As part of this year's Top 100 coverage, Lawn & Landscape convened CEOs, presidents and other leaders from companies on the list. We asked to eavesdrop on their conversations – which ranged from how to find good employees to how to choose services to how to make the landscape industry sexier – so we could share their ideas with the broader industry. On the pages that follow, we have two of those conversations for you. The first is among Jen Lemcke, COO at Weed Man USA in Oshawa, Ontario, and Frank Mariani and Fred Wacker, CEO and president, respectively, at Mariani Landscape, Lake Bluff, Ill. The second is between Christy Webber, president, Christy Webber Landscapes in Chicago, and Jim McCutcheon, CEO, HIghGrove Partners in Austell, Ga.
Lemcke: Recruiting right now is one of our big issues. We're seeing it in pockets across the U.S. Gone are the days you can put an ad in the newspaper and get the phone ringing for people coming in. So you need to be innovative in how you're recruiting employees and getting good talent. But it goes beyond that. You've got to manage the process. I'm trying to put my finger on it right now onto why it's not working in some areas.
It's also acquiring online customers and really adapting our technology with some of our processes with customer service. People are expecting a higher level of service, and we've got some of the highest retention rate in our segment of the industry, so we're very happy with that but I think we could be better, and I think technology will help us be better.
Wacker: Jen, you're talking about the need for assistance to allow for someone coming to Weed Man to be able to engage with you in an easy-to-do-business way so that they could start their program with you?
Lemcke: A little beyond that. If they want a quote, they fill it out and it goes to the right franchisee. What I'm talking about are the people that come to our website … but they didn't quite have enough request to quote. We're not doing enough for those people and then on top of that bringing people to our website.
We have a system where you can manage your account on-line, pay your bills online, order services, all of that but it's going beyond that, Fred – allow them to maybe not commit fully to a quote or engage with the company but allow them to get something for free that they can download, and we get a little piece of their information where we can fully ease them into our brand and bring them on-board.
You get these service companies now, and these are small industries – that will tell you 10 minutes before your technician's about to come in and do a service on your fridge. They call you afterwards for quality control.
Wacker: I can take a shot at our lead challenge in 2015, and how we're addressing it. We probably get a lot of the same challenges, Jen but I think recruitment is really important to us, too.
We're both on the professional side and on the field labor side, but professionally we know that on this, sales and horticulturally, I think sales talent is going to come out of the colleges and universities that have good horticultural programs, and we've turned them into our best source.
But, you know, I want to say it's more than sales but sales is an important aspect, but it's the people that really get engaged with the clients on a professional dialogue and be able to manage a landscape program.