Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company.

Quite often, I get calls from landscape company owners telling me they feel stuck. For example, this past week, an owner told me he started his business 15 years ago and felt like quitting.

He said he was exhausted, not physically but mentally. His sales were projected to be around $1.5 million and “I’m running around like a nut and can’t take it anymore.” He sounded really frustrated. He said, “if this continues, then at the end of the next 10 or 15 years, I’ll be ready for the funny farm and my company won’t be worth anything. I would have worked all these years and have nothing to show for it. Can you help?”

Why is this happening to him? Wow, where to start! There are numerous reasons. Let me give you some.

No vision, no end goal.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you get there.” This is my version of what the great Yogi Berra said. Funny but, oh, so true. My friend, Ret. Commander Mary Kelly said, “Vision is like having a picture on the box of a jigsaw puzzle. If there was no picture, can you imagine how difficult it would be to put the puzzle together?” Her point is, operating a business without a vision is like trying to put those puzzle pieces together without a picture; not only do your people not know where they’re going . . . you don’t, either.

The other saying that comes to mind when thinking about “vision” is from the Stephen Covey book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The second habit in his book is “begin with the end in mind.”

In other words, know where you want to end up and then plan out what needs to be done to get there.

So, if you’re a business owner reading this, ask yourself: Do I have a vision and know where I’m going? Do I know what type of company I’m trying to build? How large, how profitable, what type of work are we best at doing? If you don’t know, it’s not too late.

Burnout can be caused by not thinking of your end game. Having a long-term plan and sticking to it can keep you engaged in your business.

Get out of the swamp.

I use this metaphor because it’s appropriate for many business owners, including myself when I had my company. I was stuck in the proverbial swamp trudging around and around for years not knowing what was going on with other companies outside of the swamp. Not until I went to my first national trade association convention and met owners with much larger companies did I have my eye’s opened. The exposure to these awesome people who were non-competitors, and who shared with me whatever I wanted to know, was totally amazing. That first convention was in the early ’90s and I haven’t missed a year since. What friends I made over the years! I just wish I had started earlier.

Get outside advice.

Another thing that changed my company and helped me get out of the swamp was hiring my first consultant. I felt just like the company owner I described above when I hired my first consultant . . . frustrated, running around like a nut and preparing myself for the funny farm! The experience was amazing; he was amazing. I learned so much and it was incredible. From then on, I became a firm believer in hiring consultants because they helped me understand my finances, operations, marketing and planning. I really became conscious of what I didn’t know. Shortly after his first engagement, my company began to grow and prosper twice as fast as before.

Worth your time.

If you feel you’re in the swamp I described above, think seriously about the items I mentioned. Take the time and learn all you can about the landscaping business.

Learn all you can about people. I’ve said many times that we are not in the landscaping business, but in the people business doing landscaping.

Read trade journals, like this one, from cover to cover every month. Be curious. Read business books, attend seminars and network with other company owners. Learn how to grow and maximize your profits. If you do these things, you will feel in control of your destiny and you’ll get great satisfaction from building a great company you will be proud of.