Creating a Culture of Caring with Chris Grandpre at Outdoor Living Brands

Business leaders often forget to honestly care about the people that have committed to work together. Creating a culture of caring may sound touchy-feely. The truth is our companies are scaling because of people. Your job as a leader is to care about each person. Today’s guest is Chris Grandpre, co-founder at Conserva Irrigation Franchising. Inc Magazine ranked his company #633 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list and #2099 in 2019. This eco-smart company leads the industry and provides money-saving services to property owners nationwide. Chris and I discuss the power of a culture of caring. We share how caring impacts leadership and culture. A culture of caring will also help you improve your business because people show up for more than just a paycheck.

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Christopher Grandpre: The Transcript

About: Currently serve as Chairman & CEO of Outdoor Living Brands, a company fully focused on outdoor living including (1) Archadeck, the world’s leading design and build contractor of custom decks, porches, sunrooms, patios, and outdoor living spaces; (2) Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, the world’s leader in outdoor lighting systems; (3) Conserva Irrigation, focused on the service and maintenance of sprinkler systems in a water-efficient manner. Outdoor Living Brands is also formerly the franchisor of Mosquito Squad, which was sold to Authority Brands in December 2018. In my role, I set strategic direction for the company, including growth through its 250+ franchisees, acquisitions, and fostering a corporate culture of innovation and service. Prior to the formation of Outdoor Living Brands, I worked for Accenture, CFC, two investment banking and M&A advisory firms. During my career, I have served in an advisory capacity of nearly $1.0 billion of transactions including corporate sales, acquisitions, divestitures, and both public and private market equity and debt financings.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Christopher Grandpre: I’ll say it this way, right? Yeah. I think there are, as, as one of the owners of the business and other members of our senior leadership team, we’re owners in the business, we really care about the financial results of the business. Do our employees care as much about the financial results of this business as we do? No, they’re, they’re here to earn a good living and build a career and build skillsets so they can advance in their, in their lives. And so. We want to partner with them to help us build this business, to help us serve our franchisees. We need to understand how we as an employer can help them get what they want out of their time. They spend without the living brands, building a skillset, gaining responsibility, increasing compensation. And so I think, I think we have to get to know them at a human level to help them. And by depth, by the way, that works is that will help us build the, build the business as owners in the business.

Intro: Welcome to grow things. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett: You know, your people important, but are you leading them with attention around their culture? Today’s conversation is really about how caring is such an important piece of your culture. A culture of caring doesn’t mean you bend over backward for your employees, but it means you’re tuning into what’s going on in their personal lives. What’s going on in their growth plans. And when you do this well, this culture of caring can help you drive growth in your company and create a place that people love to come to work. Engagement is higher and you get to experience this because you are leading a different way of engaging with company. I love doing interviews like this because it puts front and center, the importance of people inside of our companies, and guess what? Fast growth companies want to make sure that their people are put first today’s guest is Chris Grandpre. He is the CEO of Outdoor Living Brands. They have multiple companies inside this conglomeration of companies and some of them have hit the Inc 5,000 list. And so that’s the reason why they’re on the show. And Chris shares with us about what is a culture of caring, why it’s important inside of an organization?

What it looks like some of the details at which they deliver this and the impact that it makes across the company and to the bottom line. One of the things that I really like about this conversation is we talk about, you know, the toxic rockstar and what to do when you have someone who’s a high performer, but yet they don’t fit with the culture. And it’s a hard choice. You might be surprised by his answer. So tune in to this full interview with Chris.

Let me pause here for a second. If you are considering evolving your leadership style to the next level, then you want to make sure you’re supported by the right people. You have the right content to support you in that journey but also be challenged by a coach. I find that this is very necessary for us to find the nuances of our own leadership to push us to the next level. This is the reason why I created fast growth boardroom for you to grow as a leader, create a culture of A-players and increase the value of your company. If you’re interested in checking this out, just go to fast-growth boardroom. If it’s a right fit for you, make sure you apply. And we’d love to see if you’re a good fit. You’ll have a conversation with me and I’d love to help you take your leadership to the next level. Now here’s Chris.

Hi, Chris, how are you?

Christopher Grandpre: I’m great, Gene, how are you?

Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. Excited to have you on Growth Think Tank. I know I have already let our audience know a little bit about you at a personal level and what we talk about today, but I would love for you to tell us about Outdoor Living Brands.

