How to Slay a Giant

August 6, 2017

This post originally appeared on Marty’s Turf blog on the website Gravely.

Marty Grunder, Owner of Grunder Landscaping. 

Marty Grunder, Owner of Grunder Landscaping.

I often hear from smaller or younger landscaping companies who want to know how in the world they can keep from losing out on coveted jobs to the big guys in their market. They don’t have the big outfits’ advertising budgets or the instant name recognition that comes with them, and they don’t have their impressive operational facilities or seemingly endless fleets of trucks. How, they ask, can they possibly compete?

I understand their concern, but it’s worth remembering it was David who slew Goliath—a daring young guy managed to take down an armored giant by aiming his slingshot just so and hitting his opponent at his most vulnerable spot.

If you’re a smaller or younger company who wants to compete with the giants, you need to take aim at what they can’t do as well as you. Then find your slingshot and fire away.

Be responsive. When prospects call for a consult, get right back to them and—assuming they’re a good fit for your company—offer to come out that day. If they need a project done right away, work overtime to meet their deadline. If there’s a problem with a job, go to the property yourself to address it and move mountains to make it right. If a client calls you in a panic because they have a tree limb down in their yard and a party that starts in an hour, help them clear it and don’t charge them for it. The bigger a company gets, the harder it becomes to stay responsive and nimble. Use your smaller size, and the flexibility that comes with it, to your advantage.

Be personal. Cultivate your relationships with prospects and clients and show them they’re not just a name and a number to your company. Send them handwritten thank-you notes. Remember their interests and milestones. Maybe they mentioned in conversation their love for Ohio State football; work the team logo into your design plans. Come across a book you think they’d find interesting? Amazon it to them. Stop by on occasion to check in on them and their property. Cell phones and email are convenient but nothing can compete with the personal touch.

Be exceptional. Always exceed your clients’ expectations every step of the way. Look around at the jobsite where you’re working. Are there tasks that wouldn’t take your crew long to accomplish but would catch your client’s eye? Could you air-sweep all the hard surfaces, not just the ones you dirtied? Could you add seasonal color? Plant some bulbs? On a slow day, send your crew over to your top clients’ properties to do mini-cleanups. Taking these extra steps will cost you much less than it will pay you—not only will it earn you your clients’ loyalty, but it’ll also get you the best advertising of all: word of mouth.

Be confident. No small part of competing with the big guys is believing you can and making others believe in you. Dress neatly, keep your trucks clean, and deliver professional proposals. Hire a professional photographer to capture your work in the best light and feature the images on your website. It only takes a few impressive pictures and some flattering testimonials for prospects to form their initial opinion of you and for you to get your foot in the door.

Now go get your slingshots ready!

Marty’s Turf is a monthly column written by Industry Business Consultant and Owner of Grunder Landscaping, Marty Grunder. Each month, Marty provides a piece of business advice for Gravely landscapers to help grow their businesses. For more information about Marty and his services, please visit