Being Active In a Trade Association Makes Us A Better Contractor
Have you heard the expression, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” It’s a loaded question that usually leads nowhere. Eight times out of 10 you begin daydreaming of building a spaceship or a time machine.
Best-selling author on marketing and leadership, Seth Godin, says a better question to consider is: “What would you do even if you knew you would fail?”
In other words, what is something that means so much to you that you would sacrifice part of yourself for it?
If I were to attribute Groundcare Landscape’s success over the last few years to something, it would be to the heart my brothers and I have put into it. The success of the business is very meaningful to all of us. There are other reasons we have been successful — among the top five I would say is our active involvement in the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA). The CLCA is a not-for-profit trade association that was formed in the early 1950s to protect and champion the scope of work allowed under the C-27 (landscape contractor) license.
The decision to be active in this trade association is what makes a difference for us. There is an old saying that comes to mind… “You only get out of something what you put into it.” Well, simply put, we’re putting into the association by being active volunteers. CLCA has hundreds of members throughout the state. Only a fraction of those are active volunteer members. These are the people that help keep the organization alive. We joined CLCA in November 2013 and made the decision to be active members four years later. We’ve seen the fruits of this commitment in the success of our company ever since.
My brothers and I each serve in different chapters within CLCA. Francisco serves as President for the San Fernando Valley Chapter. Omar serves as President for the Kern County Chapter. Ivan serves as Secretary for the Channel Islands Chapter. I’m serving as Chairman of the Board for the Los Angeles/San Gabriel Valley Chapter. This year I am also serving on the CLCA state board as Secretary/Treasurer. Needless to say, we are committed and as active as can be!
As a family we learned the importance of volunteering early on. My father, Javier Salazar, helped create and lead a volunteer group that accomplished great things for his hometown in Mexico. Over a span of three years, they remodeled the junior high school in their community and installed a new potable water deposit that has provided 24-hour clean water for the last 20 years. Most of the organizing and fundraising was done here in Los Angeles and our dad made sure we participated. We would print and sell tickets and organize all sorts of fundraising events. Because of this, we witnessed their accomplishments as teenagers from beginning to end. We learned how good it felt to give back and volunteer.
Being a part of CLCA makes us feel good. We feel like we are giving back into the industry that provides for our livelihoods. The CLCA also allows us to work collaboratively on local volunteer projects to better our community. We have received local and state recognition on several humanitarian projects that we’ve had the honor of being a part of.
How CLCA Makes Us Better
Imagine attending a class in school as a freshman where your classmates are as smart or smarter than you are. It is a mixed class of freshmen and seniors. The seniors know the material better because they’ve been exposed to it longer than you have. They have solved problems you haven’t even learned of yet. You are all there because you enjoy the class. The Freshmen are learning something new, and the seniors learn more while also helping others. All want to be successful. That’s how the CLCA is.
We don’t compete in the local CLCA chapters. In fact, most of us cover different areas in the region. Also, for the most part, we each have a different specialty inside the trade. This makes it easy to share work scenarios with each other and help one another solve problems. Many of the conversations have to do with small issues like “what’s your favorite irrigation controller?” or “how does your team start their mornings?”
Sometimes small things turn out to be big. For example, when we were curious about using a business software to help manage our company, we learned about LMN from a peer. At the time, it was a total game changer for us. It taught us to build company budgets and to price jobs accordingly. This was leaps and bounds ahead of simple pricing where you priced your labor at X per hour because your competitor did. It also provided a definitive answer to the question: “How low can I price my work?”
Being a multi-owner company and learning how to interact with each other in a more professional manner has been transformational. Our local chapters have taught us how to properly run board meetings. In turn, we’ve implemented board meetings into our company and find that having them at least once a month keeps us more organized and on track. Knowing our officer roles helps each of us to prepare for meeting discussions. Taking minutes of the meeting keeps everyone accountable. There is a comfort in knowing that everything is recorded and can be referenced at any point in the future.
During times of uncertainty, we tend to lean into things that we know and people we trust. In the past year, our relationship with CLCA has proven to be imperative to our success. We have been able to lean into the organization when we needed guidance. I am grateful for all the work our peers have referred to us as well as the support they have offered when we needed it. We look forward to much more learning and growing as individuals and professionals!
Alex Salazar is the Business Development Manager at Groundcare Landscape Company, a family-run landscape contracting business with offices in the San Fernando Valley and Bakersfield, CA.