Shayne Newman has always said he’s a “community service guy at heart and passionate about raising the bar for the industry.” With that in mind, Newman has raised the image of the National Association of Landscape Professionals by chairing the public relations committee. Today, as a member of its board of directors, he’s also elevated how members view the organization.
Through community service, Newman serves on several nonprofit boards in his business community of New Milford, Connecticut, including the Village Center of the Arts, Community Culinary School of Northwestern Connecticut and Pratt Nature Center. Since 2006, he created and hosts the YardApes Quad-Am Golf Classic, raising nearly $50,000 for area nonprofits.
Newman founded YardApes, a full-service design, construction and maintenance company serving residential and commercial clients, in 1990. He calls himself the “Silverback” of the company — far more interesting than president. He is a landscape industry certified technician, landscape industry certified manager, holds a Connecticut supervisory pesticide license and is a certified landscape designer.
Newman tells us how he empowers employees, takes the role of “boss” seriously and triumphs over ongoing challenges of leadership.
I have a laid back personality that transfers to my leadership style. I give the people who I manage the tools to make their own decisions. I like to encourage continuing education through training and industry certifications. When it comes to decision-making, I step in only when their decision has the potential to impact the company negatively on a large scale. If not, I let them figure it out on their own. I have made mistakes and learned from them, so sometimes I bite my tongue, allowing employees to make their own decisions, even if it means making some mistakes. It has to be about them and their teammates, not about me.
I continue to struggle with how to be a better leader. I don’t believe that just because you are the boss, you can break the rules. When you are the boss you need to be more accountable. I try not to be that person on the pedestal just because I’m the boss. I surround myself with great leaders allowing me to pick up on leadership styles that inspire me.
“The E Myth” by Michael Berger inspires me. The book describes why many small businesses don’t succeed and the importance of consistent customer service and putting systems in place. Effective systems might be as important as great employees.
I have created a culture of giving back to the community and helping those in need at our company. Our employees often come up with ideas for volunteer projects. Sometimes fellow employees want to assist with others’ financial stresses or assist another organization or family in our community. Our volunteer projects have become powerful team building opportunities.
“You don’t need a title to be successful.” I don’t believe in the importance of titles. If an employee makes a promotion, I will ask them to come up with their own creative title. For example, as the president of YardApes, I call myself “Silverback.” We also have “Coach, “Problem Solver” and “Jack-of-all-Trades” as titles on our team. People will follow you for who you are and not because of your title.
Do what you enjoy, and the money will follow. Do what you are passionate about and good things will follow. Even though I went to UConn to get my finance degree, I followed my passion to own a landscape company. In my freshman year in college my dad asked me what I was doing for a summer job. I told him: “I guess I will mow lawns.” So, a few weeks later he applied for a bank loan in my name and bought me a truck and lawn mower and instructed me to pay the bank back at $250 per month until the loan was satisfied. As I worked hard at doing what I loved to do, paying off the loan was easy.
Relationships are important — whether employees, vendors, clients and even neighbors of your clients. Value those relationships and don’t burn any bridges. Life is mostly about relationships. The loan officer who approved my small loan 30 years ago is still my loan officer today.