Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Learning from others - Thank you Thornton Landscape

I'm grateful for a recent opportunity to explore and learn new business practices by visiting an established landscape design/build company located north of Cincinnati, Ohio. Rick Doesburg of Thornton Landscape generously opened the doors of his business and gave a day of his time to share his business operations with us.

Last week I set out accompanied by two managers from the Lawn Lad team, Adam and Drew, en route to Cincinnati as a part of the PLANET Trailblazers program. In a continuing quest to learn from others who are successful in this industry, we took the opportunity to learn about Thornton Landscape and what has made them a successful business for nearly fifty years.

As a growing business we face challenges each day. I know that others before us have experienced similar frustrations and any chance we have to learn from the successes, failures and lessons learned the better off we will be. I have made plenty of mistakes in business and it pains me when I look back and think about how I could have avoided making those mistakes and possibly souring relationships with our customers in the process.

As a business owner who has to make the books balance, I questioned the wisdom of three of us taking two days from the office and away from the business here at home and spending money on travel, lodging and the lost opportunity of working here at the business. In hindsight I do not regret making the investment - we learned a lot from the trip. Perhaps one of the more valuable things to come from the trip thus far is the conversations that have been started on numerous topics about those areas in our business that we can and should improve.

To be certain the conversations are just beginning and the investment in the trip will pay dividends for some time to come yet. I believe the out of pocket costs we incurred will benefit Lawn Lad tremendously as we prioritize areas for improvement.

I value the input from our customers - as this is the primary source for ideas on how we can improve. One of the key questions I want to ask and have answered is, "What could we have done differently to improve your experience?" The feedback provides us with the necessary information to make improvements in areas where we may not have realized we were lacking. Taking the trip to Thornton Landscape and getting outside of our bubble allowed us to see how another successful business is meeting the needs of its customers.

Thank you to Rick and Andy Doesburg and the Thornton Landscape team for having us down and helping us to learn from your experiences. Thank you also to our customers who provide us with feedback about how we are doing and their experiences so that we may continue to improve our service to our customers. I invite you to share your experiences and suggestions for improvement.

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