With leadership comes great responsibility, in the world of constant change and increasing perceived competition, we have 4 ways we believe we are taking the future to new heights. I’m excited to share these topics with you. In our 22nd year of business, we believe we have a responsibility to educate our customers on who we are and what challenges they have with hiring a landscape and facility contractor on their property.
From a customer perspective, when someone is either reaching out to us for the first time or they’ve been with us. What we’re constantly trying to work on and bring to the table is that we make them feel trusted. Do they trust us to help them on risk management on that property, bringing beautiful landscapes, providing good communication so we are connected. Good communication and a high level of trust are very important with our current customer. And as we’re starting to meet someone new, how do we get them to trust us? I don’t feel it’s easy to move forward with someone that is not fully trusting and understanding who you are as a company or one of our representatives. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the company that you’re interacting with, it’s the employee or team member that you’re interacting with on a regular basis that really represents the relationship. Our customers will spend about 80% of their time interacting with one person so it’s very important that those two have a good rapport and they build a level of trust and fast communication. Everyone is important and no customer should like they are less important than another one.
Pricing is another key thing for our customers. Its not about being the cheapest, but the best return on investment. So whether you’re going to meet with five different contractors to price out a job or price out a management contract for landscape and snow. People will generally say you are comparing apples to apples here. That’s true but you also should be open to what that contractor is presenting to you. Another phrase I like to say is, “You wouldn’t go to a doctor and tell them what surgery you want.” You go to the doctor and ask, what do we need. And I think if customers or property managers asked their trusted contractor for their opinion versus put an arbitrary request for proposal out. Otherwise known as an RFP, an RFP goes out to all contractors and they fill in the blanks with prices. If we could start creating a dialogue that allows each contractor to bring what’s unique to the table that they suggest, that would be like going to 4 different doctors to get opinions and then you choose which one you believe has the best intentions and provides the best returns for you.
After earning a customers trust and having the conversation about what their property truly needs, our final piece of the puzzle is our ability to execute on the services. Executing and communicating each step of the way so the client is understanding what is going on with their landscape and understands where the results are beyond just a better looking landscape.
Now this may seem like more of an internal selling point than our customers, but we give great benefits, fair wages along with the training and resources they need to do their job with excellence. While I say its not really a selling point to our customers, they should care because these are the people they are expecting to have on their property repetitively. I don’t think any customer likes to see a new person all the time on their property so I think what we’re charged with is trying to make sure that we set up the best environment we can for the employees so they stay and they continuously serve that customer. At times, that comes at a cost to us to make sure we’re paying fair wages, giving them the proper equipment and materials to use and the proper training to get the job done. So going back to our customers, this would be a good ROI for them knowing we are investing in our team and in relation that is going to come back to help our property.
You don’t want to be hiring the cheapest landscaping company who is burning and turning through team members left and right. We are by no means perfect but just this last month, we celebrated 4 Ten Year Anniversaries in our company. We are also doing a lot of internal training as well as external.. We have team members currently studying for Snow and Ice Management certifications, State Pesticide Certifications and National Association of Landscape Professional certifications. So there is a pretty good buzz going on of what we call achieving your personal and professional goals at Strauser by serving others. And in general, that includes serving the customers and our community. We work very hard to create a good culture that is reflected both outward and inward. By no means do we think we’ve perfected it but its a constant focus of ours.
Being that I started on a push mower and worked my way up through the company, I have a real soft spot in my heart for that. A lot of our team members started with us in an entry level position and worked their way up to leadership positions. Even our Brand Content Creator started out carrying a trimmer and now he carries a camera and manages our marketing. That’s the story and there are many others, including my own within our industry. The other great part is our industry does need a higher level of education at times. It’s not all hands on labor, we have finance, administration, HR, sales and marketing positions within our own company and that branches out to the rest of the industry.
