June 15, 2009

By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

Jacki HartBreathe. Just breathe. In my experience, this is one of the hardest months in our industry. You’ve been running flat out for a month or two. The phone is ringing more often than you have time to answer it. A long list of loose ends to tweak, finish, or fix, are piling up. Production schedules aren’t quite following your ‘Plan A.’ The questions are coming at you at break-neck speed from all directions. Your brain is crammed full of all the stuff you need to get done, what you should probably be doing today, and should have already done, but avoiding doing for whatever reason. It’s then that you might say to yourself, “Would someone please remind me why I am doing this again?”

Okay, I will: This is the time when we are all in our rhythm, and right smack dab in the middle of our passion. We are talking to customers, building brand and relationships, handling all the green living things we love, and just getting out there. We are outside, and doing what we love to do. We have that immeasurable sense of accomplishment and pride for how we earn our living. And, we do it without being in an office all day, or on an assembly line. We coax tired muscles up the stairs to bed at night. We wonder how we’re going to make it with our sanity intact, yet, we always do, year after year.  So smile...you’ll make it. In the meantime, thrive on the pace and stop to smell the Syringas.

This too is the time to toss thoughts into your November file. The November file is that file folder in the middle of your filing drawer. The one that holds all the ideas, revelations, questions, affirmations and frustrations which you will turn your attention to after all the craziness subsides later this year. Download as you go. Do a ‘brain dump’ every week, and just write out what’s emerging with your thoughts (‘I-should-have’, ‘I’d-like-to-change’, ‘next-year-we-need-to-do-this-differently’). Free up some brain space for stuff that has to be done now. Make a place for stuff that can done later.

This month, I’m featuring a very clever young lady who has a wonderful fresh outlook on her new business, and who has put all of her ducks in a row before jumping into the pond.

Erin Schuler of Williamsburg, about 70 km south of Ottawa, has worked hard in the winter months over the past two years learning how to plan and implement her business dream. It’s great to see how the Prosperity Partners program is helping business people in our industry navigate the challenges of business in productive and effective ways.

Create It! is Erin Schuler’s business, established in January of 2008. She performs primarily garden design, installation, maintenance, and consulting. It’s primarily a one-woman show with tons of potential to grow.

Q: What is the vision you have identified your business as a result of what you learned in the Prosperity Partners Program?

A. Create It!‘s vision is to provide quality service from consultations to installations, where customers’ ideas grow into full bloom with professional, courteous service.

Q: What are the core values that are non-negotiable in your every day business dealings?

A: Creativity, courtesy and quality. When I have completed a job, I ask myself these two things: does it have the quality the client  desires? Is the customer happy with all aspects of the job?

Q: What are the things that keep you awake at night?

A. This would have to be to understand the financial aspect of running a business. Becoming more than just sustainable, but also being profitable. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is also key to keeping the stress load down. There is a balance between work and

Q. What stuck with you the most from the Prosperity Partners Introductory seminar?

A. Discovering that you are not the business. Creating a business reflects who you are, yet is sustainable without you and able to still keep the core values upon which you have built the company. This I find a challenge during the beginning stages of your business.

Q. How have you been able to apply the things you learned to improve your business?

A. I am able to apply the knowledge taken from the prosperity seminars and incorporate it into my every day life. I use the manuals as business guides to figure out what’s next, and what I’ve missed. I have a greater understanding of how to manage all aspects of a business. I am also able to take advantage of the awesome opportunity to network with peers. I love that part about how the seminars are taught.

Q. What are your next steps to improve your business, and did the program help you to clarify what they are?

A. I continue to educate myself through the CLP program and other seminars offered through LO. I remind myself that it is okay to ask questions and I am grateful to the more experienced landscape owners/ managers who are willing to offer great advice. The prosperity program has helped me to understand my weaknesses, grow in my strengths and develop opportunities to succeed in this ever-changing economy.

We are currently developing next winter’s Prosperity Partners events and tools. Stay tuned to this space to learn more as the season progresses. The BIG question for you to ponder (or toss in your November file) is: how can the Prosperity Partners program also help my business? Remember, breathe. Just breathe.

Jacki Hart may be reached at prosperity@landscapeontario.com.

Caption: Erin Schuler of Create It!