Introducing our Pillars of Culture: # 4 of 10

February 28, 2023

When talking among industry friends, a common theme since the pandemic and prior, is that staffing has been difficult.

As a landscape company owner, I appreciate their struggle, but don’t necessarily share in their difficulties, nor do I feel guilty that attracting and retaining employees isn’t a problem for our firm.

I can say this with conviction because I know the time, resources, and care taken to create an employee-focused culture isn’t easy. When you have a living, breathing, moving employee-focused culture, you have a destination that people want to travel to, and stay… “When you build it, they will come.”

When you think about positive workplace culture you probably think about a Friday cook out for the crew, gift bags at Christmas, coffee and donuts for breakfast, or a company outing. While these are components to successful positive culture, it can’t stop there.

To truly achieve the ideal working place. You can’t start with your goals as an owner, or manager. You need to start with the goals, desires, wants, and needs of your team from the bottom up. This concept can be referred to as “front line focused.” If you can put your team’s needs before yours, they will allow you to reach your goals. But they must come first. Always, without exception.

Fostering positive culture can’t be something you put time to on your calendar once a week or handle in one monthly team building event. It needs to be the platform for each interaction you have with your team and each decision you make.

One of our pillars of culture (# 4 out of our 10) is: Create a tone of friendliness and warmth – Every conversation, phone call, e-mail, sets a tone and creates a feeling. Pay attention to every interaction and be sure you’re setting a tone of friendliness, warmth, and helpfulness.

Everyone deserves to feel respected and treated well. Even with a team over 120+ we have maintained this tone of friendliness and warmth. We can do this because each interaction my business partner and I have with an employee is friendly and warm. Our leadership team follows suit, and it flows down to the bottom and then back up.

The familiar saying of “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers” has been true since the beginning of time, but even more so today. Our industry has become less desirable to the next generation along with other skilled labor industries like carpentry, plumbing, or HVAC. I think that society puts a fair amount of blame on the younger generation for being too lazy or not wanting to work with their hands. While maybe some of this is true… I think our industry along with other skilled labor industries are simply missing the boat on positive company culture that industries such as technology or finance aren’t.

What is your first question when someone quits on you? If your answer isn’t “what did we do or not do to make them quit,” you’re searching in the wrong place. Our team is ours to lose or not add to, the responsibility sits with the owners and leadership teams.

Our industry members deserve better. You can be that owner or manager that sets the tone for your company. It doesn’t need to start with money, events, or swag. It needs to start from your heart and the rest will follow. r

— Andrew Pelkey is chief operations officer and co-owner of North Point Outdoors. He is the current NHLA VP.