Our community involvement as a landscape provider gives us so many opportunities to help. The one area that we’ve predominantly helped is with things that involve the outdoors. I think that’s the biggest responsibility as a landscape company that we have. Of course, there is plenty of need for helping the homeless and the sick, but we’ve taken a stance to help encourage others to live healthier lives more connected to the outdoors. We’re involved in several nonprofits. One of them is Come Alive Outside which is a national nonprofit organization 100% focused on getting people back into the outdoors. Its great to see that the health industry understands the connection between being people’s involvement with the outdoors leads to a healthier life. That’s why Come Alive Outside is a big one for us. Not to mention the vast majority of our employees’ primary hobbies include some sort of outdoor exposure.
1% For Nature in Monroe County, Pocono Heritage Land Trust with Brodhead Watershed Association are all local organizations that directly impact our nature spaces, water sources, land preservation and how we connect with the outdoors here in our county. Those are all organizations in our hometown where our Pocono offices are located. We are heavily involved in helping raise money to fund those initiatives.
A great event we’ve hosted in the last couple years is the Green Street Challenge. Our most recent one was in 2018. This is an event that goes on across North America in various cities and towns. Essentially, we lay down sod on a downtown street and host a bunch of outdoor games and activities on the lawn as a way to get people outside and spark an interest in more outdoor activity in their own lives. Its a great event because you watch parents playing with their kids and its like a switch goes off and you can see it in their eyes. For a lot of people, it reminds them of the joy and freedom of being outside as a kid and if we can capture that and make a couple people decide they want to take their kids to a park on the weekend instead of being on their phones inside the house all day, then we’re doing our job. This Spring, we’re a sponsor of a 5K
We’d like to believe Nature’s Helpers is a very fitting name. Something I came up with years ago and has stuck to this day. Our slogan “Healthier Landscapes, Healthier Future” is not just a tagline either. It is a testament of who the company is. That statement is accompanied by the phrase “A Better Way.” Our industry is often referred to as “The Green Industry.” Are we as green to the environment as we can be? I don’t think so and I think its our duty to be the change that our environment is counting on. We feel that our company as well as the rest of the industry has a big responsibility to be as green as possible. We are starting to see that change happen on a bigger scale within our industry and we want to continue to be on the forefront of that. Things like reducing pesticides or alternative energy sources, those are what we want to pursue. As well as better planning and landscape designs to help cut costs for the customer and leave a cleaner impact on the environment. There are a lot of options out there and we dont have every system proven yet. The landscape and snow industry is at a tipping point of more companies starting to open up the conversations such as “how do we go about using less salt on properties?” To do that, we have to train our staff to teach our customers about what really goes into being a greener company. We might be bias but if you are someone looking for a landscape company, one of your questions should be “what is your company doing to enhance and change the direction of our landscaping to move in a better way?”
So under our tagline “A Better Way,” we offer many alternatives. A great example is our alternative to annual mulching. We offer a selection of plantings that will provide ground coverage for your bed. Meaning less mulch, better weed control, more color and more biodiversity to your property. In the winter, we talk about calibrating salters and not selling to customers as a “per ton” rate. A per ton rate only benefits the vendors on a pricing structure. It doesn’t mean they are but they could.. Charging by the ton gives an incentive to put down more salt. All that salt is feeding into our ecosystem and at the rate we are going our natural waterways could be seriously damaged. So as a customer, you shouldn’t be concerned with how much salt we use, you should care about the end result. I also believe that we need to loosen up on lawn quality or what we perceive to be lawn quality. We perceive lawn quality as zero weeds when in reality, soil health suffers from weed control applications using traditional chemicals. That’s why we are offer other treatments for your lawn that don’t do as much damage. One of the first things a customer is going to ask us is “will this cost me more?” It’s not always a guaranteed “No.” The initial cost can be more but the financial return on investment could be greater in the future. We have some ways of showing it, but again, we don’t have every answer, we don’t have every statistic to show but we can show certain key things that will make an impact in your immediate ecosystem. Another major change we’re seeing is switching to liquid ice treatment instead of salt. If you are not switching to liquid, you are going to start being behind the times. We started with liquid treated salt which was a good step in the right direction, but what we’re seeing now is companies putting new liquid programs to the test that are based around the statistics of water quality. These forward thinking companies are looking at the future of our natural waterways and how current salt usage as an industry is having devastating effects.
– Transcript from “4 Ways to Innovate” video with Zech Strauser