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NALP members attended the 2018 Leaders Forum at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Photo by Brian Horn

The National Association of Landscape Professionals hosted their 2018 Leaders Forum in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Jan. 25-27 where employee motivation was a main topic. Here are some highlights from the event.

Why employees show up.

When you take a look at your staff, there’s a good chance that only 30 percent of the group is highly engaged in their job. About 50 percent are not engaged and are just there for a paycheck. Even worse, 20 percent are highly disengaged.

Erica Dawson with the Samuel Curtis Johnson School of Management, Cornell University, gave those numbers during her keynote, “Why we work.”

“There is a disconnect over what managers do to motivate and what actually motivates the employee.” – Sean Martin, assistant professor, Boston College

“If you have 10 employees only 3 are saying they are actively into the work they are doing,” she said. While the 20 percent who are highly disengaged is basically a lost cause, the 50 percent who are not engaged can be won over, Dawson said.

They may enjoy the job, but it’s not a place of satisfaction. Happiness is judged by how far away they are from their weekend.

“This is a huge missed opportunity in the workforce,” Dawson says. “There is a lot more that is possible for these people.”

But before you just throw money at them, even if that is what they ask for, realize that may not be the best solution to making that employee more engaged.

“There’s not a lot of evidence this is true,” she said of just increasing pay. “Pay is unrelated to work satisfaction.”

Dawson said the best way to engage employees is to find out their core values and bridge those values to the job.

Core values aren’t the following: Competencies – things you are good at; shoulds – “I should have more control, I should have stood up for myself;” wishes; or a company motto or virtues.

“Your core values are much more personal than that,” she says. “Your values are really your north star.”

To discover your core values, Dawson recommends looking to someone you admire and asking yourself what is so compelling about that person. Also look to moments where you sacrificed something – look at the reason why you made the sacrifice and the answer could lead to a core value. Finally, talk to someone about a “peak moment” in your life and explain why you felt so happy about that moment.

If you can find out your employees’ core values, you can craft their job to mean more to them.

This is what you should be doing as a business owner, “Instead of finding a bigger bonus for somebody,” Dawson said.

Erica Dawson of Cornell University says keeping employees happy goes beyond just increasing their pay.

Photo by Brian Horn

Motivating forces.

Sometimes a gift card to a nice restaurant isn’t the best way to recognize an employee’s good work.

Such was the case for a client of Sean Martin’s, when the assistant professor at the Carol School of Management at Boston College was a business consultant. This client always gave employees a gift card to an upscale restaurant to show the company’s appreciation for a job well done.

Except one day, an employee gave the gift card back to the human resources manager. The HR manager couldn’t believe it because the manager would love a gift card there, Martin said.

But the employee explained the gift card meant she had to buy a nice dress, find a babysitter and if they go over the gift card amount, it’s money out of her pocket.

“There is a disconnect over what managers do to motivate and what actually motivates the employee,” Martin said. Martin’s session, “Diversity that is hard to see: Motivation and the psychology of social class,” at the Leaders Forum dealt with how lower income employees view motivation differently compared to upper class employees.

Here are some tips from Martin on hiring and retention:

  • Stay away from groups. When you want unfiltered feedback on your company, don’t ask employees in a group setting. They won’t give honest feedback, or maybe any feedback. “They are afraid of looking stupid,” he said.
  • Invite conversation. Martin said to avoid telling people, “Don’t bring me a problem unless you have a solution.” That’s a great deterrent in finding out about problems in your company.
  • Understand priorities. Martin said studies show that people from lower class incomes prioritize community/family more than any job. “That social capital they develop in their community is far more important than a paycheck,” he said.
  • Put in extra effort. Martin said many lower income employees don’t want to speak up when there is a problem because they operate under a “don’t complain, don’t speak up” point of view. “You might have to put in an extra effort,” to train the workers to speak up, Martin said.
  • Illustrate the value of the work. A study was done with low wage people who made calls to solicit donations for a university. The job was so bad it had 350 percent turnover. The study broke the employees into two groups.

One group continued to do the job as is, and the other group had lunch with students who received scholarships because of the phone calls the employees made. A week after that lunch, a number of job performance measures increased including donations and phone calls made for the group who had lunch with the students.

UNFILTERED thoughts.

The CEOs Unplugged panel featured: Paul Fraynd, Sun Valley Landscapes; Chris Joyce, Joyce Landscapes; Jennifer Lemcke, Weed Man USA; Jason Mathers, Monarch Landscapes; and Mark Tomko, Metco Landscape.

