Continuing education is your best bet in keeping yourself, your company and your team ahead of the pack

To own and manage a consistently profitable company you must have a competitive edge in today’s rapidly changing economy. One way to make this happen is for you and your team to have a plan for continuing education. Only by bettering yourself and your team can you protect your business from being the next casualty in our no-holds-barred landscape services industry.

What is continuing education? One definition arising from a quick Internet search says that continuing education is any type of post-secondary education used to either obtain additional certifications or as credits required to maintain a license. Almost anyone can take continuing education credits for personal or professional enrichment. Fitness trainers, nurses and safety instructors are examples of professionals who fall into the second category. Continuing education is generally thought of as applying to adults that already possess a college or university degree or have attained professional status in their chosen occupations.

Continuing education can take the form of workshops, seminars, home study or online courses, conferences or hands-on training. There is no specific format or length for a continuing education program. Some may take a weekend, while others can span weeks or even months. In the case of continuing education for personal advancement only, students usually don’t receive college credits, as the courses are not considered part of the standard educational system. A common characteristic to all continuing education programs is the registration process. Those attending a conference or cultural event that is open to the general public will not receive any type of education credits, and it’s not considered formal training.

Look at continuing education as an investment in you and your team. Or, to stretch a point, as personal professional maintenance. Consider that almost all of us understand the importance of changing the oil in our equipment to keep it running at peak performance. We realize the importance of maintaining our homes and properties so they maintain, or even grow, in value. Yet, most of us have not invested a dime into furthering our own education or the education of our team.

Imagine you graduated from either high school or college 10 years ago and have taken no courses since then. This would be the same as not changing the oil in your equipment for the last 10 years. No one in their right mind would find it acceptable to go 10 years without an oil change and expect their equipment to perform at peak levels. Why would you expect that to be any different for you, your employees or your company? When companies are forced to make cuts in difficult times, they’re going to keep those individuals or businesses that have invested in themselves and increased their knowledge and proficiencies.

With so many choices available today there is no real excuse for you not to continue to learn and to advance the education of your team, your key employees. Continuing education does not have to be a complete curriculum, it can be as simple as taking a class online or at a local community college on irrigation, accounting or computer software. Classes can be as short as a couple of hours or days.

To determine the best path for you, start by determining where you need the most help, those gaps in your knowledge or education as they relate to the services you offer or the service lines you want to add. You may even start with the question: “Do I enjoy my field of work, and do I want to continue in this field?” If the answer is yes, then look around at those operations or individuals that have skills you want to learn.

Do they have management experience and you don’t? Management courses are easy to find online. Do they understand the department or company budget better than you do? If so, this may be the option for you to get a better understanding of accounting. Then, take one class in that field.

Keep your expectations realistic. Determine the amount of time and effort you can devote to this self-improvement effort. Don’t immediately dive in over your head and take a complete course load without doing some research. By taking one class online or at a local college you will keep your investment low and be able to determine if this new field of endeavor is as satisfying as you had envisioned.

Whether you are the owner, a manager or a key employee, you need to stay on top of what is happening in your market and the industry, in general. But you also need to be aware of the latest business and service strategies and whatever new products and trends that are shaping the landscape service industry. You can do this by taking advantage of the many continuing education opportunities readily available to you.

With more than 30 years of experience in franchising, sales and business operations, Paul Wolbert knows franchising like the back of his hand. He helps potential new franchisees make their decision to come into the market, and his in-depth knowledge of the green industry allows him to keep the U.S. Lawns marketing plan on target for franchisees’ growth and for all divisions of U.S. Lawn’s business to thrive in any economy. He has helped build the U.S. Lawn business to where it is today.