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

Landscape business owners and managers, what’s your best investment? Is it real estate, stocks and bonds, 401ks, better mowers, a new larger facility or skid loader? While all of these are important, the most essential investment is your education.

Whether you’ve had a formal education or not, what’s important is that you are a learner for life. I have met hundreds of landscape owners over the years and many – too many – are so involved in their businesses that they stop learning. Their entire life revolves around operating their business and they literally shut the world off around them. Do you identify with this?

Small- to mid-size company owners tell me they don’t have time to read, go to seminars or visit other companies because they’re too busy. If this is happening, please stop, assess your situation and ask yourself, “Is my business serving me or am I a slave to my business?”

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I have found that some large company owners need to be careful because they can easily slip into a different mindset. Based on their financial success they feel as if they have arrived, and, as a result, know it all. They may attend some industry events but, for the most part, with a closed mind. This is a dangerous way of thinking. Over the past 20 years, I have known owners of hugely successful companies who have gone bankrupt. Others – many others – were close.

Why did this happen? Living in ‘their own world,’ they failed to see what was happening in the economy. These owners had closed minds, wouldn’t face reality and within months, everything came tumbling down.

I’ll never forget what a wise and successful business man told me years ago. He said, “If you study your craft one hour every day for five years, you will become an expert.” I listened. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

I also remember one idea I learned from my now partner, Bill Arman, when I visited him while he was a vice president for Valley Crest. That one idea saved me $30,000 in payroll during the next 12 months.

Wherever you are in the life of your business, be curious and hungry for knowledge. Ask the when, where, why, what and how questions.

So my message is simple: wherever you are in the life of your business, be curious and hungry for knowledge. Ask the when, where, why, what and how questions. Don’t stop learning. I would encourage you to read (or listen to) a book a month, attend webinars, seminars, read blogs, go to the national conventions, network with other owners, visit best-in-class companies or join a peer group.

And yes, hire and listen to consultants. We’ve climbed the proverbial mountain and can help you with the knowledge you need to get you where you want to go, faster and without falling off.

Lastly, try the best you can to take vacations to get away from the daily pressures of your business. If you have a small company and family, and you can’t get away for a week at a time, take long weekends every few months. Clear your head; it will do you wonders.

Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to learn. It’s a matter of the habits you form. Make it a habit to read trade publications like this one. I do, and I read others each month from cover to cover. Make the time to invest in yourself because the more you learn, the more you’ll earn.

Ed Laflamme,co-founder of the Harvest Group, is a professional speaker, author, business advisor and coach.