The panel, facilitated by Scott Jamieson, vice president of community partnerships & Midwest division leader with Bartlett Tree Experts, touched on topics such as work/life balance, managing email and morning routines. Below are some lessons from the panel:

  • Describe the position. Mathers said his company was losing people as it grew. The employees would fit when the company was one size, but as the company grew bigger those people weren’t a good fit anymore and they would be fired. To stop the turnover, the company began doing profiles of key performers and use them as a benchmark of who would fit at the company and then write a job description. As the employee was mentored, Mathers could track key indicators and work on the areas the employee was struggling. If it didn’t work out and you had to fire someone, you could pinpoint the area that caused it.
  • Accept reality. As business owners and executives, Lemcke said sometimes you have to accept you can’t be all things to all people, and sometimes a good work life balance isn’t possible. “Once I accepted that I gave myself a little bit of a break,” she said. Joyce said he started to realize that he wasn’t always going to be the best dad and learned to accept it. “Let’s be honest, you do what you have to do,” he said.
  • Rise and shine. Fraynd said he doesn’t look at his phone for an hour after waking up, and it’s helped him ease into his days. Joyce goes to a 7/11 for coffee every morning where he can hear the same group of guys sit at a table and complain about life as he gets his coffee. He then drives to work and has his fill of negatives for the day. When he’s at a meeting he reminds everyone attending to be positive and not become a member of the “Breakfast club of broken dreams.”

Sponsors of the event included: Caterpillar (Platinum), Bayer (Gold), John Deere (Silver). Other sponsors included: Toro, Aspire, GIE+EXPO, Syngenta, Bartlett Tree Experts, Gravely and Vermeer.

NALP updates.

NALP Executive Director, Sabeena Hickman said the organization has seen 35 percent growth, and will continue with their focus on increasing the workforce through moves like their career website and a planned career day in April.

The winner is.

NALP also handed out some awards. Woman Entrepreneur of the Year: went to Jennifer Lemcke, COO Weed Man USA. Lemcke has been with Weed Man for more than 25 years, working alongside her husband, Chris, and father, Roger Mongeon, CEO of Weed Man. Lemcke has been instrumental in the growth of the franchising of the company in the U.S., recently reaching the $100 million milestone. Lemcke said when she is at industry events she is usually the only woman in the room, but recently taught a class at Brigham Young University and half of the classroom was female students.

“It was very encouraging,” she said.

Lifetime Leadership Award: Frank Mariani, CEO of Mariani Landscape in Lake Bluff, Illinois. Mariani is the second generation to run the family-owned Mariani Landscape, building it into an award-winning company, servicing some of the most prestigious properties in the Chicago area.

Mariani said one of the most important lessons he’s learned during his decades in the industry was that not everyone was like him.

“I lost a lot of good people that way,” he said. “You can learn from those mistakes you make and share them with somebody else so they won’t make the same mistake.”

Six areas to insure

Knowing what standard insurance covers will keep your business protected. By Lauren Rathmell

Marc McTeague, partner with SeibertKeck Insurance, has been involved in insuring green industry businesses for about 25 years.

During MGIX 2018 in Columbus, Ohio, McTeague broke down a few standard areas of insurance and why these things should be covered.

Stuff that sits still.

This is your building, the contents inside and any of your inventory. “If you lease your building, you absolutely need water/fire legal liability coverage,” he said. Anything inside your building is known as “contents,” even if it can be moved. Mowers and other equipment are all considered “contents.”

Stuff that moves.

Large equipment, trucks, rented equipment and some materials need to be covered by insurance for when they are in transit or operation.

Your people.

McTeague said employees can be the most dangerous part of your business in terms of liability.

The “people” side of your insurance includes workers’ compensation both in state and out of state and employment practices liability.

Marc McTeague of Seibertkeck Insurance said to “have an umbrella policy” with additional protections to help your business.

© gt29 | iStockphoto

“Employment practices liability covers all those ‘isms’ you could encounter,” he said. “This includes racism, sexism, ageism, harassment and wage or hour disputes.”

McTeague said this type of coverage is essentially paying for your attorney if a situation occurs. But, companies need to understand that this may only apply to intracompany incidents.

He also suggested having key person life insurance. If something were to happen to a key player in your company, there would be life insurance on that person.

Your work.

Insuring your work will protect your products, property damage, subcontractor relationships and even mistakes.

“Error and omissions coverage will cover you if you misread a plan and have to restart your entire project. You will have a cushion with that coverage,” he said.

Having insurance on property damage will protect anything that may be damaged while in your care, custody or control. Additionally, when using a subcontractor, they are covered as if they are part of your company with this type of insurance. However, McTeague recommended subcontractors also get their own insurance to be safe.

Your customer.

You will be able to insure anything in your care, custody or control on a jobsite. McTeague also considers issues regarding client feelings. These third-party employee policies cover liability claims brought by nonemployees like customers and clients.

The public.

