What do you think? Email me at cbowen@gie.net.

I was at a conference in California last month where a contractor looked at the audience and said the best thing I’d heard all week: Nobody has an ugly baby.

The event was a peer group meeting – Next Level Network – and the contractor was Andrew Key, president at Heads Up Landscape in Albuquerque. Several times a year, the group of six companies compares notes on financials, operations and other benchmarks. The idea is to get honest and direct feedback on how their companies are doing from their peers because it’s difficult for them to get an accurate view of their own operation from behind their own desk.

Choose your favorite metaphor: You can’t see the forest through the trees. You can see a speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye before you see a plank in your own. You can’t see past the end of your own nose. As the boss, it’s easy to become isolated, even if you still spend a lot of your time on a mower or in a skid-steer. In fact, I’d say it’s even easier to lose perspective on what your company does well (or poorly) when you’re the one actually doing it all day.

It’s even easier to lose perspective on what your company does well when you’re the one actually doing it all day.

Andrew’s point was that for the average landscaper, it’s easy to see the good things and overlook (or make excuses for) the rough parts. To each parent, their child is the greatest and most perfect example yet of the human form. I know this is true; I have three perfect kids.

Now is the best time of year to solicit and review honest feedback from your team and your colleagues. Even if you aren’t a part of a formalized peer group, you can speak with your friends or other partners to get some insight on how they see your company, and what areas they suggest you could improve.

It’s true that no one has an ugly baby, but no landscaper has a perfect company, either. So take some time this month to ask for and then listen to – you have to listen to it, too – some constructive criticism. What do you do well? Because there will be things you and your crews do well. Don’t forget to celebrate the positives and give credit to your team for the things they’ve become very good at. What don’t you do well?

Find out now and get to work fixing it. This time next year, you’ll have a much prettier baby. – Chuck Bowen