Fifteen years ago, I found myself at a crossroads. I had a good job as an Account Manager for a commercial landscaping company, but I also desired to return to school to finish my degree in horticulture. The prospect of quitting my job was scary, but being somebody who loves learning, it was an easy decision to return to school.
To pay the bills, I started mowing lawns and planting gardens in my free time. This was the accidental beginning of Plants Creative, born in 2005, the same year that I decided to return to college. By 2007, my schooling was done and I found myself quickly hiring people to keep up with the demand.
Watching our fleet of service trucks and crews leave the yard each morning still feels surreal. We’ve grown tremendously since those hot summer days spent pushing a lawnmower in between classes, and continue to learn many invaluable life and business lessons.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that people are everything. The saying that taking care of your employees ensures they will take care of your customers is so true. The work we put into building and nurturing our company culture is what keeps our team engaged and motivated to serve our customers on a daily basis.
Culture is one of those “simple but not easy things” that every business has to invest time and resources in. There has to be an intentional effort and genuine desire to build a strong team that is both independent and responsible to our customers and each other.
A culture based on three pillars
At Plants Creative, our culture’s foundation is our values: Integrity, Teamwork, Excellence, Relationships, and Gratitude. Each of these values is backed up with an “I will” statement for each of our employees. We even put these statements up on the wall at our office to continually remind our team of how we do our best work.
Our culture is also about autonomy — equipping each team member with the tools they need to succeed. My goal is for everyone to feel like they’re able to make decisions about their work for themselves within the boundaries set by the values.
We do part of this through professional development courses, certifications, and licenses. The other part is through management. At the beginning of 2019, we started using a new performance management software called 15Five. Employees take 15 minutes a week to answer questions about how their work is going, and managers have weekly 1-on-1's with their direct reports to review feedback. Using the 15Five program has made a tremendous difference in catching any issues as they arise, as well as opening up the communication channels at all levels.
Lastly, our culture is about relationships and fun. I think it’s so important that we take time out of our work to enjoy life, get to know the people we work with, and celebrate wins! Every quarter, we have themed cookouts with our team. Our management team has also started a yearly two-day retreat. Day one is spent evaluating and realigning our current company goals and reviewing the progress of ongoing initiatives. We also build in activities to strengthen our connection as a team. On the second day, we kick back and relax, inviting families, and significant others to join us for some fun!
Being the owner of Plants Creative is one of the most exciting and most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s also something I’m extremely passionate about. I’ve learned through the years that I “work” for the people in my company. My number one responsibility is to listen to my employees and to serve them by identifying their greatest needs.
In the end, it’s about our customers
So there you have it — a little insight into the culture that makes Plants Creative tick. If there’s one single thing that everyone here understands, it’s that we can’t do what we do without our customers.
Everything we do has the end goal of giving the most value possible to our customers. Whether it’s sharpening our values, equipping our team to succeed, or something a little more low-key, like conversations during lunch break, it’s all to make sure that we put our customers first.