Companies should consider additional protections for your business. You’ll also want to look into your liability when it comes to issues in neighboring properties. For instance, if you’re spraying a yard and the wind carries the chemical next door and kills all the flowers. “You must have an umbrella policy,” McTeague said. “Everyone needs this no matter your size.”

Industry Legislation: A look at legislative concerns

Pesticide bans and restrictions, immigration laws and leaf blower restrictions are just a few legislative topics the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) is looking at this year. And digging deeper to the state and local levels, even more of these topics emerge. With that in mind, NALP appointed Bob Mann to serve as its director of state and local government relations in September, which was a newly created position.

“It’s not something that the association hasn’t done before, but it’s the first time we’ve had a position with this label on it,” Mann said.

Prior to working with NALP, Mann served as an agronomist for Lawn Dawg. He was a landscape industry certified lawn care manager and certified pesticide applicator in six states. However, he also had experience helping with local and regional policies in Massachusetts, as well as with serving as president of the Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals.

Lawn & Landscape met with Mann to learn more about his new position at NALP and which legislative issues are of the most concern to the association this year.

Lawn & Landscape: Why did NALP add the position of director of government relations again last year? Are there more legislative issues than usual?

Bob Mann: Politics is like a pendulum. It goes back and forth between the extremes. For a very long time, there wasn’t a lot of activism on the state or local level. Most of that activity was taking place at the federal level, especially with prior administration. With the election of Donald Trump and his selection of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, you notice that of course there’s downsizing of the agency, a lot of people let go and things they were doing over prior administration were either shut down or restricted. You notice that activism is now reverting to the state level. And in speaking with friends who happen to be on the other side of the argument, they recognize that this is a trend. They embrace it and say this is our opportunity to affect change at the state and local level. Now there is activism at the local level, that wasn’t there a couple of years ago.

L&L: So, do you see more of these bans emerging in communities?

Mann: Yes, I think that’s where that is trending now. You see anti-pesticide groups that are mobilizing localities to work on a ground swell at local levels. The current hotspot for this kind of activity is in the Portland, Maine, area. The Portland City enacted the most stringent pesticide ordinance in the country back in January on a unanimous vote.

This ordinance, and similar ones in South Portland and Ogunquit, Maine, exist in the absence of state pre-emption of pesticide regulations in Maine, one of a handful of states that do it this way. Anti-pesticide activists organized in these communities a couple of years ago giving one-sided and open-ended presentations to political boards with the intention of enacting local ordinances. Once passed, the activists use the victories as leverage in the next fight.

We saw this when a bill that would strip state pesticide pre-emption was debated in Massachusetts in October 2017.

An activist testified in front of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture telling of their success in getting local ordinances passed in Maine and how wonderful it would be if they could do that in Massachusetts.

L&L: Are there any other laws emerging in the last year that are concerning to you?

Mann: We see there’s a particular class of insect controls that we use that are called neonicotinoids. It’s an insecticide that’s used extensively in agriculture and also in horticulture and lawn care. The beauty of these insecticides is they’re systemic in nature. You apply it, it goes in the plant so there’s not an awful lot of it on the outside, so it doesn’t have a lot of effect on non-target insects. Then (there is) colony class disorder. This is a problem with managed honey bee colonies where the bees would just fly away. Where’d they go?

They don’t know where they are. Another symptom is they drop dead outside the hive. There was great deal of concern as to why these bees were acting this way – there were tremendous losses up to 40 to 60 percent of the hives were being destroyed. If you are on the outside and don’t understand what the reason is, it’s very easy to go and say, “It must be pesticide.” A knee jerk reaction.

It took a lot of research to dive into it. And we found out it was sort of a multifactorial kind of thing – there’s a lot of things going on with it.

But if you happen to be an anti-pesticide advocate, you just want to remove pesticides from the market regardless of the reason. You seize upon something like this and say, “Let’s go after that.” There have been a number of bills filed across the country that seek to either restrict or eliminate the use of neonicotinoids regardless of whether they’re a problem or not.

L&L: Are there any regions of the U.S. where anti-pesticide advocates are more common?

Mann: Yes – it’s a red state, blue state equation. Up in the northeast where the states are very blue, there’s an awful lot of activism. I live in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and there’s a lot of activism up there. And all the way down the corridor into D.C., those are all very blue areas. But you don’t find a lot of activism in agricultural states. In more rural areas, people have more intimate knowledge of pesticides because they live in farming communities. So, it’s really down to a red state, blue state equation in my estimation.

L&L: What are some other challenges NALP is looking into?

Mann: Many of our members rely upon labor that’s available to them under the H-2B program. It’s a fight that has to be refought on an annual basis. There are so few H-2B visas available that makes it difficult for our members to get enough people they need to have work done. But (this topic) gets tossed into the big, ugly snowball of illegal immigration. Even the president doesn’t seem to appreciate the fact that as an owner of golf courses, his golf courses were using H-2B labor.

