January 15, 2014
By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

Jacki HartThroughout each season, I receive emails and occasional phone calls from Prosperity Partners members who just want to check in with me, and discuss how things are going for them.

I thought it would be a great start to this year’s series of columns to celebrate the success of the Prosperity Partners Pillars concept by sharing snippets from one business owner’s chats with me last season.

Mark Fisher, owner of The Escarpment Company, Milton, has based his business plan and management style on the concepts and skills learned from the program. Mark’s business saw 2013 as the best ever!

When Mark first joined the Prosperity Partners program, his sales were $55,000, and he lost money that year. He didn’t know where his business was going, why or how.

This past year, Mark is really proud of these numbers: sales of $400,000, and he paid himself the industry benchmark for small businesses: 10 per cent of gross sales, plus ten per cent net profit left in the company. This is a great achievement, and Mark has been smart by keeping growth slow and steady, while he worked on profitability and balancing business with lifestyle.

Let me share his thoughts for the formula with you.

“I don’t think we have any one secret to our successes this season. I think it was a collection of things. I categorize my business into the Prosperity Partners pillars and consistently look at areas where we are succeeding and areas where we need improvement. We have been doing this for the past seven years and have seen improvements every year using this approach.”

Mark and I discussed that fundamentally every action in his business falls into one of the Pillar categories: Sales Success, Professional Operations, Financial Health, Leadership and Customer Loyalty.

Here are some of the Mark’s comments about how he has applied the Prosperity Partners language and concept.

“When I complete this exercise, l write the pillars out as column headers at the top of my page and put down my thoughts. For example under Sales, I keep lists of jobs booked, jobs quoted, jobs to quote and sales calls to attend. I have found over the years that it is very important to have activity in all of these areas. Writing out the lists and reviewing them daily keeps everything top of mind and allows me to note next steps for each item.  

“Customers for Life emphasises the importance of customer service and using our current work to plant the seed for future opportunities. By developing customers for life, we are establishing a referral-based business. I make it a priority to track customer feedback, sources referrals – whether from past clients, sub trades, fellow LO members, suppliers, etc. It’s important to say thank you, and to make sure you don’t let down the referral source by not following through with professional consistency.

“Financials — When I completed Prosperity Partners the biggest gap in my business that I identified was the financial area. By being made aware of the pillar that I needed the most improvement in, I was able to focus more of my energy in this area until I had a system in place that worked for my business, and was regularly monitoring it. I put together a comprehensive budget every season and understand overhead recovery and job costing principles. Most importantly, I review how I am tracking. By applying this knowledge every day, it has helped tremendously with profit and growth.

“Operational Efficiency — The Prosperity Partners program, and the related peer networking, made it really clear to me that our goal is to instill best practices across all the pillars in my business. When I focus on Operations, I look at the flow of each project and note successes and failures so we can implement processes and procedures that increase our productivity moving forward. If this is done consistently, then your business is in a constant state of improvement. Prosperity Partners also emphasizes the different roles that one plays within the company at any given point. As a business grows, the owner’s role changes with it. This is a hugely important realization, and one that has prepared me for growing my business better than anything else. The Prosperity Partners program and experienced instructors offer many suggestions and advice in this regard. In addition, the peers I’ve met through Prosperity Partners have been a great resource. I have brains to pick, and stories to share. It’s invaluable. The Online Prosperity Partners Best Practices Template Library was also a great resource.

“Leadership — In the course, we are asked to think about essential value-based questions that lead us to form a solid base for what our principles are and what our business stands for. Establishing these root principles has allowed me to lead and navigate my business according to what is most important at any given time. My principles (core values, purpose and vision) have become second nature to my employees, clients and suppliers. These are the non-negotiable expectations, which drive behaviour and decisions at all levels in my business. For my employees in particular, it’s the basis for rules of conduct and work processes.

“I keep this pillar top of mind when making decisions as to which projects to take on and where I want my business to be in five, 10, 15 years.”

I’m really grateful to Mark for sharing his thoughts and experience gained from diligently applying the Prosperity Partners concept to his business over the formative years. He now has a great path ahead — the Path to Prosperity. He has choices as to where he wants to take his business: sales volume, service area, services offered, etc. He has solid groundwork and management skills on which to move forward with confidence and profitability. This is the essence of the Prosperity Partners Program.

Congratulations Mark!

I’m really proud to be carrying on the legacy of our Past President, Bob Tubby, whose vision was for LO to help member businesses become more prosperous, one company at a time. So far, so good!

My very best wishes to all for a prosperous journey toward continuous improvement in 2014.

For more info on the Prosperity Partners Program offerings this year, go to www.horttrades.com/prosperity.
Jacki Hart may be contacted at prosperity@landscapeontario.com