The Organic Lawn Care Argument at TruGreen Continues.
Many people always assume that the months of December and January are the “off season” here in the lawn care business. The truth is that the winter months are always just as busy as the spring and summer months but just in a different way. Typically, lawn care is replaced by thoughts of Christmas in the minds of consumers but dyed in the lawn care wool professionals just can’t seem to put it away.
This past week was no exception at Fire Belly as we kept things rolling as best we could but I was a little bit surprised by the number of comments were submitted on our blog. Two of them stuck out at me like glowing Christmas lights at the mall, they stuck out enough for me to consider mentioning them here today. For reasons that probably don’t make a lot of sense to most people outside of our industry, lawn care has become an incredibly emotional subject for people who find themselves employed or connected to it. Just ask anybody who has staked their claim on an opinion about the use of pesticides in lawn care. If you love pesticides and are a supporter of their use, typically you are as fired up about their prohibition as August Busch was around 1919. If you happen to be afflicted by chemical sensitivities or if your a true environmentalist you happen to fall on the teetotaler side of the issue, and your not afraid to make your voice heard.
I wrote a letter to the CEO of TruGreen Landcare this past spring. I posted here on our blog and I continue to get comments about it even today. It was a real letter, meaning I typed it, printed it and sent it out via snail mail. I get lots of response from readers about the letter even today and the two comments I mentioned were directed at this particular post from 8 months ago. Two arrived just this weekend;
I think Mr. Kelly should a little more research on a company before he goes and accuses them of ignoring important topics such as an organic lawn program. 20 years in the business doesn’t give him any insight into the way a specific business is run.
Posting stories with false information such as this on the web isn’t going to get any company to want to do business with you, and isn’t that the real purpose for sending your letter to the CEO of Trugreen, To solicit business?
Good luck with your new venture, I truly do hope it is successful for you. I hope nobody goes posting negative smearing posts like this about you in the future.
I have worked for Tru Green for 7 years. They could care less about chemical contamination of our communities. They had me out 10 time a year applying pesticides in the pouring rain and spraying trees & shrub in 40 mph winds. They only care about abusing employees and making a hugh profit. Greed is there way.
I feel compelled to respond to both of these comments in as much of a sensible and non emotional way as I possibly can because I think that as much as we appreciate the ability to speak our opinions, sometimes it makes sense to try to keep our eyes on the road. Although I occasionally get emotional myself about our industry I have a pretty good grip on the history and future of where things are going.
The first comment is pretty sarcastic. It obviously comes from somebody who would fall on the Augie Busch side of the argument and he feels the need to have his voice heard. (which is good.) I can absolutely appreciate his feelings on the matter and I would guess he may even be a long time employee of TruGreen but probably not a high level employee. The truth is, the letter that I sent, actually did make it to it’s intended recipient. Richard Ascolese, who is the President of TruGreen Landcare. Mr. Ascolese forwarded it to Steve Donley, who is the President and COO of Trugreen. He was kind and attentive enough to actually reply to me in writing. His letter was well thought out and cordial. It concluded with a request for me to arrange a meeting with Dr. Kirk Hurto, vice president of Technical Services for Trugreen and Roy Cohen, Vice President of Human Resources. As a result of this request, I was able to have several meetings and conversations with both men.
I found them to be extremely intelligent (obviously) and thoughtful. I really got the impression that they didn’t think I was “accusing” them of anything and we had several very intelligent and productive conversations. Now that you mention it, yeah, I guess my letter was to solicit business. Jason, can you think of any better way to promote what I think is right than to go straight to the most successful and largest lawn care provider in the world? I actually think that my “20 years in the business” does “give me insight into the way a specific business is run.” In fact I worked for TruGreen for about two weeks in 1996 when the company I was working for was purchased by them. Yes sir, I’ve actually been an employee.
The point of my letter was to try to get a message across to the brass at Trugreen. They are well aware that there are many MANY people who are of the opinion of the second comment that was submitted this weekend. They are a very big company with many thousands of employees and customers in the millions. They have struggled as of late and not everybody is thrilled with their service or perhaps, more importantly their response to the environmental lawn care movement. As a large corporation however, it is their goal to make money. It’s what they are in business to do, they make money and this isn’t always about making friends. What I wanted to get across to the big guys at Trugreen was that, in my opinion, they were on the doorstep of the biggest opportunity in the history of their company. I can’t remember if I actually used this worn out cliche or not, but if they took some specific operational actions, TruGreen as a corporation could actually “have their cake and eat it too.” My goal was to suggest to them that they launch a full fledged organic division, not just another program, but a separated organic division that was legitimately chemical free. Much the same way they have their tree and shrub division separate from lawn care.
Can you imagine actually having your cake and eating it too? I still think they could have the best of both worlds.
In regards to the second comment that was unsigned. Your opinion is unfortunately a VERY common one and it reminds me of a conversation I had with a very high ranking executive at the company about five years ago. (He is no longer with the company so I won’t mention his name.) We were at a golf tournament put on by the Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals. I ran into him as we were preparing to tee off as he was in the group behind me. Although I was not close with him, we were acquaintances so when we saw each other we exchanged pleasantries. I asked him how he was doing and his response was this, “well, we are trying to do a billion dollars in sales, fifty dollars at a time, how do you think I’m doing?” It came off a little bit stiff but it did make a lot of sense.
After my conversations with Dr. Hurto and Mr. Cohen this past year I can tell you that they actually do care, they aren’t evil anti environmental maniacs. They see the challenges associated with lawn care in the year 2010 but their number one priority has to remain profitability. I certainly can’t say that I could do it any better than they are but I know I would do it a little bit differently. What remains after all is said and done however is the fact that this will continue to be an emotional issue with very well defined sides. Right now public opinion is definitely not in the favor of Trugreen but they still remain the largest and most successful lawn care provider in the world. I just wish that they could see that cake. Unfortunately for them, the pure size of their business virtually guarantees that violations will continue. They will continue to be viewed as “the evil empire” no matter how many “Tru Natural” commercials they air or how many times they change their logo. The good intentions of upper management will continue to be tainted by a system that is pressed for maximum productivity. The comments will keep coming to blogs like ours but they will still keep making money. Maybe we can find a way to help them make money but make fewer enemies along the way.