Photo courtesy of ALCC

After El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick died in the line of duty this past February, many in the community looked for ways to help Flick’s family – including the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado.

“Colorado Springs is a pretty big city, but it’s a tightknit community,” said Tammy DiFalco, member relations manager at the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado. “The whole community was shaken by that event.”

According to the Denver Post, Flick was shot while trying to detain a car-theft suspect in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is survived by his wife and 7-year-old twins.

Each April, ALCC members participate in a Day of Service event close to Earth Day. Some years, they provide free landscaping for a children’s hospital or other nonprofit in the area. This past year, they decided to help provide landscaping to the Flick family as one ALCC member, Jonathan Campbell, was a close childhood friend to Micah.

“We were best friends as kids,” said Campbell, who is owner of Colorado Stoneworks.

He said he and Flick lost touch in high school when they went to different schools, but the news of his death impacted the community.

“It was like two to three months ago (Flick) was killed,” Campbell said. “It hit the Colorado Springs community hard. I don’t think we’ve lost an officer in the line of duty here locally. As soon as the Flick’s family property was recommended, I think everyone felt it was the right project to do for this year. There was no pushback from anybody.”

So, for ALCC’s Day of Service event, about 30 landscape professionals and a few high school student volunteers teamed up to renovate the outdoor space at the family home of Flick. Campbell said ALCC met with Flick’s wife ahead of time to learn the design the family wanted.

ALCC redesigned the Flick family’s front yard and added a playground. The association also pruned trees and regraded their backyard.
Photo courtesy of ALCC

“Initially, they were confused we were helping them this way,” Campbell said. “They had never heard of ALCC. But I think they are a very humble family and took this news by surprise.”

After getting design ideas from the family and having them select plants they wanted, ALCC members implemented that design on the Day of Service.

Campbell said the family used the front yard as a gathering space on Sundays after church. With that in mind, ALCC focused on redesigning the front yard along with pruning trees and regrading their backyard.

He said they installed a retaining wall in the front yard to level out a slope, created a playground area for Flick’s children, provided a playset for them to install, placed new rock beds, installed a paver patio with patio furniture and planted a memorial tree in honor of Flick.

All materials, design and labor were donated by ALCC member companies.

Campbell said the project turned out just as the family hoped it would.

“Their reaction was just joy,” he said. “They absolutely loved it. Our staff loved it too. It’s just a really good feeling to help someone out. It’s not all about making money. There’s more to life than profit margins. There’s a sense of accomplishment and pride in being able to help a family out.”

Ask the Experts: Get crew approval on new ideas for operations

Q: I have come up with several ideas to improve operations at my company but need help as to the best way to implement them. Do you have any suggestions on how to engage my team and make this a success?

A: A common mistake that leaders make is to come up with a good idea (or a new one each week for some leaders) and tell the operations teams to execute based on your “great” idea. We are all guilty of going to a conference or a meeting with other companies that inspires us to make changes. In hindsight, your team has heard new ideas from you many times and are not too excited about starting more processes. By asking then to run with your new idea, you delivered a new process without getting them involved in the process.

As you look for opportunities to make operational changes with your team, getting “buy-in” will be key to making it stick.

So, how do you get the team to buy into the new ideas that will improve the company’s quality, client experience and profit?

To start, operational improvements must be their idea – even if they are not. For your team to feel like they have some skin in the game on how a new process is performed, they must be highly involved in creating the solution. To help you get this started, consider the following:

Have an agenda: With a “buy-in” meeting, make sure you have an agenda. Don’t talk about everything that has gone wrong with the past. Discuss a maximum of three operational pain points or mistakes made this past season based on the need for improvements. Then, pick one and work on a solution to that pain point with the team. Discuss with them how to become the best at this and the changes that need to be made to improve.

Nameless/Rankless: As you review the details of the pain point, you will drive the discussion to be productive in order to solve a pain point. The intention is that we discuss with leadership, or the whole team, so they can be a part of the solution. Do not allow the blame to be placed on specific people. Remember, we are learning together what we need to do for better results. This is not a meeting intended to be led by the owner and everyone else just sits there to listen. Instead, make sure the mindset is that we have an equal playing field where no one gets in trouble for saying what is on their mind, thus a nameless and rankless approach to solving pain points. However, set ground rules to be respectful, to be factual and to come with the right mindset.

Agree on buy-in: When generating the idea for operational improvements, create a company with the ideas and solutions we all agree on. The result of these meetings should include an agreed format that includes:

  1. Timeline – when does this take place? January? April? All year? When do we need to implement our new idea?
  2. Materials needed – equipment, plants, hardscapes, soils, products, computer programs, tools, etc.
  3. Solution steps – what steps are needed to execute this best practice for your company? What role on your team owns that next step? Who will be completing these steps?

