Turf Magazine - August, 2014

LANDSCAPE LEADER

Advice From a Pro

Bill Arman knows a thing or two about the industry.
By Amy K. Hill

"The true secret to success is people. It's all about the people. The ability to surround yourself with the right people is the key to success and a life fulfilled both professionally and personally." That's the advice of Bill Arman, landscape business consultant and co-founder of the Harvest Group. This is pretty solid advice considering it is coming from someone who spent nearly 30 years at ValleyCrest Landscape Companies and thousands of hours coaching and advising industry business owners.

"Finding and keeping myself surrounded with the right people is by far and away [what] I consider my greatest accomplishment," he says.

Arman started out in the industry working with his dad in the family garden on the weekends. He was just 10 years old.

"I love gardens and making them beautiful. My dad and I would start with pruning and raking leaves and then mowing the lawn culminating with a grand finale of turning on the sprinklers and letting the cool water reward the newly kept garden."

After he turned 13, a friend, who was leaving to attend a military prep camp for two weeks, asked him to take his place with a landscape maintenance crew. That was a whole new experience.

"I was quickly inserted onto a maintenance crew with four other people who spoke another language (Spanish), with our leader from England who also spoke quite differently, the Queen's English. It was a whole new world. We worked on a homeowner association landscape project of 90 homes, mowing, weeding, watering, trimming and carefully manicuring the gardens at these homes," he recalls.

"After my friend returned, the leader chose me over my friend to complete the summer on the crew. My friend as it turned out wasn't heartbroken and actually was quite relieved; he was asked to be successful elsewhere. We still remain friends today nearly 50 years later."

That experience whetted Arman's appetite to learn more about gardening, and he went on to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California to pursue a Bachelor of Science in horticulture. Almost immediately, California-based ValleyCrest recruited him for their maintenance division.

"I enjoyed a nearly 30-year career with ValleyCrest, starting at the apprentice gardener level and culminating my career serving as regional vice president of the Southern California Maintenance Region ... It is safe to way I learned quite a bit, most of which had less to do with gardening and more to do with business and working with people," explains Arman. "I decided I needed to be real good - no, great - at the people side to truly enjoy success."

So, he concentrated on studying and practicing the art of finding good people. With the experience he garnered at ValleyCrest - having interviewed more than 5,000 people and hiring hundreds of them - he used those skills with recruiting as one of the core areas of focus with the Harvest Group, the consulting firm he co-founded in 2007 with Ed Laflamme, who founded, operated and eventually sold a multi-million-dollar landscape company in Connecticut.

Continues Arman: "I even wrote a book on the subject called 'The Harvest Way for Recruiting and Hiring the Right People' that shares my tips and techniques on building a recruiting program."

Change is constant

At the Harvest Group, both Arman and Laflamme deliver talks and workshops around the world. The main point they try to get across is this: "Change or be changed, changed out!"

"Things change and that will never change, and if you don't change, adapt, innovate and differentiate, plan on becoming extinct," he stresses.

What's one thing that Arman would like to change about the industry?

"The one thing I would truly hope to see change is the perception of younger people that this type of career is not worth pursuing. There remains and will always remain great opportunities to become quite successful in this industry both financially and with a very worthy career well served."

The author is editor of Turf magazine, and is based out of the St. Johnsbury, Vermont, office. Comment on this article or contact her at ahill@mooserivermedia.com.