Christopher Grandpre: Sure. Outdoor Living Brands, we are exterior home services. , multi-branded franchise company. We have three franchise businesses, architect outdoor lighting perspectives, and conservative irrigation. So we design spaces, we light spaces and we take care of the lawn and, and, landscaping material through irrigation.

Gene Hammett: Well, I can appreciate that as we all want to have the best-looking lawn, but my joke is, and you can use this anytime you want. The only way I could have the best lawn in my neighborhood is to move. And by someone that has a better, better lawn, but,

Christopher Grandpre: We can help you with that Gene.

Gene Hammett: Well Chris, I have done some research on the impact that you, as a leader has made in this space and the impact you’ve made in your industry. And we wanted to talk to you about. Culture and what you’re trying to create there and the attention behind it. So why is culture so important from your perspective?

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah. You know, Gene I’ve learned over the years, you know, I started out there living brands in 2008 and I think it took me a while as a leader to learn the important parts of culture, but I’ve come to believe. It’s, it’s kind of best described as a powerful force that allows an, an owner of a business, a leader of a business to convey a vision and values to a team. And then have that team act as if that owner or leader was there. Working on a project, making a decision, taking care of a client or customer it’s, it’s this rallying force across the organization.

Gene Hammett: I love that term rallying force. Have you used it before or to just come up with it?

Christopher Grandpre: I have used it. I have described it as a force with our team. I may have just put rallying before I like it as well. I’m going to use that again.

Gene Hammett: I have always talked about the importance of values. We’ve done many interviews on this. If we were taking a peek inside your organization, how would we see the values being lived every day? Just two or three things that you’d like to share with us?

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah. Our is a franchise organization. Our mission in life. Is to help people who are making a major pivot in their career. They’re leaving corporate America, they’re starting a business in a new industry, and they’re wearing all the hats that we all do as small business owners that they probably didn’t have to wear in corporate America. So our, our values are very much service-oriented. Empathy along with, if the coaching and mentoring we provide, meaning our mission in life is to help them through that period of time to make this career transition, learn a new industry, learn a new business model, and then scale that up so they can reach the goals they had when they chose to invest in, in our franchise and make a change in their life.

Gene Hammett: Right. Chris. When you think about people you have described to me before about the importance of caring for people now, at some level, every leader cares for their people, but. How far do you take caring for your people?

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah, I think, I think it is down to the building human connections with your people. And in our case, as a franchise business with our, with our franchisees as well, you have to really get to know who they are. As people learn about their likes, their dislikes, their passions, outside of the office, their family situation. Where they want to go with their careers. And I think when you make human connections with people and your, your interactions with your team, or in our case with our franchisees, it’s not just about business issues, but it’s about helping them learn and grow and build their careers and enhance their situations for their, for their families. And so I think it’s human side of, of, of, of relationships that we try to, to spend time on and then not just business issues, but life issues, people issues.

Commentary: Hold on for a second. Chris just said you should get to know your people. Well, you want to know them. And I’m sure that you do know them, but do you really know them? I remember giving a presentation to a company that wanted to increase their impact and their growth inside their marketplace. They wanted to be the number one source for the market, but also number one, source for talent and really attracting the right people. This is a common thing. I hear all the time with fast-growth companies. But what happened next was I tell them that caring for your employees was really important. And getting to know them at a personal level, had some questions around this. You know, I, this is backfired for me and I really get it, but here’s the thing. If you don’t care for your employees, they won’t care for your customers. And so if you want to create a place where customers are taking care of. Then make sure that you take the time to get to know your employees and make sure it’s a common element across the culture as your executive team. And other managers are truly connecting with their employees. This is a chance that many people aren’t taking and guess what? It’s absolutely free cost, no money a little bit of your time, but it will pay off in spades. Back to Chris.

Gene Hammett: You have about 90 employees. How are you able to scale that across the organization? Or is this done through your executive leadership team down to the other team managers and directors?

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah, that you’re you hit the nail on the head. It, it can’t just be something that the senior leadership team is trying to do. It’s something that every manager in the organization, anyone who’s in a supervisory position and is working to achieve results through the efforts of others. They have to build that rapport and relationships and connections with their team to learn who they are as people and what they want to try to achieve out of being part of Outdoor Living Brands and building a career. So we try to foster that culture throughout the organization. That people get to know each other care about each other and know what’s happening. It’s not just, you know, treasured into the office from, from eight to five and not talking about life. It’s getting to know each other and building a camaraderie together.

