Investing in Leadership Development is the Path to Growth with Chester Buczynski at Big Lakes Lawncare

Investing in leadership development is a must in today’s marketplace. Employees want to improve their skills and get experience that makes them more valuable. When investing in leadership development, you want to make sure you do it the right way. Today’s guest is Chester Buczynski, Founding CEO at Big Lakes Lawncare. Inc Magazine ranked his company #1174 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Big Lakes Lawn care is a customer-focused, technology-driven lawn and landscape company focused on professionalizing the industry. Chester shares how he is investing in leadership development to grow the company. Learn how you can leverage new strategies for developing your leaders.

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Chester Buczynski: The Transcript

About: Chester Buczynski has a passion for personal growth, self-development, and life. A lifelong learner, explorer, and dreamer. He thrives off of achievements accomplished by both myself and more importantly, his team. Always pursuing his ideal self, and always trying to blow up his business. Chester loves mentoring others, and always looking for new mentors to help show him the way. God gave you two ears and only one mouth, so he try to listen more than he talk. Mindset is everything, and humankind is good.

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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.

Chester Buczynski: [00:00:00] Inherently, I knew I needed to build layers of management and the, a leader because I kept my day job for the first three or four years of the company. So I wasn’t really involved in day-to-day operations. And I was forced to build a structure, build a leadership team that could sort of run the business for me. So I sort of locked into it in that regard. And the reason I did that is because I’m beyond the single and had no real obligations. So I figured, well if I just work at the same time, I can remember. Profits and drill company faster. But then again, I think around the $2 million mark in revenue was when I really started pumping my head and realizing that you need to actually bring people onto your team and cast the vision for them and let them make the ball and truly genuine drum, then not run with it under your direct book. Really, really run with all

Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. 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?[00:01:00]

Gene Hammett: Then we look at one of the essential parts to growing a fast business and that’s leadership development. When you want to create a business, that’s beyond you, you’ve got to develop those around you. You just can’t do it all yourself. You, even though you may have that founder mentality, we have a really good sense of the business and actually the strategies and tactics of it. You’ve got to develop others and leadership development is a part of that journey. When you really understand what it takes to inspire others, get them to grow and get them. To feel confident and courageous. You have a business that will live beyond you and just your work and your hours, your stress, and you can actually connect with others and they will carry that with you. And actually, more of you together will go further than you alone. Today, we have the founder of big lakes lawn care, and they are a fast-growth company. But our founder today is Chester Buczynski and Chester. And I talk about what is leadership development really looks like in a staff of 40? What, why was it so important in the early stage?

And the struggles of the company and what they do to inspire this through transparency and through a sense of communication, [00:02:00] all of these things unpacked in today’s episode, if you’re curious about your own journey as a leader, how you evolve, how do you develop others around you? What’s getting in your way, and I want to help you figure out what that is. Your blind spots are exactly what you can’t see. So I want to help you figure this out. All you have to do is go to and schedule your call. We will get on a call, talk about what’s really going on and I will help you. It’s not about me selling you anything, but it is about me serving you and connecting with you.

If you’re listening to this over and over, you’re not sure. Maybe you’re thinking I’m too busy, whatever it may be getting in your way. Go ahead and reach out. Schedule a call today. Now here’s the interview, which Chester

Gene Hammett: Hey Chester how are you?.

Chester Buczynski: Hey, great. Doing well, Gene, how are you?

Gene Hammett: I am fantastic side. Have you here on the show, give us a chance to look into your life. Tell us about your fast-growing business. Big lakes lawn.

Chester Buczynski: Sure. So I started big lakes lawn care in 2015 in the backyard of my parents’ house. As a side business, I was an operating engineer and had the drive to do something entrepreneurial and fast forward here, five or six years later, running 5,000 lists about [00:03:00] 40 people.

And we are just getting started.

Gene Hammett: Love this story. I think a lot of kids probably that are entrepreneurs started out doing some kind of lawn care stuff. I remember before I could even drive my dad dropping me off. , I probably charged way too little for, I don’t remember some of the big yards. I did make it probably 40 bucks on that. And it was just crazy how much they’d have to pay for that now.

Chester Buczynski: Well, yeah, you got to figure the pricing out. I mean, we all, we all work for free in the beginning. You know, I was that guy too, until you understand what it costs to run a business and you get, get your financial IQ sharpened up a little bit sometimes the only way to make it through a sweat equity, right

Gene Hammett: before we dive into our topic about leadership development across the companies and what we need to look at that.

