6 Lessons We Learned from Blades of Green

Earlier this year, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) offered the opportunity to go “On Tour with Blades of Green.”

This virtual event covered some of the great things happening at the Edgewater, Md.-based lawn care and pest control company. We’re happy to say Blades of Green has been a PCO Bookeepers’ client for nine years.

Owners Mark Leahy and Brad Leahy have a good thing going at their fast-growing firm, which serves Maryland; Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. The company’s services include lawn care, organic lawn care, seeding, pest control and commercial pest control. They have approximately 20,000 customers with the average client receiving 2.1 services from the company.

Read on for six lessons we learned from the event. Or to watch it yourself, visit the NALP site and register for a free link to the video replay.

Budget billing. About five years ago Blades of Green decided to switch the entire company over to a budget billing approach, meaning they break down their clients’ yearly totals into 12 even payments. This recurring revenue concept is convenient for customers and it benefits Blades of Green, too. For example, it has improved customer retention and made it easier to upsell additional services to existing clients. Plus, this “subscription” model is attractive to banks. It helps financial ratios, too. Brad Leahy says, “Our AR and bad debt are the same as they were four years ago, and we’ve grown 120 percent in that time.”

Partnering to upsell. Over time, the management team at Blades of Green has observed that technicians don’t like to sell, so the company decided to pair each technician with a sales team member, known as a solutions specialist, to facilitate additional sales. “Within Real Green, a technician takes a picture of a problem, attaches it to the account, which sends a call log to the solutions specialist, who then calls the customer,” explains Daniele Collinson, pest control division manager. “They say, ‘While we were out there, our technician noticed this problem. Would you like help with that?’ We provide the service they’re asking us to provide, and then we go above and beyond.”

Thinking (and speaking) positively. Having a positive attitude is part of the culture at Blades of Green, and the company has its own language to reflect that it is a priority. Direction of Operations David Drennan shared how the company has renamed the following terms to be more positive:
Client > customer
Opportunity > mistake
Leader > manager
Solutions specialist > salesperson
Cancel > Modify the program
Investment > cost

“Having a positive spin on it allows for a better relationship with your clients,” Drennan says.

Reframing HR. Human resources is another phrase that’s gotten a makeover at Blades of Green. “When people think of HR, those are the fun police or sticklers, so we decided it’s time to rename the department so it tells people what we actually do,” says Angela Hieronimus, whose title is director of engagement & success. She oversees the Talent and Culture Team, which does ride-alongs with technicians to check in with them and understand their employee experience, among many other things. “We want to see (team members) grow personally and professionally, so that’s where our name came from. It’s all about that positivity and telling people what we actually do.”

Prioritizing hiring. The team at Blades of Green knows that they can’t grow without hiring more people. So, last year they committed to making hiring the company’s No. 1 priority. “We took on the mentality that (hiring) is everyone’s job,” Hieronimus says. “We got everyone involved, and we gamified it.” With a program called “Cruise for Interviews,” the management staff encouraged team members to refer candidates, earning points along the way The prize for the person who earned the most points was supposed to be a cruise, although they converted it to a cash prize due to COVID-19. Blades of Green also trained customer service reps, solutions specialists and other office staff members to do phone interviews, to expand their ability to screen more candidates quicker. Combined with other efforts, these measures helped Blades of Green successfully hire 42 people in 2020. First-year retention was 80 percent and retention of tenured employees was nearly 90 percent. Other initiatives that show the company is focused on recruiting and retaining employees include:
• A designated “Future Team Member” parking spot in the parking lot for interviewees;
• A voluntary job shadowing process to ensure candidates understand what their role will look like prior to onboarding; and
• A celebratory “welcome to the family” card and pizza gift card sent to the new hire’s family before onboarding.

Developing team members. “For years we chased after goals that were monetary,” Brad Leahy says. “Although fulfilling, that’s not fulfilling for very long.” So now the company has set it sights on developing its people. One way it does that is through the POP Program. POP stands for “personal one-page plan.” Every employee completes a form to document his or her personal and professional goals. The form includes a space to note a “bucket list” experience of their choosing. Employees who meet their goals are eligible to win their “bucket list” item as a reward. One year a team member got to go skydiving. Another person, whose goal was to attend an NFL game at every stadium, won a weekend trip to a game. The ROI on a program like this is accounted for in terms of employee retention, Brad Leahy says. “That’s a huge savings and helps the client, helps our community and helps our company,” he says. “Everything we do focuses back to our people.”

To learn more about  how Blades of Green and PCO Bookkeepers work together, read our Client Spotlight.

Author: Marisa Palmieri Shugrue