Roger Jacobi understands well that the path to success isn’t always obvious. After all, he didn’t set out to create a successful, employee-owned lawn and landscape company – he just needed a job out of college.
“I got hired out of Oklahoma State to work for a lawn care company in Dallas, Texas, and once I got into the industry, I realized that I liked it,” says Jacobi, founder of AgriLawn in Oklahoma City. “I enjoyed working outside, seeing improvements and visiting customers. It was like being my own boss.”
Now, as AgriLawn celebrates its 20th anniversary, Jacobi actually is his own boss. The company he started out of a single truck has grown to a fleet of 25 work vehicles, and Jacobi’s continued passion for the industry is evident in his attitude towards his customers as well as his commitment to his employees. Over two decades, he’s developed programs to help them chart a path to success.
“We’re pretty big on mentoring,” he says. “Whenever a new employee comes in, he works closely with an existing employee on the same level for several weeks. During that time, he learns more about the company from his peer, and sees different paths that he can take in the industry.”
AgriLawn also tries to hire employees that fit the company’s deeply embedded culture of ‘courtesy, quality and integrity.’ The best way to identify such employees, Jacobi says, is through the people he trusts most – his staff.
“Employee referrals are our biggest and highest-quality source of leads,” Jacobi says. “Our employees know the company and their friends, so they have the best sense as to whether they’d fit in.”
To incentivize the recruitment of top notch workers, AgriLawn offers cash incentives. If an employee successfully refers someone for an open position, that employee receives a cash reward. Additional cash rewards are provided if the new employee is retained for six months or one year.
In his 20 years on the job, Jacobi has found that employees are his greatest asset. “When everyone is doing the job of bringing on new customers, the company grows more quickly.”
Note: This article is part of a series focused on entrepreneurship within the green industry. The articles are published monthly in Lawn and Landscape’s email newsletter, “Growing Green,” and on its website.
Lawn and Landscape, 6/30/11