Building a company is no small feat. But building a well-run company is a monumental task. It’s also the difference between those that see continued growth and those that taper off or hit a plateau. A company that operates like a well-oiled machine is continually generating new leads while also maintaining good relationships with existing clients. It’s the kind of company that attracts top talent but also focuses on retaining its people. And, it’s a company that sees ongoing growth at a sustainable pace. That all sounds great — but what does it take to get there?

The most successful companies treat their employees right.

Companies that are continuing to move forward know that their growth and success is only possible because of their people, says Rick Cuddihe, president of Lafayette Consulting. As a result, they treat their people really well. Of course, that means fair, competitive pay, but Cuddihe says it’s more than that. It also means vacation days and employee appreciation days. Well-run companies are the ones that you see with the owners cooking hamburgers and hot dogs for their employees, he says. They’re the ones taking the extra time to do that.

“It’s because they know that the people make up the company — not just one person,” Cuddihe says. “Well-run companies know they have to treat their people well.”

How do you know you’re treating your people well? Cuddihe says it’s a good sign if nobody is complaining. And if people are, then a good company gets to the bottom of the issue immediately because they know that one disgruntled employee can quickly multiply.

A company that is not so well run isn’t making all this extra effort. They also often show a “lack of trust” that Cuddihe says will ultimately be their downfall.

“These are the companies that don’t pay their employees until they’re on the job site or they’re being stingy with their equipment,” Cuddihe says. “These things show employees that you have no trust in them, and they pick up on that. It doesn’t do anything to build loyalty.”

The most successful companies network.

Reaching out and connecting with others takes some effort, but it’s something that the most successful companies in the industry are doing on a regular basis, says Bruce Wilson of Bruce Wilson & Co. Whether it’s attending trade shows or joining peer groups, connecting with others presents a springboard of opportunity.

“Good companies reach out and network so that they can learn from what other companies are doing,” Wilson says. “Business owners can learn so much from their peers. They can share their best practices and talk about problems. It’s one of the best ways to learn and grow.”

But Wilson says companies often don’t do enough of that and there may be several reasons why. For one, they may already have a know-it-all mentality or too much pride to think they can learn from others. Or maybe they don’t think they have the time. But Wilson says that sometimes people just don’t network well.

“If you’re an introverted person, networking can be really challenging,” Wilson says. “But once people commit to it, they quickly start to see the value and it becomes easier in time.”

The most successful companies are involved in the community.

Community involvement is not only a good thing to do — it’s also good for business. It’s very easy to be a mediocre landscape company. Drive through most areas, and you’ll see different landscape vehicles here and there. So how do you stand out from the crowd? It’s simple — you be the landscape company that locals don’t just see here and there but that they see everywhere. You’re the ones helping plant trees at town hall or sprucing up the flowers along Main Street. You’re there on a Saturday doing work at the local elementary school or even pitching in with a local charity. Companies that are involved in the community have great visibility and they become memorable. Suddenly you’re not a dime-a-dozen landscape company. You’re different.

“If you look at some of the best companies out there, they tend to have something in common and that’s a lot of community involvement and charitable giving,” says Cuddihe. “They’re the companies that are giving back — and people notice that. People drive through their town and they see these companies. They see their trucks again and again, and they start to remember them.”

While even the best companies will admit they “always have room for growth,” there are definitely some businesses in the green industry that are already employing many of the practices industry professionals say epitomize a best-run company. Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

Read more: