Total transparency: Establishing a culture of trust and respect
As we discussed previously, The Plant Concierge, located in Dallas, Texas, started off as a high-end interior plant service business before transforming into the full-service landscaping business it is today, but it did not get that way overnight.
Best practices in business
Growing up working with a number of family members that owned nurseries in Texas, Thomas Fancher, owner, says the biggest business lessons he learned were the importance of always practicing good customer service, as well as taking time to maintain every single plant in your possession.
This focus on customer service, he believes, is a contributing factor in the company’s generation of new customers, as he notes they have been 100 percent referral-based since the beginning.
Fancher also notes that this year’s addition of their first sales associate could also provide more opportunities to grow their customer base through social media and networking activities.
Erica Sosa, sales manager, has worked with the company for over a year and has found that the simple act of networking has proven the most beneficial method for generating new client leads.
While she had no prior experience in the green industry before working with The Plant Concierge, in the time she’s been with the company, Sosa says she’s gleaned a wealth of knowledge regarding the demands that accompany this type of career.
Being closer to the industry now, she says, has also given her a deeper understanding of the constant uphill battle finding qualified labor can be. With the daily work being as labor-intensive as it is and with workers being face-to-face with the elements, she can see now why it can sometimes be difficult to sell this line of work to those who are unsure of it.
Over the next few years, Sosa says she hopes to continue to see growth in the company overall, and in her position, she hopes to be able to bring in new business and continue to learn as much about the industry as possible.
To help her in broadening her green industry knowledge, Sosa says when possible, she likes to accompany the crews out to the jobsite and learn more of the hands-on aspects of the job. This, she says, gives her insight into what it really takes to perform these jobs and better understand the processes that make them tick.
“I love doing that because it gives me insight into what they do on a daily basis and helps me sell it to other people,” she says.
As it seems to be with every landscaping company across the country, finding and retaining top-notch employees can prove to be difficult. This, Fancher agrees, is why creating an inviting company culture is crucial.
“I don’t think I’ve met one contractor or one landscaping company or spoke to anybody that is able to keep up with the labor and the demand,” he says. “Everyone is behind.”
As the leader of the company, Fancher says he actively strives to form relationships with his employees by getting to know them and investing in their lives. The company will host holiday get-togethers that allow everyone to bring spouses and children, and Fancher adds that for the last year, the company has also offered English language classes for their Spanish speaking employees.
“We also look at that as a development tool because in a market where it’s difficult to grow employees to the management level, you want all of your employees to have that opportunity,” he says. “And the only way they’re going to be able to do that is to be able to communicate with clients.”
Regardless of where you are in life when it comes to education or work experience, Fancher believes as long as the work ethic and willingness to learn are there, you could potentially find your place in the green industry.
He does, however, strongly agree that pursuing educational opportunities through classes, seminars, expos, etc. can almost always prove beneficial to a green industry career, which is why he plans to focus more heavily on working with Greenius and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) once they are settled in their new location.
Fancher says another way the company actively works to create a family-like company culture is by coming together to participate in charity events going on in the area. This, he says, allows them to give back to the city that’s given them numerous opportunities to showcase their work.
In his personal life, Fancher says he’s put into practice sound financial planning and budgeting tools that have proven successful for him, and because of this, he also takes time to sit down with employees and teach them the lessons he’s learned through the years.
“I learned more from the money I lost and the mistakes I made,” he says. “My door is always open, and I’m always willing to sit down with the employees.”
Due to the size of the company, Fancher says they are, unfortunately, not able to offer insurance, as is the case with many landscaping companies across the country. To combat this, Fancher says they are able to offer their employees a stipend to cover insurance costs. This allows the employees to find a provider that fits their budgets and needs.
At the end of the day, Fancher believes that his transparency as a company owner and his willingness to own up to his mistakes helps create a company culture that brings people in and gives them a place to call home.
“I think the biggest factor is that we are a family, and we are there for one another,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what it is, I’m an open book with my employees. They know my past, my present and where I’m looking to the future, and I think that helps develop our culture even further as well because they know me. They know that I’ve made mistakes in life and so it’s okay if they make a mistake, and they can come to me and tell me what’s going on.”