Travels with Jim follows Jim Huston around the country as he visits with landscapers and helps them understand their numbers to make smarter decisions.

Thomas Edison understood failure so well that he became a champion at it. He knew that in order to succeed, failure was a necessary part of the process. He learned from his mistakes. They were stepping stones for him that led to his final destination. Consider this regarding baseball batting percentages – if you fail to get on base twice as many times as you succeed, you’re considered exceptional. Failure isn’t terminal – it’s essential.

Unfortunately, many green industry contractors do not develop the necessary mental toughness to persevere and turn failure into success. Here’s some of what I’ve learned working with hundreds of contractors over the last 30-plus years. I call the ones who hang in there and succeed true green industry entrepreneurs. The ones who don’t, I call casualties.

Those who are bad at failing practice the following:

  1. Complain constantly and surround themselves with complainers (they host daily pity parties).
  2. Blame others (they shirk responsibility and look for scape goats).
  3. Seek the magic wand that will fix all of their problems (they avoid getting involved and finding viable solutions to their challenges).
  4. Focus upon and get totally absorbed in daily minutia (they do not employ the D.A.D. principle – delegate and disappear, nor do they allow their team to make mistakes above the water line).
  5. Think like a technician (they do not see the big picture, build their team and focus on threats and opportunities).
  6. Do not listen to employees, customers, mentors, outside resources, etc. and do not seek new ideas, methods and technologies (they’re arrogant because they know it all).
  7. Self-absorption (it’s all about me, me, me; not their team and coaching it to succeed).
  8. Display a perfectionist mentality (they take great pains and give them to people).
  9. Create a toxic culture due to their anger problem (their team walks on eggshells because the boss can blow up at any time).
  10. Helter-skelter decision making (they do not submit all of their business decisions to a rational cost-benefit analysis process that makes sense to all concerned).
  11. Lack positive realistic enthusiasm (they do not set realistic measurable and timeable goals for everyone to work towards).

Effective CEOs and managers are good at failing and practice the following:

  1. Spend the majority of their time recruiting, training and coaching their team.
  2. Set realistic goals that are measurable and have deadlines.
  3. Allow their team to make mistakes that won’t sink the boat (they’re above the water line).
  4. Create a positive company culture where everyone feels safe and appreciated.
  5. Promote a career-path for all employees with well-defined skillsets to achieve for advancement.
  6. Promote an atmosphere of constant improvement throughout the organization (new ideas are championed).
  7. Master the business process and create systems to run it both efficiently and effectively.
  8. Understand that a manager’s job is to “ensure that things get done right” and a leader’s job is to “ensure that the right things get done.”

Everyone in the green industry has the same opportunity. Your success, to a large extent, depends upon how you respond to failure. Do you see failure as a stepping stone to help you reach your destination? Or is it a setback that throws you totally off track and disillusions you?

Edison not only failed thousands of times when attempting to invent the storage battery, but he also failed over a thousand times when trying to invent the electric light bulb. Because he didn’t allow his darker side to prevail and give up, the world is a much brighter place. In the same light, if you approach failure as did Edison, your life and the lives of your employees, customers and fellow citizens will be much brighter. Fail boldly. L&L

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