Business Management A Better Way

–by Robert Hayter, July 2008

Passion and purpose are the substance of most landscape companies.  Together they activate an entrepreneurial spirit so common to our industry; and that sustains many owners, managers and employees each workday.  Passion and purpose can also be the roots of a business management system.  Roots that support and nourish a company’s vision, operations and customers.   Creating union of these business essentials requires a “system.”

The “OPMSM System” allows owners, managers and employees to clearly understand their role in contributing to and the achievement of a company’s passion and purpose — its vision.

In recent years, the way landscape businesses are managed has been discussed extensively in trade journals, at professional conferences, and even on an occasional bar stool, in response to feelings that there must be “a better way”.    A better way to achieve the passion, purpose and vision is by improving business operations and management.

Over the past 15 years, I have been invited to speak at several professional conferences, company retreats, and business seminars.  It seems to me that most owners and managers who attend these sessions are open to and eager for managerial improvement or even transformation.  However, if the following excerpts from the Professional Landscape Network’s (PLANET) Crystal Ball Report # 27 truly describes the behavior of the majority of landscape company owners and managers, then a business management system is very much needed.

“Think about it, there isn’t a landscape owner today who doesn’t stop what he’s doing to put out daily fires – whether it be finding a replacement worker to substitute for one who didn’t show up, dealing with an irate client who misunderstood what was to be done on their property, or scrambling to find plant material at the last minute for an installation job on which someone forgot to place a nursery order.  In fact, most landscape business owners today are so consumed by these daily business challenges as they erupt, that they put aside their best intentions to plan for the year, or even an upcoming season, to settle the day’s disputes, only to face exhaustion by evening when they finally have free time to get to important business paperwork.”

Such work environments cause significant stress, waste company resources, and limit growth and profits.  Thus a company’s vision is unachievable.

Not much is new about entrepreneurial vision.  Most, if not all, landscape companies are started or guided by their owner’s vision.  Vision is actually the mental ability to perceive things yet to be.  Something of a “mental picture” of what your company will look like in the future.

However, the thought of running your business by vision alone is like seeing by the light of the moon.  Just as the moon’s illumination is limited and varied, vision alone limits your ability to manage.  Successfully managing your business requires insight and systems in order to realize your vision.  Optimum Provision ManagementSM (OPM), a business management system created for landscape companies, embraces vision through its content and principles.  OPM increases the likelihood that your vision will be realized.

Those everyday activities and operational uncertainties often cause loss of vision, both your “mental picture” vision and your “managerial” vision.  The gravitational pull of everyday activities weakens your focus and perception of your company’s direction and controls.  The tug-of-war between your ability to see that what you are doing to achieve vision vs. your response to daily activities is most often won by the energy of daily activities.

OPM, a system, creates increasing levels of insight for you to achieve your vision through sound business management, a system that clarifies resource use, processes and operations.  Too often landscape companies are “managed” in reverse.  That is, processes define operations and operations define management.  This causes weak controls, reverses focus and consumes time.  Thus, vision is lost.

Optimum Provision Management uses five integrated components to establish business management principles.  It is especially well suited for landscape company owners, managers and employees.  “We started OPM (Optimum Provision Management), what we call “The Greening of New Garden Landscaping and Nursery” in March 2006.  The process started with a clear understanding of our strategy; which changed our view of the market, current and future customers and ourselves.  We formulated an organizational arrangement that fosters interoperability and pushes responsibilities down to the employees that are responsible for delivering products and service to our customers.  We are increasing the value that we delivery through our focus on improved systems, processes and training.  This focus has provided greater customer loyalty and an improved bottom line.  Our greatest challenge with OPM has been execution.  With our entire team committed to this challenge, we are moving forward though accountability and our pledge to an OPM culture.  This year we celebrate not only our 31st year, but our ability to use the tools we have learned in our OPM sessions to sustain our company by matching our resources to the market, continuously.”  Morris Newlin, President and CEO, New Garden Landscaping and Nursery, Greensboro, North Carolina


By definition, OPM is a system that continually seeks the best results from a given set of resources and circumstances:

  • Optimum: Conditions producing the best results; selected combination of conditions that produces the best results. Thus, the most favorable outcome, however, not ultimate or extreme.
  • Provision: The act of preparing in advance to meet an objective; the disposition and ability to prepare beforehand and direct actions to realize an objective.
  • Management: The act and manner of planning, organizing, staffing, controlling and directing.

The five components of the OPM system create logic and synergy.  A business management system should establish the framework and interdependent rationale for all aspects of running your company.

Component One: Strategic Clarity (SC) is essential to the realization of your vision.  Without a strategy that is clearly understood at all levels of your company, your vision likely will not be realized.  Strategy allows you to share your vision by making the company’s passion and purpose clearly understood, which compels your team and makes you more unique and better focused.

Component Two: Organizational Arrangement (OA)
establishes your team’s positions and their interdependence.  Many landscape companies are organized around various technical specialties or roles.  Such arrangements increase operating costs, compound communication channels, cause inefficiencies and limit your team’s contributions.  OA brings interoperability to your team.  With interoperability, more team members are willing and able to get things done.

Components Three and Four: Process and Skill Enhancement (PSE), and Inter-Activity Time Control (ITC) create operational management principles that support Strategy and Organizational Arrangement.  Thus training, skills and processes are integrated into your company’s objectives.  PSE and ITC are similar to and complement Lean Principles.  OPM’s use of PSE and ITC recognizes the variability and customized nature of the landscape work and services.

The last component, although there is no particular order to the OPM components, is Implementation/Execution (I/E).  I/E is focused on managerial leadership.  Actually, the discipline of leadership at all levels of your company.  Staying focused, setting priorities, and company-wide accountability are the basics of I/E.  Learning and using OPM’s five components is challenging, requires a long-term commitment and provides a business management system that is realistic and dynamic enough to improve your company.  Perhaps that is part of your vision.

If a system is a set of interacting and interdependent elements or conditions and vision is a “mental picture” of the way things should be, one without the other is the delusion of both.  OPM can provide clear focus for realizing your vision.

OPM has been presented at the 2007 and 2008 ANLA Management Clinics and several state and regional professional meetings.

Robert Hayter is Principle-in-Charge at The Hayter Firm, Pinehurst, North Carolina.    Reach him at:

“Optimum Provision Management” and “OPM” are registered service marks.

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