Tell me about, you know, some of the struggles you’ve overcome to be able to create this fast-growing company.

Chester Buczynski: Well, my gosh, if there was a, if there was a challenge or struggle, we’ve had it thing from accidents. Unfortunately, lawsuits to staffing challenges and everything in between. , but I think that once you realize that the process is the beauty of this stuff, and you [00:04:00] can, you can kind of fall in love with the process and embrace the challenges. you know, it’s the, it’s the key to success, right? There is to enjoy what you’re doing. So there were tough days, but still rather be, you know, fight it out for myself, then stuck back in court.

Gene Hammett: Well, we’re here, to learn, you know, how you overcome some of these challenges. When you think about leadership development, you know, you’ve got a lawn care company, a lot of people wouldn’t think that that leadership development is something you probably even think about. How early in the process did you think about that for your company.

Chester Buczynski: Well inherently, I knew I needed to build layers of management and the leader because I kept my day job, the first three or four years of the company. So I wasn’t really involved in to day-to-day operations. And I was forced to build a structure, build a leadership team that could sort of run the business for me.

So I sort of lucked into it in that regard. And the reason I did that . Because I was young, single and had no real obligations. So I figured, well, if I just work at the same time, I can reinvest all the profits and grow the company faster. But then again I think around with the $2 million mark in revenue is when I really started bumping [00:05:00] my head and realizing that you need to actually bring people onto your team and cast the vision for them and let them take the ball and truly genuine run, not run with it under your direction, but really, really run with all. So that would have been May 2019.

Gene Hammett: I love these words. Sometimes dudes can kind of get into the sports metaphors way too much, but I get it right. , run with the ball. It’s a very different aspect to it. One of the words that I use inside of this is about getting people to take a sense of ownership. Do you use this word ownership across your company?

Chester Buczynski: Not enough, right? Not enough, but, but accountability. Maybe those go hand in hand. I read the book at dream accountability by Jocko, Willink, and up that really hit home for me. When you are accessible, things are going while you’re having wins. You should be looking out a window, thanking people, congratulating people, really celebrating the wins.

And when you’re having issues, challenges, that window should turn into a mirror, right. To look back at yourself and think what could I have done differently as the leader to push to a different [00:06:00] outcome?

Gene Hammett: Not trying to correct you on this, but the title on that is actually extreme ownership.

Chester Buczynski: Extreme ownership. Okay. I recently watched that Ted talk and he’s someone that I have followed for a long time because of the book and I’ve listened to the audiobook. So I’ve got a pretty good understanding of his message and he does Brazilian jujitsu and I do too. So it’s kind of like a thing I’d never was in the army. Never, never worked, in the conference conflict zones that he did, but I watched the Ted talk and it really was an interesting thing with specifically when he was talking about there was friendly fire. And he was things didn’t go well, like Finley, fire, people were shot and injured and whatnot. And his brass came down and said, you know, what’s, what’s really going on here.

And he’s like, it’s cycled through my mind of all the people that I could blame for what would happen wrong. But I realized that there was only one person to blame it was me. And that was a really big thing for him. Cause he, he and I got it so much more in the Ted talk that I think the book, because it just really was so sharp around this. When you look at your [00:07:00] business, are you, how do you get people to not blame others? When something goes wrong,

Gene Hammett: you lead by example, right? You got to lead by example, man, when stuff goes bad, it is the responsibility of the leader to, to own the mistakes. , you know, to be a thumb point or not a finger pointer.

And that’s another way to say what we’re talking about. Right. You’re a thumb pointer pointing back at yourself. Is that a pointing out at all that this says to what could have been done differently? So that’s a process leading by example that serves with me falls down, down the ranks, through the managers, and ultimately to the boots on the ground.

Commentary: Hold on for a second. Chester just talked about leading by example. Now a lot of people think that’s just about the way you show up, whether you’re punctual or how you get your work done. But I want to give you another perspective of this. What about your mindset? A lot of leaders, I talk to want to be more confident. They want their employees to be more confident and they don’t see the correlation there. So, what I would ask you to do is look at the mindset that you are leading by example, are you leading powerfully? Which means are you really confident about who you are and where you’re going? Are you courageous? Are you really sharp and decisive about decision-making? These [00:08:00] things are all mine. That can get in the way of you leading by example. And when you understand this, you can actually have different kinds of conversations with those that you’re leading and leadership development takes a different perspective because you’re coaching them through not just the work, but actually who they are as a person. And this is where people really do gravitate to you. And they’re attracted to the growth that gets inside of businesses. They walk away saying, no, I’ve never had conversations like that with my boss before. And this is really different refreshing. I really appreciate it. That is the kind of thing you’re looking for. If you want to lead differently. Now back to Chester.

