SYLACAUGA, Ala.-See if you agree with Marty Grunder, landscape company owner and professional speaker and consultant. He spoke at the Agrium Green Industry Grad School at the sprawling Farmlinks site here Dec. 6.

Marty says the three biggest issues on the minds of landscape company owners these days are: 1.) Sales, 2.) Efficiency and 3.) Finding People. Arrange them in any order you like. If you’re an owner, can you think of anything else that approaches them in importance?

Predictably, Grunder quickly warmed to the task in delivering some solid, if not revelatory, team-building information to the 20-plus landscape and lawn care pros participating in the 2 _-day event in central Alabama.

To his credit and to his credibility, what he preaches” he also practices in his $4-million-plus Grunder Landscape in Dayton, Ohio. In other words, he ain’t just woofin’ when he tells you what will work or not work in becoming a more effective leader. Or, at least, what’s working for him and what has not worked so well, too. He’s nothing if he isn’t frank.

His presentation –“5 Steps to Becoming a Better Leader Now”-drilled down on some basic but too-often neglected leadership practices, none of which are beyond the ability of any decent-thinking small businessperson. Nothing he offered is that complicated and most of us should probably be able to figure it out for ourselves. Why we don’t . . . well, who knows? It doesn’t hurt to have Grunder to remind us. Here are his “5 Steps”:

1. Lead by Example. Or as Grunder says-be the change you want to see happen. “Your people see much better than they hear. You set the tone in your organization every day,” says Grunder. If you want your team members to get their work done, get your work done as a leader. “I realized 10 years ago I needed to shut my mouth and just get things done,” he says.

2. Have Integrity. Tell the truth. Show zero tolerance for those that don’t tell the truth. Grunder feels that watching somebody doing something dishonest and not doing something about it is just as bad as being dishonest.

3. Be Enthusiastic. “People follow those people that excite them,” says Grunder. “I think there are opportunities to go out there and be bold and cement client loyalty.” That doesn’t mean going completely off of your game plan but just being more out there in a positive way.

“We all need to be beacons of hope right now,” he adds. “We need to be more aggressive. Make more friends. Make sales.”

4. Be a Communicator. “Learn how to listen. Listen. Listen,” says Grunder. Ask your employees what’s working and not working for them on their jobs. Ask them what their good days look like. What their bad days look like. Then listen.

Beyond that, have you done a good job defining and sharing the vision for your company? Its mission? It’s core values? Do your people know where you’re going with your company? These are not idle questions. You and your employees must understand these things if you want to achieve your goals. Don’t forget to write down your goals. These include your vision. Your core values. Share them regularly.

5. Do a Little Bit More than the Next Guy or Gal. Grunder says that, in spite of the shaky economy in southwest Ohio he’s ramping up his marketing for 2012 and he fully expects to grow his revenues and profits over 2011. “It’s time to push, hustle and give the perception that you’re successful,” he says. “Go after sales so that people can’t ignore you. There are tremendous opportunities out there right now.” – Ron Hall