[Strategic Planning] A Winning Game Plan

Features - Business Strategy

Syngenta delivers the Xs and Os with professional business coaching for pest management professionals.

February 26, 2013
Jeff Fenner
Kevin Kordek, president, A-Active Termite and Pest Control, said, “The experience taught me a lot about myself and to think more about the why behind my decisions.”

The old saying is quite simple: Give a person a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a person how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Syngenta Turf and Landscape has provided the fishing poles, hooks and bait for their customers and offered professional business coaching to help them better prepare their businesses for long-term success. And that’s a “catch” no one will throw back.

When AdviCoach’s Randy Moser and Dr. Mark Zajac approached Syngenta with the idea of providing pest management and lawn care professionals with business coaching services, Syngenta saw a unique opportunity to help customers improve their business performance.

“We wanted to offer a service to our small and mid-size customers who don’t always get a chance to participate in this type of program and who would get the most benefit from it,” says Dave Ravel, head of sales for Syngenta Turf & Landscape North America.

Ravel says Moser and Zajac helped profile potential candidates for the program, a process that requires a significant time commitment and willingness to be coached.

“It is a different approach that requires a greater level of engagement. It’s not for everyone,” says Ravel.

When compared to traditional consultants who come into a business to identify issues and may or may not be asked to stick around to correct them, business coaching is a long-term proposition.

“We are there for the long run working side-by-side with the owner asking questions and encouraging them to go further,” says Moser. “We help get the alignment right, communicate the vision and develop the game plan but the client does the work.”

The AdviCoach approach helps companies identify blind spots and potential trouble areas, educates business owners and key managers in “best business practices,” and holds organizations accountable for their performance.

What are small to mid-size pest management professionals missing in their businesses that coaching can help?

“Many PMPs are working in their business and not on their business,” says Moser. “We coach them to look objectively at how their business is structured, how it operates, and serve as a resource for them to bounce ideas off of.”

Moser says the discovery process can be quite revealing both personally and professionally for the owner.

“Owners sometimes don’t know the real reason ‘why’ they do things a certain way, even if they are successful doing it,” says Moser. “They also don’t always understand what the differentiator is for their company versus the competition.”

A Coach’s Advice for Achieving and Measuring Success

There are as many different approaches and opinions to successfully managing a business as there are businesses to be managed. More often than not, what works best are approaches rooted in the basic fundamentals and complemented with a healthy dose of common sense.

Randy Moser of AdviCoach coaches business owners and managers in a variety of industries. He advises his “students” to be aware of the following danger zones that can spell trouble if not given the proper attention:

  1. Lack of solid leadership in place to direct the company in the proper direction.
  2. Lacking an effective marketing plan to promote the company’s brand.
  3. Lack of an effective sales system in place. An effective sales system should emphasize customer education and engagement, taking time to learn about the customer’s needs and deliver a plan that meets them.
  4. Failing to pay proper attention to the management of a company’s “people capital.”
  5. Not understanding or implementing sound fiscal management policies.

Once a company has its strategic plan in place and achieved buy in from its employees and customers, a system for measuring the effectiveness of the plan must be set in motion. Moser says the metrics for measuring success vary by client but are typically based on the following key revenue and cost areas:

  • Leads generated
  • Lead conversion rate
  • Average revenue per customer
  • Gross margin of profit
  • Lower expenses

This is when Moser and Zajac steer the owners’ focus to working and implementing a strategic plan that mandates accountability from top to bottom. The plan is not a multiple page, single spaced behemoth but rather a one page, 11- by 17-inch piece of paper that prioritizes short- and long-term objectives.

“We ask them tough questions and in turn want them to ask themselves, ‘Why am I doing things this way and what do I need to change,’” says Moser. “We try and get them to ask those questions before they make important strategic decisions.”

What do pest management owners receive for their time? According to Zajac, it is a chance to release the potential that lies within them. Potential they may not know was there.

“It’s natural for people to limit themselves to what they know in the present, and they end up putting themselves in a box,” says Zajac. “The coaching process aims to get them outside the box, change their perspective, and realize their full potential.”

Zajac says every participant’s end goal is different. Some are looking for improved profitability, others want better operating systems, and for others it is the ability to better manage their time so they can spend it with family or on other interests.

A Doubting Thomas.
When Syngenta approached Kevin Kordek, president of A-Active Termite and Pest Control in Virginia Beach, Va., with an offer to work with a business coach, the usually positive, outgoing Kordek was skeptical.

“Our company was successful without a business coach,” says Kordek, a past president of the National Pest Management Association and the pest management industry’s representative on the Governor’s Commission on Agriculture in Virginia. “I didn’t think we were a candidate for the program.”

The reaction Kordek, who studied entomology at James Madison University and who worked his way up the pest control ladder from technician to owner, had was not uncommon for many small business owners who feel they have their finger on the pulse of their business.

“The experience taught me a lot about myself and to think more about the why behind my decisions,” says Kordek.

Kordek and Moser agree there is a fine line in coaching between asking a question and issuing a challenge, and that finding a common trust and respect is a must.

“The first thing Randy Moser asked me was, ‘Kevin, do I have your permission to coach you?’” says Kordek. “That set the tone and became a relevant part of the process as we went along.”

One of the first items on Moser’s coaching agenda was helping Kordek develop and implement a living, breathing strategic plan that included a formalized sales program.

“We had a strategic plan but it lacked accountability,” Kordek says. “Randy worked with us to develop a plan that was written in our own words and has immediate accountability to it.”

The plan was introduced to the entire company so all employees knew the plan’s goals and how they were going to achieve them. With 90-day benchmarks in place, Kordek and the A-Active team can measure their progress more frequently and carefully than in the past.

Kordek says the coaching experience, which he continues to do and in which he is enrolling other A-Active managers, taught him not only the importance of managing things but in leading people.

“There were a lot of positive changes in the company during the first six months after we rolled out the new strategic plan,” says Kordek. “It got the juices flowing.”

According to Ravel and Moser, the response to the program has been very positive, and tangible benefits have been realized by both Syngenta and the participating company.

“By helping our customers grow and better align their business, we are then in a position to grow our business by providing them with additional product solutions and support,” says Ravel.

Moser says suppliers that provide programs such as business coaching like

AdviCoach add significant value to the end user in a time when competition from traditional legacy and post-patent suppliers continues to be fierce.

“Marketing is all customer-centric and if you can help a customer grow their business through a program like this, they realize the value you bring to the table and people buy on value,” says Moser.

Ravel says Syngenta is currently evaluating the program and hopes to continue offering it to customers in the future.

“It allows us to invest in our customers on a personal level as well as in their business, and that is good for everyone,” says Ravel.

The author is a frequent editorial contributor to PCT magazine. He can be reached at jfenner@giemedia.com.