Turf Magazine - November, 2012

DEPARTMENTS

Contractors' Corner: Community Service the Right Thing to Do

By Rick Cuddihe

Giving back to your community is something we all try to do. Shayne Newman, owner of YardApes, Inc., New Milford, Conn., has taken it to a new level. Newman and his company have been involved in numerous community projects and unselfishly given their time and resources to beautify and improve their community.

Newman founded YardApes 22 years ago and is amazed and gratified by his company's success, especially since he didn't set out to be the owner of a landscape company.

"The one and only job interview I went to after graduating from the University of Connecticut with a degree in finance was pivotal," recalls Newman. "I realized I preferred the outdoors to offices, I was uncomfortable in a suit and I didn't want to work for someone else."

YardApes has received numerous awards for community service, including the 2011 New Milford Chamber of Commerce Big Business Award. The company's growth is a reflection of how the organization is regarded in the community, in large part due to the many volunteer projects it has undertaken.

Give before getting

"I fell into volunteerism, much like the way I fell into landscaping. That's not to suggest that I'm dispassionate about either. I simply mean that growing my business has been organic, as have been my community outreach efforts. Giving back to the community that has supported me just makes sense," says Newman.

Eight years ago Newman came up with the idea for a golf tournament to raise funds for local charities. In the years since the inaugural outing, it's become somewhat of a Golf Classic, and the The YardApes Charity Fund has raised an eight-year total of $39,000 for local nonprofits.

Newman was also featured on FOX News for his participation in Project EverGreen's GreenCare for Troops for providing landscape services to military families while the service member was away on military assignment.

Those efforts result in observable results. The payback for what he's trying to do for the industry he loves is not as measurable.

One of Newman's passions is to help change the perception of the professional landscape industry. Community service elevates the land care profession, according to Newman, who believes recognition of his efforts speaks to YardApes' positive image in the community, indeed the profession at large.

YardApes performed a charity landscape improvement project at the Children's Center in New Milford, Conn., and according to Susan H. Johnston, executive director of the Children's Center, the YardApes team members are "miracle workers".

Newman says that providing community service for the sake of positive press is a hollow enterprise.

"We all know that any endeavor without heart falls flat, or worse is called out for what it is," he says. "When I began to give back to my community, it was with the community in mind, not my bottom line."

The right thing to do

Newman says that there's only one reason for offering community service - it's the right thing to do both for his community and for his company.

He says that community service energizes his employees, and he's convinced it helps them work better together as a team. It also attracts other quality employees. And yes, sometimes, their efforts result in positive press, which improves his company's image in the community and adds a few new clients that, of course, he sees as positive.

Beyond that, Newman says he's heard from existing clients who say they're proud to have hired a quality company and are assured they are in good hands.

"Don't underestimate the importance of your volunteer efforts," says Newman. "It reinforces to your customers that they're putting their money on the company that gives back."

YardApes has proven that sharing their success with the community is an important part of the operation and everyone benefits from it. Take Newman's example and develop community service projects at your company, it will be good for your community and it's the right thing to do.

Rick Cuddihe, CLP, is president of Lafayette Consulting Co., owns a landscape maintenance company and works with contractors to improve their businesses. He is a PLANET Trailblazer and serves on PLANET's Landscape Management Specialty Group and Safety Committees. Contact Rick through Lawn Site or at rick@lafayetteconsulting.com.