by Steve Rak II

I have been struggling with the issue of hiring an account manager at my company for the past year. This is a touchy area for me because in addition to being an owner I have been the account manager for my company for many years now. Over the years I have done a pretty good job at delegating many jobs and tasks to other people with good results.

The problem that I have with letting go of the account management duties though stem from the relationships I have developed with my customers.  Some of my customers have been with us for almost 20 years and I have managed to become friends with a lot of them. I have also been very vigilant about the essentials like returning phone calls, e-mails and text messages promptly.

In addition I am always available to them and am willing to drop what I am doing if there is an issue on site that needs to be looked at. I have been able to develop great relationships with my customers because they trust me to do what I say I will do. I can also handle the occasional upset and irrational customer in a professional and courteous way.

Wearing lots of hats

I get my renewals signed early and try to make sure we do several site inspections with the customer throughout the year. If something gets damaged or broken and we are responsible I make sure it gets fixed at our expense, no questions asked. I am out visiting properties twice a week.

You can see that I handle quite a bit as an account manager and in addition to my other responsibilities as an owner I am beginning to realize that if I want to grow the company I have to let go and delegate these responsibilities to someone else. Not an easy task for me.

I’m not bragging about all the things I do as an account manager but I wanted to paint a picture of what makes a good account manager. In simple terms a good account manager cares about the customer. They put the customers’ needs before their own and they check their ego at the door every day they come to work. They also must have a thick skin.

Account managers are the first line of defense between the customer and the company. Account managers are the face of the company and must know how to take a knock or two and be able to get back up and still solve the customer’s problem. An account manager cannot afford to have anger management issues. If it sounds like a tough job it is.

So why all the talk about the almighty account manager?  Because if this job is not performed correctly you will lose customers, hurt your reputation and most likely will be in jeopardy of losing your business. The account manager position is an essential component of every landscape company.

Chances are that if you are a smaller company it’s likely that if you are the owner you’re also the account manager. You may not look at it that way but think about all of the responsibilities I described above.

Hire someone to replace you

Probably sounds like a day in your life I would bet. Now think about doubling or tripling your company and still trying to do all that and run the business. Eventually you will have to face the reality just like I did; you will have to hire someone to replace you. Ouch, that hurts just thinking about it.

Whether or not you are at the point where you need to hire an account manager or you are the account manager it’s still a good idea to review the requirements needed to make this job successful. If you are the owner who is also the account manager it’s a good practice to set aside some time each week to actually do the job. I know all too well how we as owners have all kinds of good intentions and how they can easily fall apart while we are busy putting out the proverbial every day fires we encounter. Set aside the time and do the job. Let your employees know what you will be doing and keep it consistent every week. This is not an area of your business that you can afford to ignore so if you feel guilty about not actually working in the field, get over it.

If you are in the position that I am in and need to hire an account manager then it’s a good idea to know what you are looking for. The traits I have listed above are only part of the requirements needed for this job. Remember if this person is going to represent you they had better be able to give the customer the same or better experience they had when dealing with you.

Like I said before I am struggling to find the right fit for my company. This is a tough decision but ultimately it has to be done. We are all replaceable at some point, it’s just really difficult to admit that the person that needs to be replaced is you.