Gene Hammett: I’ve had many conversations with leaders that are very good in certain aspects of growing their companies and whatnot, but they think that you could care too much and to have other leaders. Cause they’ve had that been, been burned by it. I guess there’s a whole story behind these things, but then I’ve had other leaders have been like, you know, we need to keep their personal lives out of it because this is business. And I’ve heard, you know, the different variations of this. How have you formed your decisions around how much to truly put care front and center inside your organization?

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah. I, you know, I’ll, I’ll say it this way, right? Yeah. I think there are, as, as one of the owners of the business and the other members of our senior leadership team are owners in the business. We really care about the financial results of the business. Do our employees care as much about the financial results of this business as we do? No, they’re, they’re here to earn a good living and build a career and build skillsets so they can advance in, in their, in their lives. And so if we want to partner with them to help us build this business, to help us serve our franchisees, we need to understand how we as an employer can help them get what they want out of their time. They spend without reliving brands, building a skillset, gaining responsibility, increasing compensation. And so I think, I think we have to get to know them at a human level. To help them. And by death, by the way, that works is that will help us build the, build the business as owners in the business.

Gene Hammett: I’ve always kind of described that, you know, yes, you can care too much, but most people air to the side of, of it’s just business. And what is the advice you give new managers coming into this that are not, you know, they want to get done. They want to do a great job, but they’re not real sure about this care element inside there teams.

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah, I think, you know, if someone just wants to manage by metrics, so to speak versus managing a human relationship, you know, what’s the number one reason people leave organizations. They don’t leave the organization, they leave their boss. They leave someone who probably didn’t care about them as a human and their career development and their skill development, and their challenges that may be going on in their life that are impacting their ability at a moment in time to perform their work. And so, you know, if we have someone that, that that’s not the style of management, that’s comfortable for our leadership, it’s comfortable for them. It’s probably not a good fit for our organization because that’s important to us. That’s part of our culture as, as a team. And it’s part of what keeps our re our, turnover rates incredibly low. We have great retention of employees as a result.

Gene Hammett: I’m glad you brought up the retention thing because a lot of people see culture is, is kind of a nice to have inside of businesses. And I bet you’ve looked at this and said, it makes sense. Not just because we’re taking care of people, but it also makes sense for the bottom line. Have you ever thought about the details behind the bottom line of, of a strong culture?

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah, I, I have, but I’ve never been able to quantify. I don’t know how to link, you know, what percentage of EBITDA could you attribute to the fact. We have a good culture and good vibe and good level of teamwork and collaboration and fun with our team here in the office. What I do know is that you know, we talked about turnover a minute ago, you know, assign that. I know we have some of our cultural elements, right. Is the number one source of new employees is always referrals from our team? They are willing to when we have roles and we’re interviewing for a couple right now is as we’re growing. And we have recommendations from our team members, for friends, family members, neighbors, former colleagues, people they’ve met at, at school or church or wherever it may be, and when they’re willing to step out and, recommend our business to someone in their network.

That to me as a leader is a great sign. We’ve got a culture they’re proud of, and they’re willing to put themselves out there to one, a member of their network, and recommend they come join us.

Gene Hammett: That is a really good thing to do. Do you guys go through a formal measurement behind that? Or is this more anecdotal?

Christopher Grandpre: In terms of, of, I know when we look at, you know, staff positions that we add, the majority of people that we’ve added have been referred by, by our team. And then in terms of how we met. Measuring culture is a little bit hard, but we do, regular, weekly, and employee surveys to measure the level of engagement that we have in the organization and give people a completely confidential anonymous tool to share anything, about their experience working with us or interacting with their direct supervisor or they feel they’re not, they’re not in the loop on, on anything from a communication perspective, we have. A weekly survey tool that we utilize to make sure we’re hearing the voice of the employee is directly tied into our ability to make sure we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of our culture.

Gene Hammett: I’ve kind of curious, what is that tool?

Christopher Grandpre: We use a tool called tiny pulse that allows us to use short, simple surveys every week. But also it gives every employee the opportunity to submit questions to, to either route to me and our president and COO is on the tool as well. And we have I, every week I have anonymous exchanges with employees who have, maybe they’re curious about a question. They have a concern. They need advice and, and they’re able to interact with me without necessarily having to come right into my office. And maybe they’re there, they’re intimidated to ask a question or whatever it might be. And we found it to be a really effective tool for us to not only get the metrics of tracking survey results about employee engagement but really give people the ability to communicate with the senior team, anonymously, if they choose to.