Gene Hammett: I think a lot of people have said this, this concept of lead by example, I’m kind of interested. Where has it really been necessary for you to lead by example for your team? Is there a specific story or something you could share with us today?

Chester Buczynski: I think the best example would be day in and day. Because anybody can get on a kick, read a book, change what they’re doing for some short period of time. But when you show up day in and day out with optimism, positivity, and in your timely, you know, just the very simple things, make your bed in the morning, show up [00:09:00] or release, stay late, do what you say you’re going to do, do it on time.

If I tell my staff, we’re going to, we’re going to do quarterly reviews and then we miss a quarter because we’re busy. What kind of message does that send? Send? It sends a message that Chester doesn’t do what he says he’s going to do. So maybe I don’t need to what I said I’m gonna do. Right. And that just permeates your whole organization. Your culture goes south. So to me, I think I could name lots of specific examples, but the overarching theme is all the time you’re on it all the time. Right?

Gene Hammett: Well, I certainly appreciate that. Cause we, as leaders forget the fact that we’re being watched so much more by what we do, not just by what we say. And we forget that. When you think about, your journey to be the leader that you are today, what did you have to learn? The hard way.

Chester Buczynski: Everything is that answer, you know, never went to college. , just, just learn, just learn it and push through. , I think that maybe one of the things I learned, the hard way, this is kind of more tactical, but, giving people a real financial vested interest in the future of your business, those key executives, I think really deserve to be able to participate in [00:10:00] the. Major future rewards that those startups can provide. And, I think that’s one of the best ways to get high-level or qualified people onto your team. And they’re really yours. Give them equity, right. Or give them some sort of vision about, Hey, in 2027, we’re going to sell, you know, we’re going to recapitalize with a peg group and we’re going to get a check $10 million.

And if you’re here with me, right. And I get it, I’m paying below-market wage right now for your role or whatever. Cause we’re small, but there is a future here for you with a big payout. I think as a mistake I made early on and money isn’t everything right. But people do expect to be paid well for what they do. And one of the biggest things we can offer a small business is equity. It’s a piece of the future.

Gene Hammett: I have here in my notes that you would describe your business as a people-driven business. Now we know that you’re in the lawn care world and we’ve got a lot of equipment in there, but push all that aside. Cause we haven’t automated and made that stuff happen yet. , as we were joking, but what do you mean by being a people-driven business?

Chester Buczynski: We’re selling time. We’re selling services, we’re selling man-hours. We’re selling someone coming to your property and for realizing regularly, we’re selling time with selling [00:11:00] boots on the ground. And so we are largely people-driven. We are a business that has much of a media element to it, or a, or a, any kind of real, super proprietary recipe or anything like that. , what we’re selling is customer service and people come into your property and doing things for you. It’s old fashioned man, you know, Warren Buffett, loft business, like this, he’ll tell you. We’re invested in carpet and paint and the grass keeps growing and this no keeps falling. So you know, are great businesses, but they are old people-driven businesses. The work gets done by people.

Gene Hammett: When you have your frontline leaders out there running crews, I would imagine in your business, that’s kind of the words you use, right? You’re asking each of those crew owners, to really take a sense of ownership of each time they go into a house or a property or a commercial business. , how do you ensure that they are, you know, running the crews efficiently and really, without you micromanaging them

Chester Buczynski: feedback, breakfast to champions, man. And I see it so often in this industry and similar service industries, a lack of feedback. So a guy accrue, as you [00:12:00] said, goes out and works in the field for a day and they come back at the end of the day and say, well, how to do today? You know, I don’t know why he got cut out of the lawn. So we’re done now, you know? So I think we did. Okay. Right. , there was a major lack of. , feedback data from the business to the technician. So it’s like, imagine if you know, we’re playing a game of baseball and the teams go out there, they’re getting feedback at every at-bat. The out Every strike, every interaction, a multitude of interactions take place throughout a game team is adjusting their strategy based on the feedback that we’re getting. You know, what kind of game would it be if you went out there and swung a bat for nine innings, and then at the end, you say, Hey you lost!.

