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Music City, USA, got a rousing, boot-kicking, U.S. Lawns welcome at the annual conference, July 24-26. With record attendance, owners and their staff joined to celebrate our success and look forward to tomorrow.

Now, the real work begins: implementing strategies to make our network stronger. The theme of this year’s conference was “The Customer Connection,” but as Customer Hero Award winner Ken Beasley of Lafayette and Alexandria, LA, will tell you, that’s far from simple.

“I’ve got a list of 23 goals and objectives to finish out 2014, based on the conference,” Ken told us on a conference call with his managers. “We’ve already done a good job focusing on our customers, but now we realize it’s time to really focus on our employees.”

From franchise veterans to conference newcomers, this seems to be a common theme. Michael Carlo left Nashville with this year’s President’s Award, and a host of ideas for developing his multi-territory West Florida team.

“Most conferences are packed with almost more than you can use, but this one was pretty simple,” he said. “I’m focusing on employee retention: better training, development, trying to get the Chick-Fil-A employees instead of the McDonald’s ones.”

Carlo says he, like every owner, struggles to find and retain the best people. However, the conference served as a reminder for him of just how important these initiatives are.

“If we don’t continue to improve in these areas, the competition will,” he cautioned.

Ken Beasley has some ideas about how to execute, including an incentive program for crew members and even, beginning in 2015, a more robust benefits package.

“Probably the biggest thing I took away from the conference was how much it costs to lose an employee,” Beasley said of his desire to invest in labor. He also plans hold an annual meeting of his own, where Crew Leaders and Gardeners will be honored with awards for performance.

Team unity is something everyone at U.S. Lawns can relate to. Greg Israel of Macon, Georgia, joined the system in December and experienced his first conference in Nashville. He says he was impressed by the way both the network and individuals were celebrated.

“I really enjoyed Ken Hutcheson’s talk about Radical Personalization, and how that complements the ways we’re 99.9% the same,” Israel said. “I spent 30 years in the Air Force, and for me the conference was about unity and consistency, which are values I have from the military.”

Israel says he’ll prepare for change, use what he learned to improve his service, and follow-through and take the Customer Connection to the next level.
It looks like 2014 is going to be a busy year for U.S. Lawns.

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