That’s public knowledge. It’s kind of surprising that the administration is so harsh on this particular issue. Be that as it may, it’s a different administration with a different battle plan.

L&L: We’ve also noticed there are reports in the news on towns banning leaf blowers, either due to noise violations or the use of gas-powered equipment. Has NALP been looking into this?

Mann: It’s curious that one of our members was listening to a radio broadcast based in Boston and this was the topic of conversation. The city of Newton just outside Boston is a very progressive city. They are contemplating a complete ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, which was driven by complaints. People were complaining, complaining, complaining.

They would call the police department, and the police kept record of complaints. They narrowed it down to roughly 15 to 25 people in town who made up the vast majority of the complaints. It’s not a small town – there’s a lot of people living in Newton. But only 25 people made all the noise about the leaf blower use, and one person in particular who never put the phone down.

The ordinance is apparently empowering the police department to write tickets for people who use their leaf blowers – including contractors. And police are saying, “We don’t want anything to do with that – we have far more important things to do.” The last thing they want to do is deal with leaf blowers.

So what we’ve done in conjunction with OPEI (Outdoor Power Equipment Institute) is put together guidelines for landscapers to use as a communication device for with media and politicians to explain to them the proper way to operate these types of equipment. A lot of time you hear a leaf blower and those are from circa 1962, and they don’t have a muffler or they’re blowing smoke. But what used to be a giant, horrible, deafening machine is now much quieter and does a better job.

Unfortunately, if you happen to be a detractor of this type of landscape equipment, you don’t appreciate the fact that the industry is making advances. It’s a difficult situation to overcome.

L&L: What should landscapers do to help advocate on behalf of these issues?

Mann: We desperately need more people to come out – not only belong to the association – but become active in the association. People are busy, there’s only so many hours in the day. And it can be hard to impress upon landscapers how important it is to be politically active in your industry. But there are people out there trying to put you out of business. Just because you don’t see them on a daily basis, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. You can’t be reactionary. If you show up to try to defend your business and don’t have a relationship with your representative, senator or governor, it’s already too late. It’s all over. It’s important to understand and appreciate who it is that’s representing you.

L&L: Contractors are busy and working more hours than they’d like – but how do they make time to meet with senators and representatives?

Mann: First, you’d be surprised to learn who some of your customers are. Back when I owned my own business, one of my customers was Elizabeth Warren. Go figure. Sen. Warren and I are opposite ends of the political spectrum. But when we do the Renewal and Remembrance Event in Washington, D.C., every year, you spend the second day on Capitol Hill, meet representatives and senators and say what things are important to your industry where you live. When I went to Sen. Warren’s office, I sat down with her and her staffer who worked with environmental issues but we had a good time.

I had a meet-and-greet with her after and she remembered me from when I worked for her and her husband. I don’t think people appreciate the fact that these people representing them at a national level are actually their neighbors, and in some cases, you probably have some of them as customers.

I had an incident not too long ago where there was something important that needed to be done. I reached out to horticulture groups and asked for help. Someone got back in touch with me and said, “It so happens there are two people on the legislative committee in my town, they’re good friends of mine I grew up with.” It’s a constant network of relationships that grow and you initiate. But you have to invest in these relationships for them to come to fruition.

In The News: New England Grows discontinues operations

After 25 years, horticultural tradeshow New England Grows is discontinuing operation. The Grows board of directors, representing the four founding partner organizations, made the unanimous decision to dissolve and disband both the Grows event and the organization.

“The decision to dissolve New England Grows was difficult, but we all believe it is the right decision at the right time,” said Grows president Michelle Harvey of Lakeview Nurseries in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. “Changes both within and outside of the industry contributed to the decision to close Grows, but this does not diminish the significant and positive contributions Grows has made to the local green industry.”

The 25-year-old organization will disband with the dissolution of the trade show.

Founded by New England Nursery Association, Massachusetts Arborists Association, Massachusetts Nursery & Landscape Association, and Massachusetts Association of Landscape Professionals in 1993, New England Grows’ mission was to educate, elevate and support the region’s commercial horticulture industry. Over the course of more than two decades, the nonprofit contributed millions of dollars in educational grants to the industry through its partners, as well as to horticultural and community groups like Cooperative Extension, the Horticultural Research Institute, FFA organization, local vocational schools, and the Boston Schoolyard Initiative.

“We want to thank each and every one of the countless volunteers who worked tirelessly to produce Grows over the past 25 years, as well as the loyal exhibitors who supported the show from day one,” said Virginia Wood, executive director of Grows.