Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author. He owns Grunder Landscaping Co.
When I started Grunder Landscaping more than 32 years ago, I was not thinking about how or to whom I would hand my company over. Now, I am thinking about that. I’m not ready to quit or sell yet; there’s too much good going on and I’m not that old. However, talking about your successor is a great way to look at your company’s potential, and an even a greater way to improve your company.
It’s smart to be delivering, for example, what your clients want now. However, to do that without questioning if there is a better way can be dangerous too. Years ago, carbon paper was the way we made copies. I bet a ton of that stuff was thrown away in warehouses full of the stuff bought at a “cheap price.”
Nothing gets the owner of a landscaping company to think more than thinking about his or her successor, so that’s the question this month. What would your successor do?
Do I have you thinking now? Take some quiet time and write down what you think your successor would do. What would they change? What would they like? What would they not like? What would they start doing, keep doing and stop doing? Not only should you be asking yourself this question, you should be asking your top clients this question.
Those who have a board of advisers, like we do here at Grunder Landscaping, should have succession be a regular topic in your meetings. You should be asking your team this question. And for a few of your top clients – and some of you will be taken back by this – I’d even suggest getting vulnerable with them and asking them about what type of person would be good to run your company when you retire, sell or step back.
I have a client I have gotten very close to. We have figured out a way to keep business, business and friendship, friendship. He has made me think about things. He tells me what he likes and what he does not like. He’s a very tough and demanding client. Through the years, the lessons I have learned from the things we have disappointed him with have made me a better leader and a better landscaper.
I feel comfortable asking him questions pertaining to my successor. I know he won’t hold it against me and rush to get a new landscape professional if the one he’s got might be quitting. I think I make him feel good by asking him for his input. These types of relationships are rare.
This one is almost 20 years in the making. This particular client has a track record in business of delegating and growing his business through other people. That’s what I need to get better at. He knows that thinking about succession doesn’t mean you’re quitting; he knows that just discussing it forces you to look at your business in a different way.
The last line there – look at your business in a different way – that’s what you need to do. That’s the whole message this month. When you start to think about your successor and what that person needs to look like and how that might happen, and think about when that might happen, you can pretty clearly see what you need to work on.
An outcome might be something like: We need more systems so people know what to do when I’m not around. Another outcome might be: We need to fire some clients we aren’t making money off of (as my successor would surely see that issue.)
If I’m not here, I’m going to need another person who can lead and motivate here. Who is that? Who do I have on my team that I can start training? I could go on and on ladies and gentlemen. I hope I have convinced you it’s important to think about what your successor would do and to ask yourself that question and then work on the answers to those questions.