jason newLandscape peer groups can be an incredibly powerful tool. In many ways, they allow business owners to get a “glimpse into the future.” As part of a peer group, the opportunity to chat with business owners who have already been through some of the same experiences (or challenges) you might be facing, can allow you to make better decisions.  

Of course, in order to make participation in landscape peer groups as successful as possible, it can help to share some commonalities. It can be incredibly helpful for a key commonality to be the utilization of the same landscape business management software.

That’s why Include Software recently teamed up with McFarlin Stanford, a management consulting firm based in Dallas, to facilitate peer groups for Asset users. Jason New, executive coach, consultant, speaker, and peer group facilitator with the firm shared with us why the decision to become part of a peer group can be an incredibly smart move.

What is a Landscape Peer Group?

Chances are, you’ve already heard of peer groups. Perhaps you even know people who have been involved with them—or maybe you’ve been involved with one yourself. Just to be clear on what we mean, a peer group is defined as a group of people, usually of similar backgrounds, who are likely to influence behavior and beliefs. In business, this can be incredibly useful as peer groups offer a “sounding board” from which participants can bounce off ideas and pose questions.

New defines his landscape peer groups as an opportunity to “bring together like-minded business owners and provide an opportunity to talk about struggles and challenges in a very real way.”

He says that peer groups don’t provide sugar coating to problems but instead allow participants to be honest and open with one another in a way that is very transparent.

“By doing so, peer group members are helping grow their businesses by making smart decisions,” New continues. “Our goal is to facilitate programs where we’re talking about very meaningful aspects of the business, including how to get past specific obstacles that the participants are facing.”  

What You Should Know About Landscape Peer Groups

There are several factors that go into formulating the ideal peer group, says New, who currently already facilitates a number of groups alongside his business partner, James Cali. To date, New says there are 50 companies participating in McFarlin Stanford facilitated peer groups, which are currently split amongst five groups.

Peer groups are often made up of similarly sized companies who are not in direct competition with one another. Of course, a major city may have more than one participant in the same peer group if they’re not directly competing (and therefore would be reluctant to share information).

landscaping-crew-meeting-1New says that they generally like to see at least 10 companies come together to form a group. For the Asset-driven peer groups, most participants will already be using Asset though New says they also envision incorporating business owners who “have a plan of transition to become an Asset user in the future.”  After all, tips and information on how to implement landscape business management software could actually be a very useful peer group discussion, with new users learning from established ones.

In terms of timing, New says that he and Cali are looking for two-year commitments for those interested in participating in these Asset-driven peer groups. During that two-year period, there will be three in-person meetings as well as monthly scheduled calls. Each meeting with cover very specific topics with a focus on challenges that participants are facing. These will include challenges in sales, operations, HR/recruiting, and of course, finances.

“Where it becomes incredibly helpful that the peer group participants are using landscape business management software is in analyzing company data,” explains New. “Financial reporting is going to be a big part of these meetings so that we can start benchmarking each company’s success. In order to do that, it’s necessary to report back with all financial data, something that is made easy with a tool like Asset.”

Benefits of Participating in Landscape Peer Groups

The biggest benefit of participating in a peer group is the ability to “see into the future” by learning from others’ experiences. In other words, by learning from others who have already been where you are, you can make smart decisions that will facilitate better business. You can even avoid making certain mistakes or having a clearer idea of how different decisions and situations will pan out.

“By being part of a peer group, you’ll be able to talk to businesses who have been already had experiences that perhaps you’re just now facing—or you’re going to face in your future,” New says. “That will help you to know what to do. Vice versa, you’ll have the ability to share aspects of your own business that will help other peer group members who are facing something similar. You’ll already know what works—and what doesn’t.”

landscaping-crew-blueprint-1New says that accountability is also huge.

“You now have at least one other person to hold you accountable in your decisions,” he says. “Plus we also see these business owners build lifelong friendships and connections that go beyond their participation in the peer group.”

When the two-year commitment is up, participants will have the opportunity to re-commit and continue within the formal structure of the peer group, if they choose. While the entire experience can be incredibly beneficial, New says that those who are reluctant to take the leap cite the investment of time and money as their biggest concerns.

But New says that like anything in business, you get out what you put in.

“Here’s the thing—people who invest in growing themselves as leaders and who invest in making improvements to their business are those that see their investments pay off,” New says. “Those who participate in peer groups find that everything they get out of the peer group makes that investment worth it.”

In terms of these new peer groups specifically devised of Asset users, New says that it’s a “perfect platform for benchmarking how participants are doing.”

“I think new users, and even those who have been using the system for a while but not to its full extent, will also benefit from tips and tricks on how to get the most out of this powerful landscape business management software platform,” New adds. “The whole idea is helping business owners to make better decisions and to better manage their business and the use of software is another key way to do just that.”

If you want to find out more about the ways in which peer groups or landscape business management software can make you better, let’s explore and see what Asset can do for you.

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 Image Sources:  McFarland Standford, Live Green Landscapes, Walnut Hill Landscape

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