You know, well, wow, that’s that wouldn’t be very exciting or it wouldn’t promote a team at VIR. That’s looking to adjust their strategy to achieve a goal. I think that I read a book somewhere. It’s like polling with a curtain hung over pens, you know? So the, one of the key ways that we have promoted ownership from the base level employee up is by scoring them publicly on the three key metrics at our company, which first and foremost are safety. Followed by the quality of work, followed by efficiency. And if post those publicly to a bunch of [00:13:00] 20 something, males and females who work with their hands it’s it’s game on, right? Because of the level of competition and ownership that you find from that alone, it turns them into owners. You don’t even need to tie incentives to it necessarily just need to say, Hey Jean, you know your crew with the lowest one today, what can we do differently? And then alone lights, fire.

Gene Hammett: Is it by the crew, which is like a team. Where is it by an individual that you track these numbers?

Chester Buczynski: We track them by the group.

Gene Hammett: Okay. And then you, what I’m hearing you say without saying the word, but you’re really transparent about it. You publishing them so everyone can see. And like, what does that really look like? Is this a something you you do in your office or is this, this is electronic? So a common word in a lot of white-collar jobs scorecards, right? Let’s review the scorecard while our staff in the field has a board. , we have a huge scoreboard gate when you’re pulling out the gate in the morning, they’ll be global.

They’re categorized by grew by. The metric force ranked from, from highest to lowest. And we update it regularly. We used to go digital. We played with all kinds of different methods, but ultimately man, just a big, [00:14:00] big whiteboard. That’s why they improved with a flow building over it. It’s our scoreboard.

Commentary: Chester was just talking about scorecards and one of the things I’ve seen across organizations. They hesitate to be very transparent in the way they share other people’s performance. And what he talked about with their crew is that they’re willing to share them and rank them based on the key factors of the business safety, being the number one. Now, when you do this, people get to see exactly what’s measured. They, perform on a level because there’s no misinterpretation of what’s measured and everyone in that team and everyone on those crews knows. that this is how the boss sees them and everyone else in the company sees them. Nope. What would it look like in your business to have a scorecard where everyone was forced ranked and everyone knew where they stood. Now we know there’s different roles. You have sales roles, you have marketing roles and operations and all customer service, all these different roles, but what are the key numbers they have, and are people willing to openly share those numbers transparently? And the power behind that is really does give a sense of ownership to showing up completely different than when you hide those [00:15:00] numbers. It’s very different than sharing salary. So don’t get those confused. It’s just being transparent with those numbers. Those key numbers gives people a chance to own the fact that they can grow in the work that they do. They’ll work harder, be more innovative, work smarter, and all of this will help you in business, grow faster back to Chester.

Gene Hammett: And how often does it get updated

Chester Buczynski: Weekly

Gene Hammett: And you’re looking at those three numbers and it gives you some composite score. And I see where they are ranked amongst the other crews. My guess is no one wants to be last for too long too often. When, when, when you started putting this into effect, did you worry about like, well, you know, we’re going to hurt some people’s feelings or we’re going to, you know, this, this is a sense of competition that really isn’t going to help the business. Did any of that play in your head before you did this?

Chester Buczynski: Yeah, it did. And we did have some of that ultimately resulted in some people that weren’t the best cultural fit leaving. And the other thing that’s hard is there’s buy-in from the guys about their route. So, Hey, you know, I was in last place this week, but that property is 7,200 Tuesday is underbid. I don’t have enough time at [00:16:00] this property because the salesman is over. I think or whatever it pauses dialogue between the guys out, doing the work, and the team

Gene Hammett: love that. Glad that you brought that up. When we are looking at leadership development or in a company that’s grown as fast as you have, what else do you look at to, to make sure that you create a space for people to do their best?

Chester Buczynski: Communication, right. Leading by example and communication. So some of it’s forced, our slow time is in the winter. So last year had everybody read attitude, 1 0 1 by John Maxwell. I said, go buy this book. I’ll you can expense the receipt back to me. I’ll buy it for you and read it and report back to me. , so there were some people that buy in more than others, but you, you have to do some force thing like that. And then you, like, we go back to the beginning lead by example, right?

Gene Hammett: When you say communication, I think a lot of people feel like they communicate fairly well, but the reality is. Most people don’t have the same experience. It’s kind of what that if you looked at the real data, you know, 90% of the people say they do it well, and 30% of people say, yeah, not so much, I’m making those numbers up. But how do you ensure that you take, you know, sort of blue-collar people that are, you know, really good, [00:17:00] hardworking people and get them to communicate the way you need them to.

