Jim Martin immediately spent the money he saved from his paper route … on a power mower.
“I was a typical neighborhood kid that needed to make some money,” Martin says when discussing his early landscaping work.
Not typical, however, was the fact that landscaping was not just a passing job for Martin. Martin went on to study landscape architecture in college, and three years after graduation he founded his own landscape business, James Martin Associates.
Now a 39-year-old business with approximately 150 employees, James Martin Associates has become one of the leaders in the landscape industry. James Martin Associates currently services the areas of Chicagoland and Boulder, Colorado, and Martin has adjusted his business management style to better suit the now multimillion dollar corporation.
“We function with a fairly high level of discipline around our monthly management meeting and people gathering the right kind of information and the right measurements, and the things that they are benchmarking that’s usually on a monthly cycle,” Martin explains. “Our business is now 39 years old and we are now thinking more month to month and year to year than we are Monday to Monday.”
Martin believes that once landscape companies scale to a certain size, management should consider adopting a monthly mindset rather than a weekly one. Not only does the size of the business require a long-term scheduling process, but also James Martin Associates’ focus on employee check-ins structures the monthly planning of the company. Once a month Martin will dedicate half a day to spend with each of the James Martin Associates teams.
“We do what we call ‘one-to-ones,’ and there’s a rhythm to my week. I spend probably six to eight hours, 20 percent of the week, in one-to-ones with the management team members, so that begins to frame a little bit of this framework,” Martin says.
While Martin likes to have his teams prepare a month, and sometimes a year, out, he knows that the previous month’s finances cannot always be completed by the middle of the month. Certain situations may arise, and employees just need to be organized enough to account for scheduling conflicts.
“Sometimes pulling a financial statement together is not as mission critical as making that sale or meeting with a client that you are about ready to sell a $100,000 landscape project to,” Martin says.
Looking back, it’s clear to see how taking the initiative to invest in that power mower he purchased over 40 years ago would lead to the forward-thinking approach Martin employs today.