December 12, 2018
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

Landscape Ontario is one of the largest and most active landscape associations in the world. Our long-term success is due to two main reasons. First, we are blessed with amazing members. It started with our pioneers and continues to this day. They contribute to the association that represents their core values. They inspire each other. Second, we are planning- and goal-oriented. I remember when our first strategic plan was developed back in 1990. It became a prophetic document. Much of the plan came true. From a staff perspective, it made our job easy. From a member recruitment perspective, it was a useful tool to help new members understand why we exist.

Recently, that strategic plan was revisited. LO’s Board of Directors hired Southbrook Consulting to facilitate an update. Many of you were involved. Your input regarding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) facing the profession provided the framework for the Strategic Planning Committee.

Committee members, Dave Wright, Warren Patterson, Mark Humphries, Gregg Salivan, Paul Brydges, Lindsay Drake Nightingale, Kimberly Khoury, Lindsey Ross, Gerald Boot, Michael Garcia, Carmine Filice, Mark Bradley, Jennifer Lemcke, Christine Moffit, Michael Gucciardi and Jamie Perras, spent two days reviewing the feedback and dreaming of the future.

Core values

Although rapid change is fact of business life, one constant is our core values. They are the foundation that keeps us grounded, provide direction and help us make correct decisions. These values link all members together and we seek to attract members that reflect these values. The committee observed four core values that reflect and infuse our membership.

Community: We are a community for mutual benefit and improvement. We believe that collaboration is better that isolation. We enjoy networking and sharing with our fellow members. We create a safe place for the exchange of information.

Professionalism: We believe that education, knowledge and mastery are what give us credibility. We continually strive to “raise the bar.” We believe that character is essential in building trust in the profession. We strive to be honest and trustworthy. We value integrity.

Stewardship: We care about people, employees, customers, each other and the planet. We believe in fiscal and environmental responsibility.

Leadership: Leaders assume responsibility and ownership. They “walk the walk.” They believe in serving others. Volunteerism and giving back is natural. Contributing to the betterment of others has inherent rewards.

Why do we exist? What is our purpose?

When it came time to discuss why we exist as an organization, the conversation became lively and spirited. There were so many answers. In the end, we agreed the simple purpose of Landscape Ontario is “to advance the industry.” We used the word “industry” instead of “profession,” because it is a broader term that encompasses the many interrelated and diverse occupations that work together to create landscapes. It is important to still use the word “profession” when appropriate, because it gives value and meaning to what we do.

Our 25-year stretch goal

We want to be the “number one resource to the industry, resulting in 80 per cent of the market within 25 years.” Currently, we represent about 35 per cent. We have a long way to go, however, focusing on becoming an indispensable resource for the members will naturally lead to continued growth.

Our two-year goal

“Landscape Ontario will become a hub for creating a sustainable career.” The largest barrier to growth of our profession is workforce development. Members often can’t keep up with the demand for their services due to a lack of human resources. We want to become the “career of choice.” We want employees to work for “employers of choice.”

This is easy to say, but difficult to do, but it must be done in order to ensure our future. Our job as an association is to “advance the industry.” Workforce development is key to that advancement.

How are we going to achieve our goals?

The strategic plan outlines details under five headings: investment, education, communication, marketing, and technology. Over the next few years, we will:

Develop and implement a profitable hiring hall model
The hiring hall will create benchmarks, set wages and benefits, develop industry standards, and collaborate with institutions. We will create the conditions to become the “career of choice.” We will provide “employers of choice” with the skilled people they need. We will seek to eliminate seasonality in the workforce. We will recruit youth into the hiring hall by ensuring they are provided with meaningful work and the opportunity to continually enhance their knowledge and skills.

Perform a technology audit of the association
Our existing programs and processes will be examined to ensure we have access to the tools required to understand our member’s needs and behaviour, so we can provide the very best service. It is important that our decisions are based on credible data.

Develop a strategy to attract newcomers and youth (aged 15 to 24) to our industry
We will seek professional assistance to help tell our story to young people. We will also understand the future of landscaping. Manual labour will eventually be replaced with technology and machines. Robotic lawnmowers and vacuum lift tools provide a glimpse of the future. The skill set required will be different. We will seek to communicate the future to the future members of the industry.

Develop a Top 100 Employers of Choice Awards Program
By creating awareness for leading edge techniques and processes for recruiting and retaining employees, we hope to inspire others to elevate their business so employees will seek them out.

Bring training to the members
We will expand partnerships with suppliers across the chapters and sectors to bring quality education and training opportunities to every community. Some suppliers already have the location and resources to deliver strong education. We will work with everyone who shares our goal to become “prosperity partners.” We will explore distance-learning technology to further improve education accessibility. (Video, live-streaming, webinars, virtual classrooms, etc.).

Improve engagement within our communications channels
Currently, we over-communicate using every available tool, from print to social media. We will seek to understand the preferences of each individual member, so that our communications are valued and targeted. Custom communication is our goal. The messages will be for member benefit. We are hoping improved communication and conversation with our membership will increase our renewal rate from 95 to 98 per cent. Our goal is 10 per cent annual membership growth.

Develop marketing materials to attract youth (15-25)
We seek to connect with youth, parents, teachers and guidance counselors at high schools and colleges. We will let them know about the career opportunities available in our profession.

Continue to promote the Apprenticeship Program
In the last three years, we have focused on employers to encourage them to sponsor apprentices. This has been met with moderate success. In the future, we will focus directly on youth and employees. We will attract them to our hiring hall and take responsibility for their progress and development.

Unify and engage the membership by communicating the values, strategies and tactics in this strategic plan.

Study the way technology will shape the future of our industry/profession and seek to utilize all tools available to listen to our membership and to advance the industry.

Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at