Jim Huston runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm.

www.jrhuston.biz; jhuston@giemedia.com

After 30 years of studying green industry contractors, it’s gotten easier to spot the ones who will always remain trunk-slammers and low-ballers. They will never grow into being true professionals because of their thinking – or lack thereof. It’s far more difficult to identify the ones who will be successful in the long run. Long-term success is more a function of character than it is of just thinking.

Irrigation contractor Marc Dutton started out many years ago as an employee of a large landscape company. He ran their irrigation division. The owner of the landscape company encouraged Marc to form his own irrigation company. He did and he retained the landscaper as one of his core clients. He grew in volume because he had an excellent internal team of crew leaders, division managers and office staff.

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In addition, Marc did something really smart: He surrounded himself with professionals in areas beyond his expertise. The internal as well as external teams Dutton recruited and groomed have served his company well. And now, Marc Dutton Irrigation is one of the premiere irrigation companies in Michigan.

The right reasons.

If you want to run a professional company, it’s necessary you build not only a strong internal team but also a capable external one as well. Here are some reasons why you should groom your relationships with professionals outside of your company.

  • They provide specific expertise in each area. CPAs, attorneys and accountants provide a level of expertise that’s essential if you’re going to adhere to regulations and guidelines within their discipline.
  • They provide an early warning system regarding potential threats. Bankers, financiers, marketing personnel and others often have insight into the state of the economy, rules and regulations, and so forth, and how they might affect your business.
  • They provide input into possible opportunities. Manufacturers, vendors, suppliers and consultants often have access to new products that you might consider offering to clients.
  • They provide wise counsel. In general, your external team provides a sounding board against which you can bounce ideas and obtain valuable feedback.
  • They reinforce or challenge one’s thinking and ideas. If composed of the right kind of individuals who aren’t afraid to oppose you, your external team should reinforce what you already know and help you learn what you don’t.
  • They provide sales leads and referrals and connections to other professionals. Any one of the members of your external team can help direct business your way.
  • They provide technical expertise. Advice from manufacturers, vendors, suppliers and technical consultants can provide you with valuable solutions.
  • Local, state and national associations can provide a variety of resources and networking opportunities.
  • They expand your horizons. Non-green industry associations such as the Associated General Contractors of America and others can widen your perspective on your own industry.

Successful leaders not only build a strong internal team, but they also build and surround themselves with a well-balanced and resourceful external team.

It is this external team of professionals from diverse disciplines that help prevent entrepreneurs from being blindsided. To prevent groupthink and tunnel vision, a CEO must learn how to think outside of their corporate box. Grooming an external team and using it as a sounding board can help you do so.