August 15, 2010
In response to the request published in the executive director’s column in the July 15 Horticulture Review, what follows are my thoughts on accreditation. I’m not sure if it helps the process to determine the “how” of accreditation, but it expresses my thoughts on the subject, nonetheless.

Leadership is a choice. That’s a statement we all can agree upon without dispute. One can be born into privilege, but one still has to choose to utilize the privilege to lead! Accreditation is similar. Through LO, we all have the privilege of access to the tools that will lead us to accreditation, but first we must make the choice to do so.

Look at all successful companies, no matter the industry. What is the basic item that differentiates those companies within their respective industry? It is one distinct item: All of them believe that they still have much to learn, and continually strive to be the very best at what they do, whether that is through their staff, product, or personal development. The brand, therefore, is to excel.  

All the pioneers of our association had it, and all those who currently lead have it. I am confident that all those who will continue the development of this industry will also have it; the “it” being a desire to continue to improve an industry through the collective improvement of others and themselves.

There is no such thing as reward without effort. In order to succeed, you must first learn how to not succeed; then you will realize that not succeeding on the first try is not failing, but rather failing is not learning from our mistakes and repeating the same behaviour and expecting a different result. It sounds silly, but all great winners had to learn to be a good loser before they could truly win. We grow and win by learning from our mistakes. Through sharing with each other, we gain insight into prevention. But, by repeating our mistakes, we show our ignorance.

It is not difficult to create a system that discourages elitism, which happens when you exclude others from receiving an equal opportunity. When equal opportunity exists, then elitism is only a perception. Those who view the process to accreditation as elitist, use it as an excuse to not get involved. Instead, they look for the magic pixie dust to sprinkle over their operation and become an instant success.

The real challenge is how we measure accreditation. This is difficult, because it is a journey and not a destination, therefore making it hard to define. For example, look at Garden Creations and Thornbusch Landscaping. Both companies promote certification and have certified people on staff. Both companies also volunteer and give back to the industry and their communities, and are Awards of Excellence winners, promote safety, have codes of conduct and operation policies, and send staff and themselves to events and educational opportunities, etc. Yet, one has over 25 years in business and the other is in Year Four. I consider both as accredited companies, but would have no difficulty having the years in business acknowledged. Maybe we need third party assistance, where we as LO set the criteria through research into what other associations or industries use to determine accreditation. Once the criteria are decided upon, then we bring in an outside source/third party judge to decide whether one meets the criteria. The arms-length approach will give more validation to the process.
Paul Doornbos CHT,CLP
Thornbusch Landscaping
Lansdowne, Ont.