The Unique Growth Strategy of Ryan Lawn & Tree

Dec 13, 2022 | Employees, Growth Tips, Leadership, Peer Groups, Training

Recently, I took a group of 18 landscape business owners from my Leader’s Edge peer groups to Kansas City to learn the unique growth strategy of Ryan Lawn & Tree (RLT).

RLT is number 44 on the LM150 of top companies in our industry.

As we entered their corporate head quarters, the founder, Larry Ryan, was sprinting ahead of us like a man on a mission. I wondered where the fire was, but this guy is always moving!

We walked past a huge bull pen of customer service people on phones and computers, and we were led into a large (!) training room.

The Unique Growth Strategy of Ryan Lawn & Tree.

Larry kicked off the meeting sharing his philosophy and showing us his favorite business books of all time.

The RLT leadership team spent the morning opening up their operations, finances and strategy to us.

(To learn more about Larry Ryan, I interviewed him earlier this year on my podcast, The Ultimate Landscape CEO.)

What Makes Ryan Lawn & Tree So Unique?

I took plenty of notes. Here is a condensed list:

  1. They are an ESOP, and do profit sharing plus incentives, so there are many ways for employees to feel ownership and build up their wealth.
  2. Each employee is offered Full Time employment. With this in mind, they plan to continue growing in the states that will allow for longer work seasons.
  3. Fluctuating Work Week (sometimes colloquially called Chinese Overtime) is how they underpin their Full Time strategy. This is a legal way to put front line employees on a type of salary.
  4. Blue collar to white collar. Larry Ryan is on a mission to transform our blue collar industry into white collar jobs. Let’s treat ourselves like professionals and offer professional jobs.
  5. People First strategy. This is not unique per se, but Larry Ryan truly means it when he discusses how they implement it. Their training and development program aims at creating and retaining a higher performing employee to whom they can pay above market wages. They showed us their career ladders: little booklets that they use for internal promotion.
  6. “Tell your story” is their motto, they train employees in the off season on public speaking, Larry’s goal is to teach his employees to “tell our story better”” and to present our industry as a proud profession doing God’s work.
  7. Celebrate (front line) people. Larry has his office team spend time in the field, closer to the work, the client and the employee. He also spoke about how they use “little gifts to make big recognitions.” with their people.
  8. The list goes on..
  • Final night of our visit at an Austrian Restaurant downtown Kansas City

    Final night of our visit at an Austrian Restaurant downtown Kansas City

Growth Is An End-Result

As you have heard me say, “Getting bigger doesn’t make you better.”

I smiled when Larry Ryan quoted Samuel Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A in 1946. “Get better and your clients will demand that you get bigger.”

Your Challenge: Pick a purpose and hustle towards it.

What made this trip memorable was in the little things, like Larry Ryan’s hustle, sprinting ahead of us down the half way.

It was also in Ryan’s grand purpose that continues to drive this company forward.

Larry may be past traditional retirement age, but don’t let that fool you. His executive team is young, vibrant, and first class leaders in their positions.

Question for you: How compelling is your company purpose? Does it drive your leaders every day to show up with excitement and new ideas?

Happy Holidays!

Regards, Jeffrey Scott!

P.S. To learn the best-in-class Gross Profit Margins (of the sectors that Ryan Lawn and Tree compete in), join us at our Financial Master Class, Jan 5/6