Gene Hammett: Now. I want to switch gears a little bit here. , appreciate looking at the tools, but you know, what would we see inside your organization that might be a little bit unique or uncommon? , as it relates to culture and people.

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah, I think it, you know, it starts, you’ve got to hire the right people, right. That are willing to engage in our culture. But, but after that, I think it’s, it’s a couple of things. Yeah. Typically one of the most common frustrations employees have in organizations is lack of communication. So we really try to be as transparent as we can to our team about our strategies, our initiatives, the results that we expect from those, the financial performance of the business. We’re big believers that if we share the why behind what we’re doing and then how it’s working and keep them apprised, we’re going to get that buy-in from the team. And so we’re probably more transparent than a lot of organizations about what the rest of their peers, you know, regardless of what your role in our company is. We want you to see the big picture and we want to create that buy-in and alignment and excitement about where we see after living brands.

Commentary: Hold on again, Chris just talked about the importance of communication. In fact, the lack of communication that goes across the organization. All the feedback I have when I work directly with clients and their teams is communication is okay, but it could be better every time I do this. So there’s a good chance inside your organization that people think your communication is okay but could be better. So, what do you do when you really want to think about making it better? Well, one of the things I’ve seen that’s missing is we don’t have enough conversations around what communication is. We don’t have a real solid understanding of what explicit communication does for the organism. Explicit or communication is really about communication. That can’t be misunderstood. And if you have that kind of rigor to understanding how to communicate in a better way, and this means getting on the same page with your executive team around what communication is and how we really engage with each other, drawing some boundaries, rowing some real solid understanding about what listening is. Is it, you know, how do we speak for clarity? How do we create a mindset that allows us to have the best communication possible? Communication is the backbone of every business. You probably know that. And if you’re having troubles across the organization, it’s probably because you’re not communicating effectively enough. This is just a little bit of an insight around communication and the importance of it. If you have any questions about how we do that inside of an organization. As leaders, make sure you reach out, check out some of the free content we have at back to Chris.

Gene Hammett: I love that a lot of the companies that we’ve had on the show before I’ve talked about the importance of transparency. I, as a professional speaker, I’ve jumped up on stage and really look it. What I call the transparency line, what you believe is right to share and what not right to share. And the companies that I see doing the best creating the best cultures are willing to push that transparency line is far to the remarkable side instead of keeping secrets. so, Chris, you are sharing something that I really have seen across many couples. When you think about your style of leadership, it’s certainly evolved over time. You’ve probably made a mistake or two, maybe, maybe just one. What, what mistake comes to mind as something that you, you had to learn the hard way, but, but you’re glad you learned that lesson.

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah. I, I have learned, I stepped into a business that was in need of a turnaround, and I think I’ve learned that I was perhaps overly optimistic that with fresh leadership and passion. Energy and direction that people would follow. And, and I think I was too patient in giving people an opportunity to jump on board with a new direction that we were taking the business into. And I learned the hard way when you have people that are working against those changes, you know, it just slows the process down. It weakens the culture for the people that are trying to get on board. And, and I’ve learned that you know if you have a situation where. There are performance issues or there are cultural mismatches with the direction you’re trying to take your organization. There are painful decisions that we as leaders all hate to make, especially when it involves a top performer, but you have to make those decisions. You have to be decisive if you’re going to get your organization to grow. So I’ve been too patient. And then part of it is that we’ve talked about the connection we build with people.

When you build those tight human connections. Making those tough choices that sometimes leaders have to make is even harder. And that, that comes with building those connections, but you have to face it and be decisive when needed.

Gene Hammett: You mentioned this maybe toxic high performer. I was just talking with a client of mine about the rockstar toxic person. Yeah. You know, different companies look at it differently. But what I’m hearing you saying is when they are truly toxic to the organization, that they’re having a negative energy drain on others and maybe even impacting retention in some ways. And there’s many different factors, two toxicity inside this, but you’re saying be really decisive. have you seen that that play out for you as is. Making that decision quicker than everything has as an uplift.