Chester Buczynski: So it’s funny you say that because I read a survey recently and the number one complaint from people in all walks of life about their employer is lack of communication. So it just manifests itself in so many ways. I think the problem we had to solve was communication from leadership to boots on the ground. Cause we can talk till we’re blue in the face, but it was, it was soliciting or building an environment where you get that feedback back from someone who might be scared for their job or scared if they can make rents or whatever, you know, to really get positive communication from them or any communication at all, frankly. So we implemented something called a stay interview. They’ve heard of an exit interview, right? Oh, this is a stay interview. And what we do is we interview all the field staff, someone who’s not their direct manager, interview them in a, just a candid environment. So the person interviewing them has no bearing on their next promotion or their rate or whatever happening with day to day job.

We interview them and ask questions. Do you feel valued here? What’s one thing you would do differently if you were in charge. What’s one thing that bothers you. We sorta [00:18:00] B we changed the questions over to. It’s similar to like a 360 review and management where I’m non-biased, , you know, arbitrator interviews, everybody, and then you aggregate the results. You plug them into some sort of visualization and you see what’s what are people saying? Right. So I think the key though is a, a safe environment for people to communicate out and some problem questions to get them to start talking. Because if you just sat a guy down and make 20 bucks an hour and cuts grass, is that tell me about your job. He might not really know what the. But an unbiased administrator can ask them some questions and almost interview them like this. You start to get some really good feedback. And then the punchline to all that, you need to take the feedback and actually act right. If 50% of your people say your equipment stocks, you should probably look at your cap X budget, right? And then when they see that their feedback is being heard and change is happening they tend to provide more of it.

Gene Hammett: Chester, thank you so much. , that, that feedback loop, and the stay interview, it’s something I’ve used with my own. Coaching. It is a tool that we have developed that most people just aren’t doing. They just don’t take the time. But you know [00:19:00] what, given the pressure to find talented people right now, people are leaving and you want to increase retention. It’s one of the easiest things you can do. It is absolutely free, right? It doesn’t cost you money. Now the changes that you actually have to implement may cost you some money.

You had to buy some equipment, maybe, in certain cases, but listening and really acting on that is a really great point. So I appreciate you bringing that up. Chester, you want to give you one last chance to kind of chime in here. You’ve been through probably many difficult times and all the things that you look back. What has been the most influential moment for you to be the leader that you are today? Is there something you can share with us?

Chester Buczynski: Well, one that I always remember is real straightforward is Gary Vaynerchuk. And somebody walks up to him like in a public situation and tries to throw a question at them and they say, Gary, define your leadership style in three words. And he goes, you work for them. , and it’s easy, you know, talking about servant leadership and, and. What better punchline and that, you know, you, you work for your people. They’re the boss. Ultimately your responsibility is to get the [00:20:00] best out of them, hold them accountable, and give them the tools they need to succeed.

Gene Hammett: Well, it’s interesting. You bring that up. I know he’s, he’s made a big shift in his own content. I follow him a little bit less now than I used to, but right now he’s talking a lot about kindness and he’s talking about, you know, leadership in a different way. What it used to be was you got to work. You’re facing off. Which, you know, I don’t disagree with that, but it may not be the right place for everyone, but this whole concept of you work for them is a really big idea of leadership that needs and, most people just forget. So I appreciate you bringing that up, Chester. Thanks for being here. And I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom.

Chester Buczynski: Yeah. Likewise. Thanks for having me, Gene. That was a good time.

Gene Hammett: Here’s a chance for us to reflect on what you just heard in this interview and what I took away from it. You know, leadership is not something that just comes naturally to everyone. You don’t just, you know, it’s not just getting people to do the work. You’ve got to be intentional about this. , the state conversation is one example of that really realizing that you can actually get feedback from your team that will make you a better leader, make you a better company. , also just tuning into them and communicating in a more effective basis. Getting feedback. And [00:21:00] the proper mechanisms can help you be a better leader and run a more efficient, effective company. All of these things are necessary for you to level up your leadership. Now, one of the things that gets in the way of leadership is the blind spot. Most people don’t know their blind spots.

It’s a reason to call blind spots, but I want to just invite you to a conversation. If you’re thinking about where do I go next? How does what’s really get in the way of our company? Our growth, our leadership let’s have a conversation. I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’d love to be able to help you. You’re my audience, listening to this deep into the conversation. You want to be a better reader. I can help you figure out what’s missing in that scheme. Just make sure you reach out to me. Go to schedule your call inside that call. I’m not going to sell you anything. It really is a hundred percent about giving you insight, wisdom, help you move forward or conflict, and be a powerful leader.

When you think of leadership and you think of growth and growth in tech as always with the current.

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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