Before you put any major effort into hiring, it’s important that you make sure you have a company where people actually want to come work. After all, if there are internal problems, you might be able to hire workers but you certainly won’t be able to keep them — and then it’s back to the drawing board to recruit once again. It will only be a vicious cycle until you turn your focus inward.

Multimillion-dollar landscaper and green industry consultant Marty Grunder says that every landscape company out there has the ability to lead their teams to success and to make their company a place where people want to come to work.

But there are some essential steps that need to be taken first, he pointed out during his educational session at the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ LANDSCAPES conference at the GIE+EXPO.

Grunder shares four things that landscape business owners need to do in order to develop a successful team that makes employee retention possible.

1. It’s not about you.

While you might have been the one to start the company and you might have even built it from the ground up, in order to be successful and allow your team to grow, Grunder says you must come to realize that it’s not about you. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Grunder himself says for a long time he fell into the trap of thinking the business was all about him.

“For the first 20 years of my business, I made it about me,” Grunder shares. “I continued to ask questions like: ‘Why didn’t they do it like me?’ I made it about myself. But it’s not about us. It’s about our teams. It’s about how your team works together.”

Grunder says that owners should be owners just one day a month — the day they look at the finances. Every other day of the month, “be part of the team.”

This is a lesson he said he learned from the book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” authored by Dale Carnegie and published in 1936. Grunder says it’s a book every business leader should read.

“That book taught me that when you take an interest in others, they take an interest in you,” he says. “You should always be more interested in learning about your team than you are bragging about your accomplishments. At a certain point, you have to mature as a leader and realize it’s not about you but about what you’re doing as a company.”

2. You must define success.

While you might know what you consider “success” to look like, you must recognize that your team doesn’t have access to your inner thoughts.

So, how well do you communicate what success means for your company? Grunder says if you’re not “painting a picture” for your team, then how do you expect them to be successful? They have to understand what it is that you want your company to look like.

Grunder says there are four key elements that go into defining success for your team.

  • Have a vision. Your vision is your ideal state, Grunder says. It’s “where you want to go.” Vision is something that is typically communicated internally only. It is not shared with the public, but you absolutely must share it with your team so they knows where the company is headed.
  • Have a mission. Your mission is an externally communicated statement about your company and what it aims to do, Grunder says. If you don’t already have a clearly communicated mission statement, you should take the time to develop one.
  • Express your core values. Grunder calls a company’s core values their “bricks and blocks.” These are the elements that make up the foundation of your business. It’s what you believe in.
  • Develop a strategic plan. Finally, you must also put a strategic plan in place. This is essential because it details the steps that will be involved in achieving your dream. Your strategic plan is what makes it all tangible and spells out what it will take to get from point A to point B.

3. Reward your team for doing things right.

Nothing makes people on your team feel better — and want to keep working hard for you — than a little bit of praise, Grunder says. That’s why he says it’s so important to “catch your team doing things right.” There are several ways that this can be done but one that Grunder has found to be highly successful is creating a private Facebook page that is designed just for the team.

“I try very hard to post pictures of people doing things right when I catch them,” Grunder shares. “I caught one of our H-2B workers picking up trash and putting it all back. I made sure to say ‘Thank you, Manuel, for picking up the trash,’ and calling him out for doing something right.”

Similarly, Grunder says he caught another employee watering the plants outside of the office. This was something above and beyond his job duties — something he decided to do on his own. So Grunder says he snapped a photo and asked his marketing team to post it on the company page as well as the private Facebook page, expressing his gratitude for that extra step.

Grunder says they’re also using a board in the office to share with the team what’s going on across the company. They’ll post pictures of a job well done or will share feedback from happy clients. While this is all done manually right now — pinning up the information for everyone to see — Grunder says they have a digital board in the works. The idea is to get something visual that your team can see.

Compliments are also one of the most important things you can do to build up your team’s motivation, Grunder adds. What’s even better is complimenting a team member in front of everyone else. Not only does that make the individual feel great to receive the public recognition, but it can motivate others to want to follow suit.

4. Lead responsibly.

Voltaire said it well when he said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” That is certainly true of being a landscape business owner.

Grunder says one of the most important ways to lead your team to success is to really put some thought into how you lead.

One thing that leaders must realize, Grunder says, is that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. For instance, how do you respond when you find out your team made a mistake? What’s your first reaction when they did something wrong?

“Great leaders ask questions,” he says. “And great leaders realize they can stay calm.”

It’s going to be hard to keep your team united — and to make your business feel like a great place to work — if you fly off the handle when something goes wrong. How you handle tough situations goes a long way in contributing to how your employees feel about working for you.

Of course, that is not to say that you should not be holding your employees accountable for their actions. Grunder adds that great leaders should recognize that “accountability is a good thing.” But before you can hold your team accountable, you must be sure that you’ve been clear about your expectations (including who is responsible for what) and that you’ve been specific about their expectations.

In order to hold your team responsible for their actions, you have to do your part, too, Grunder says. And you must reflect upon what you might have done differently to avoid the mistakes from happening. Don’t be too quick to blame.

On your way

If you put these four concepts into practice, Grunder says you’ll be on your way to leading your team to success. And when that happens you can feel confident that the recruits you’re hiring are going to want to stay.

After all, people want to be part of a successful team and they appreciate being part of a company that cares about a positive culture where people actually like to come to work. When you do what it takes to set your team up for success, you’re also setting yourself up for long-term retention, and that’s a win all around.