Finalizing this new process and getting buy-in should result in an agreed written format of the revised process that can be shared among your team. Now the fun part: implementation. Implementation is just as critical as the buy-in and creation of a new process. Make sure it is fully trained to your team by doing the new process with the team, and not in the classroom setting. Then have it reviewed within one week, then after 30 days, after 60 days and after 90 days.

Jason New, NALP Trailblazer, McFarlin Stanford Principal

Ask the Experts is brought to you in partnership with NALP, the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Questions are fielded through NALP’s Trailblazers, the industry’s leading company mentoring program. For more questions visit Landscapeprofessionals.org.

Brightview acquires the Groundskeeper

Plymouth Meeting, Pa. – BrightView Landscapes has acquired Environmental Earthscapes, a Tucson, Arizona-based firm that operates as The Groundskeeper. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The Groundskeeper and its subsidiary Greater Texas Landscape Services specialize in commercial landscape maintenance, landscape construction, tree care and irrigation services. The company has locations in Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, Austin, Texas, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. The Groundskeeper employs about 1,000 people in four states.

“Thanks in large part to the quality of their work and commitment to client service, The Groundskeeper has seen steady growth from its founding in 1976 and today is one of the Southwest’s most prominent landscape maintenance, development, tree care and irrigation companies,” said Andrew Masterman, BrightView CEO. “We are delighted to welcome their team to BrightView and we look forward to continued growth and success in this critical region.”

The Groundskeeper ranked 19th on Lawn & Landscape’s 2018 Top 100 List with more than $68 million in 2017 revenue.

The Groundskeeper CEO Anil Hiremath said the employee-owned company shares much in common with BrightView. “Both organizations are dedicated to their teams, the communities in which they operate and to producing the very finest results for clients,” he said. “Becoming part of an industry leader like BrightView creates opportunity for our team members and assures that our customers continue to receive the highest level of service.”

BrightView ranked No. 1 on Lawn & Landscape’s 2018 Top 100 List, posting $2.2 billion in revenue while the Groundskeeper ranked 19th with more than $68 million in 2017 revenue. BrightView also acquired Girard Environmental Services in September 2017, which ranked 39th on Lawn & Landscape’s 2017 Top 100 List.

Two green industry associations in Wisconsin merge

The Wisconsin Green Industry Federation plans to merge its programs and services into the Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association as of July 1.

WGIF’s board of directors began strategically planning in 2013 to become a more sustainable, effective organization for the green industry, according to a joint press release.

The strategic plan and action plan has evolved and was accelerated with Executive Director Brian Swingle announcing his retirement from both WGIF and WNLA.

Reorganization of WGIF has been needed to reduce expenses, increase efficiencies and better serve members.

The current member organizations are: Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association, Wisconsin Sod Producers Association and Commercial Flower Growers of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association is an affiliated association of WGIF.

WNLA signed a three-year agreement with the Wisconsin Association Management LLC of Milwaukee, effective July 1. Chris Ruditys will become WNLA’s executive director. A secondary executive director is yet to be named.

Ruditys, owner of Wisconsin Association Management, LLC, and Swingle, owner of Torri Phillips Association Management, worked with one another for the past five years on joint association conferences and events. Ruditys also manages more than 20 associations at the state and national level.

Through the merger, WNLA will assume the legislative and regulatory responsibilities, including lobbying. The WGIF board voted to transfer the legislative fund to WNLA in June 2018.

WGIF dues have already been paid for 2018 by the member organizations, so the WNLA board will set the dues amount before the 2019 membership renewal period in October.

OPEI moves into new headquarters

The association hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony May 7 for its new location. By Brian Horn

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Now that the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute has officially moved into its new headquarters in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, Kris Kiser, president and CEO, said the new building will better serve its growing membership.

Kiser said the old location, which was also in Alexandria, didn’t have enough space to accommodate OPEI’s committee meetings. As the organization has grown, meetings usually had to go offsite. Now the group can have more constructive meetings, which will benefit equipment manufacturing and the industry as a whole.

“It’s member engagement – just the ability to get together,” Kiser said.

More than 100 people helped OPEI celebrate its new location with a ribbon cutting on May 7.

OPEI’s new headquarters provides additional space for the organization to host on-site meetings.

Along with Kiser, Dan Ariens, president and CEO of Ariens Co. and board chairman of OPEI, Tom Cromwell, group president of Kohler Power and vice chair of OPEI, Bjoern Fischer, president of STIHL and OPEI board secretary/treasurer, and Tom Duncan, president and CEO of Positec USA and director of OPEI’s board, were present to cut the ribbon.

The new three-story OPEI headquarters includes a conference center that can seat 50 people and a rooftop deck.

The building features paintings of OPEI’s TurfMutt, a campaign launched in 2009 to influence consumers. The campaign continues to grow as does OPEI’s membership, which Kiser said has reached record levels.

“Evidencing the shift away from out-of-house meeting spaces, our Engine and Fuels and Handheld Products committees met here this week, debuting our new conference center,” Kiser said. “We’re excited to begin the next phase of our growth in our continued service of the outdoor power equipment industry.”