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah. Yes. And I, and I’ll, I’ll share, a piece of advice I got from a board member, a mentor of mine. He said, he said, if, if you’re not willing to make the hard choice and part ways with someone who is cultural mismatch with the organization, even it’s a if it’s a top performer that it’s all just lip service, all this discussion of culture doesn’t mean anything. If you’re not willing to stand behind it. And part ways, with the top performers. So it’s kind of a litmus test on how much you believe in culture is, is it so important to the growth and development of your company that you’re willing to part ways with a top performer to find someone that is a better, better aligned with the culture you’re fostering in your business.

Gene Hammett: So true. I’ve had it happen in my own organization before I’ve had previous behind the coaching staff. And you know, it’s hard to let go of someone that you’ve counted on and maybe you hope they’ll turn it around, but I, every time I’ve done this and I’ve talked to a lot of leaders that every time they’ve done it, they were able to say that it was actually worse than what they thought.

Christopher Grandpre: Yes.

Gene Hammett: And it was so much better when that decision went through and many people are able to see how important it is. So I appreciate you sharing that story with me.

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah. I think it’s particularly hard. I think a lot of the companies you interact with and leaders, you talk to they’re building fast, growing organizations. And I think sometimes that allows these situations to be just looked past because the company is doing great. It’s growing fast to generally have a good culture, but it could be better if you have some holdouts that are not adopting or you may be inhibiting even faster growth if you didn’t deal with those. So, you know, my advice is don’t let rapid growth and top line and bottom line, mask you’re willing or, or inhibit your willingness to deal with those isolated instances that you may have. Hidden within your organization. You know, when, when times turn tough, those things all rise to the forefront and people become decisive to deal with it, dealing with it while you’re growing is even harder. Is it’s too easy to look the other way.

Gene Hammett: So, so point on, on just really powerful message there for us. I want to wrap up things today because I really appreciate you sharing this with us, but is there anything else that you feel like within the culture and people that we haven’t touched on that you feel like you want to make sure you bring forward?

Christopher Grandpre: Yeah, I think, you know, I’ll share maybe, an example from, from, relatively early in my, in my journey as a, as a business owner and a leader, I was really focused early on management and individual production. What did I personally produce in a given week, month, year? And I went through a bit of a health issue that took me sort of out of the mix, for a short period of time. And I had my eyes open. We’re not all as important to our businesses, as we think when you build a good team of people and you get the culture, right. And in the organization went on just fine without me there in the, in the chair for, for a little while. And so it helped me come to a realization that as a leader, my job is to put the right people in the right place. Give them vision and direction, give them the resources. They need to achieve the goals that we’re asking them to produce and then get the heck out of their way and just support them as they come with any issues or obstacles that they might want to a second perspective on. But instead of trying to micromanage,  anything, or be just focused on what I can personally produce, I’ve got to empower other people to produce the results for the organization. And my job as a leader is to put them in a place to be successful instead of trying to do everything myself.

Gene Hammett: Well, Chris, that’s a common theme across the show, and that’s one reason why I put out all these things. Interviews have people like you on to share their specific slice of their story and how they see people and growth. And so I appreciate you being here on the show.

Christopher Grandpre: Gene, I appreciate you having me on, and I hope that it’s helpful to your, to your listeners

Gene Hammett: I wanna wrap up here a little bit offline because Chris is still listening in, but I really want you to understand what he’s talking about here across all of the interviews. The data I look at hundreds of companies, founders, just like this, and fast-growth companies want to make sure their people feel taken care of because when they feel taken care of, they want to make sure the customer’s taken care of. They also want to make sure that they’re able to make decisions. They love that autonomy and empowerment. And what we talked about here was that importance inside of our companies. I want you to really take notice of what that means inside your organization. You’d probably get a lot of these things, right. But how do you take it to the next level on top of that? How do you continue to evolve as a leader? Because, you know, if you look back over the last five years, are you really a different person and a different kind of leader. You should be. And in fact, maybe even year to year, you should be really challenging your own self to evolve, to be the best leader your team deserves.

If you want them to figure out what’s next for you, you might want to join one of the programs we have around the community of really supporting you to be the best leader. You can just check out, where we get together. We do fun stuff like racing and dirt tracks and road tracks and things like that.

But we also. From each other, how to be the best leaders possible. I share everything I’ve learned over the last 10 years and even more than that, but all inside So just check that out. When you think about growth and you think about leadership, think of Growth Think Tank as always lead with courage. See you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.




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