to be recruiting or training.)

5. Refine incentives. Finally, compensation and incentive plans should be created and fine-tuned. There is a LOT to this, so I will cover this in a separate upcoming blog post. 

A good strategic plan should pass the 3-way test. Is it good for the employees, owners and your clients? Could any one of these groups read your plan, and see that their needs are being met? If not, there is a problem with your plan.

Lastly, careful about setting a goal that is too low. If you are too conservative in the short term, you may not reach your goals in the long term.  Now is the time to win big! The way to stretch your staff, and still keep them excited, is to set a "realistic stretch" goal, one that appears to have a 50-50 chance of being hit. Come up with a goal that stretches your people out of their comfort zone yet still feels possible to hit.

If you need help with any of this, reach out to me at

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author and consultant, grew his landscape company into a successful $10 million enterprise, and he's devoted to helping others share the same success. He facilitates PEER GROUPS for landscape business owners who want to transform and profitably grow their business.  For more info go to, email, or call (203)220-8931.  

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Go vote! And, why we vote on Tuesdays

This is just your friendly reminder to go vote, in case you happen to be poring over the Landscape Management blog and forgot it was Election Day.

Also, in case you were wondering why the heck we vote on Tuesdays, check out this short, enlightening video.

(The quick answer: No good reason, whatsoever, other than tradition. That's why there's a bill to move voting to the weekend, which is expected to improve voter turnout. What a concept.) 

Now, go vote. --Marisa Palmieri

Friday, November 02, 2012

Cryan Landscape Contractors wins award, LM and PLANET partner on one of their own

Kudos to Cryan Landscape Contractors for being named Business of the Year by the North Attleborough, Mass., United Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

Deb Hanson of Design Elements for Business nominated Cryan Landscape Contractors for the award. “I have been providing graphic design services for Kevin Cryan over the past eight years and am constantly impressed at all he does for the community,” she told the North Attleborough Free Press newspaper. “Kevin always goes a step beyond what needs to be done.”

Deadline approaching for entries for PLANET and LM's Community Stewardship Award

Cryan launched the company about 20 years ago in his garage. Today, it's a $3 million company with 20 employees. The company donates work to to local non-profits, including the YMCA and The Literacy Center, and contributes to the United Way of Attleboro-Taunton, the Rotary Club of Attleboro, Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout projects and more. The company will be honored at The United Regional Chamber of Commerce's 96th Annual Dinner and Awards Banquet on Nov. 8.

The time is nigh to submit entries for our joint award with PLANET, so get those applications rolling in! We're proud to be a partner in the Community Stewardship Award, which recognizes PLANET member companies and organizations that contribute to the good of their communities.

From January through June 2013, Landscape Management will feature each winning company separately in the magazine. Each company, selected by PLANET's Public Relations Committee, will then be recognized at PLANET’s Renewal & Remembrance event in July 2013. They'll also be listed on the PLANET website, promoted in its social media and receive a certificate from PLANET honoring their contributions.

All entries must be received by PLANET no later than November 15, 2012. For full details, visit

--Beth Geraci

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Study: Green roofs, walls will soon be a $7.7 billion market

Lux Research reports that "green roofs and green walls, sought to address environmental issues like air pollution, heat-island effect and loss of green spaces in cities, will balloon into a $7.7 billion market in 2017, driven by mandates and incentives by cities across the globe." You can see the entire press release here. Green roofs will be about $7 billion, while green walls will see about $680 million. That's not too shabby for what some deem simply a "green curiosity."

In fact, LM's December issue will feature a Project Portfolio whose centerpiece is a green wall in an indoor space. Rather than a mere curiosity, the installation has become a popular local landmark and meeting place in town.

So now, it's your turn: Are you seeing more requests for green roofs and/or walls for projects? What do you like (or dislike) about installing and maintaining them? —Heather Gooch