Peter Copses, vice president of Gibbs Landscape Co., says one of the most important lessons he’s learned in the industry is to let his leaders lead, but not let long periods of time go by without checking in with them.

“I found when you do that, you become out of touch with maybe some things that are going on day to day,” he says. “Usually that will pop up to where something big will come back to get you.”

Lawn & Landscape spoke with Copses about how to give managers room to do their jobs, but also stay tuned in to what is happening.

L&L: How do you keep your leaders from getting to disconnected from you?

PC: You have to be really in touch with leaders that are reporting to you in your organization, and to me it’s basically in touch multiple times a week. You need to make sure they’re not afraid of you, number one. They need to be able to come to you and let you know when there are issues that pop up because you certainly want to put your input into it, or you have somebody else making a decision that could really affect you that you’re not having input on.

I think that also with those types of leaders, you need to make sure that when you’re meeting with them, you have to focus on them too. You have to make sure that those people know that you’re a caring person and you need to talk to them about themselves, what’s going on in their lives. Everything just can’t be about business or something negative that’s going on.

And then the flip side of that is that there’s so many positive things that go on in our organization, for sure, that you want to make sure you’re re-sharing that with them and giving them the credit that’s due to them when we have positive situations like that go on.

L&L: So stay away from the no-news-is-good-news approach? You want to focus on both the good and the bad?

PC: Absolutely, you’ve got to. We had a design/build job that we just completed a couple weeks ago. This was about a $30,000 job. The client had already had some hardscape work done about a year ago on their property, and with this hardscape work, there were several gas lines that were running to different things like a fire pit, an outdoor fireplace, etc.

And while we were there doing our work, we mark utilities; we talk to the client about if they have anything out there that they’re aware of. But when you have people out there digging and planting large trees and putting in a large planting landscape, you’re digging and you can hit things if they’re not marked.

In this particular instance, we did hit in a couple different areas – some gas lines that went to this new outdoor fire pit.

And in that particular situation, we had somebody say, “OK, we’re going to take care of it internally.” Luckily, I happened to hear about it because I was having a lunch with my team and it was brought up to me. At least I was able to address that with the person that was managing the job, and in the end, we went back to the client and they were totally understanding, and they agreed to pay for 75 percent of the cost of that.

You’ve got to be in touch day to day because if not, you have somebody making a decision, which could really affect your company.

Interviewed by Brian Horn