What does it take to make best-run company? Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

1. The most successful companies are not run by owners but by managers.

Delegation is perhaps one of the hardest things for business owners to do, and yet it is absolutely vital to success. You simply cannot continue to grow if you’re wearing all of the hats yourself. Rick Cuddihe, president of Lafayette Consulting, says the best companies out there are those that are delegating responsibilities and holding people accountable.

“It is egotistical to assume you are the only one who can do something well,” adds Tom Fochtman, CEO of Ceibass Venture Partners. “The best companies are run by people who know they have to surround themselves with a high level of talent. And we’ve never had such a high level of talent available in the marketplace like we do now. The fallout of Brickman and ValleyCrest has led to available talent. Go out and hire an amazing salesperson and let them out there to do their thing.”

Fochtman says companies that are not as successful as they could be are often micromanaging. This is a hard habit to break as it may be hard to even recognize you’re doing it. That’s because Fochtman says micromanagers are too busy to even stop and assess things.

If you’re a business owner going through his or her day with an overwhelming number of tasks on your plate, are you delegating? Is there someone within your company that could do some of those tasks for you, freeing up your time to focus on other important things? Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you’re the only one who can do something. Delegating responsibility shows trust in your people and helps you grow.

2. The most successful companies find a differentiator.

The only way you can really stand out in this competitive marketplace is by doing something different than everyone else. At the end of the day your services might be the same, but what do you do that sets you apart from everyone else? Fochtman says that a differentiator will help potential clients choose you and not “the other guy.”

“When you go head to head with other companies that are very similar to you, it’s imperative that you come up with something that makes you different,” he continues. “Maybe you’ll offer a portion of your revenue to a charity your client prefers. Whatever it is that you come up with, it should be something that nobody else in your area is doing.”

Fochtman guaranteed plant material for life as long as his company was maintaining the landscape. That was his differentiator.

“That was a new concept in our market area when we introduced it, and it made us stand out,” he says. “What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?”

3. The most successful companies build a positive culture.

Every company has a culture — whether you want it or not, says Wilson. But companies that are really successful have owners and managers who are involved in shaping that culture and constantly keeping a pulse on how it’s doing. Wilson says that a “culture that is left to evolve on its own will not be the culture you want.”

That’s because owners and managers help build the culture by setting core values and by hiring people that fit those values. Wilson says that too often landscape companies just hire a “warm body to fill a spot” and aren’t focused on who the person is and how they will fit within the culture. That can lead to bigger problems.

Wilson knows that landscape businesses struggle with hiring but says they should turn to their own employees for recruiting. If you already have really good people in your company, it’s likely they hang out with people similar to them. That’s where Wilson says you should be recruiting more labor.

“One mistake that landscape companies often make is using an HR person to find their people,” Wilson says. “There’s no ownership there. Instead, the field manager or whomever is going to be directly managing that employee should be involved in the hiring as they’re going to take some ownership, some accountability, of that person. They want that person to be successful. It’s a ‘I brought you on, now I want to make sure you succeed’ kind of mentality that you want your managers to have. They get that by being actively involved in recruiting and hiring.”

4. The most successful companies keep up with technology.

Although Fochtman says landscaping is inherently a low-tech industry since it’s primarily reliant on labor, he says that’s not an excuse to ignore technology completely. You still need a good accounting system that includes a job-costing tool.

“You must know which jobs aren’t making you money and if raising your price doesn’t work, you need to be prepared to say ‘Goodbye,'” Fochtman adds. “A job-costing software tool can be helpful in making those decisions.”

In addition to accounting and job costing, Fochtman says technology can be incredibly helpful with routing. Routing becomes incredibly important as a company grows.

5. The most successful companies focus on density.

Speaking of routing, Fochtman says well-run companies build density.

Unfortunately, he says that even though most companies know they want this, they aren’t proactive about going after it.

“Most landscape companies just go where the phone takes them,” Fochtman says. “They may know where the money is demographically, and yet many still don’t devise a plan to go after it. It might mean buying addresses, cold calling or even knocking on doors — things that landscapers often don’t love.”

Once you start to build some density, Fochtman says you keep offering referrals to get neighbors to sign up and that keeps the effort going.

And once you have those customers, keep them happy. Treat your customers well so that they stick with you and continue to refer your business to others in the area.

“Building density is something successful companies do really well,” Fochtman adds. “The typical company just responds to the ringing phone without paying much attention to location. Stop chasing leads all over the place and craft a plan.”

While even the best companies will admit they “always have room for growth,” there are definitely some businesses in the green industry that are already employing many of the practices industry professionals say epitomize a best-run company. Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

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