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A Day In the Life: Plants Creative Landscapes

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We stand with women in the landscape industry and beyond to make their voices heard and their presence known. To bring them front and center, today and every day. Join us as we celebrate Plants Creative Landscapes featuring Pam Dooley and all the women in industry. #InternationalWomensDay


Q &A with Pam Dooley from Plants Creative Landscapes

LMN: How did you get into the landscape industry?

Pam: I grew up in Indiana, my grandfather retired from a factory job and then started working part time at a family garden center. I worked there during summers through high school and fell in love with really everything about it. Helping people select flowers, planting seeds and watching them grow, caring for the shrubs and trees. I moved south for college, receiving a volleyball/softball scholarship, and my nickname on the court and field was “Plants” because my team knew that I really loved plants. I worked doing interiorscaping for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, joined another small family-owned garden center and managed that for close to seven years. I was then offered a position as an account manager with a commercial landscape company. After 2 1/2 years of doing this, I decided it was time to go back to school, at which point, I started Plants Creative. This was in June 2005.


LMN: And how did that lead to starting your own company?

Pam: Plants Creative started out of the basic need to earn income! Going back to school as a non-traditional student at the age of 30, I already had real-world bills to pay. I reached out to a couple of friends who I believed would hire me to mow their lawns and who would also refer me to their friends. It worked. And then people wanted flowers planted. And then some shrubs and trees, new sod. And then walkways, patios, etc… There wasn’t anything that I was afraid to take on. I did a lot of great work, and I also made many mistakes. But I always fixed those mistakes, expensive lessons learned but also walking away with a happy customer. Plants was really built on trust and personal referrals because there was no marketing budget early on.


LMN: As a female entering a male-dominated industry, what barriers did you have to overcome?

Pam: I don’t know if “barriers” is the right word, but assumptions of the Plants owner/manager dynamic is interesting. My Design Build Manager is male, whenever we’re together he is the assumed owner, so we’re always redirecting and correcting these assumptions. It happens so frequently that we laugh about it. Generally, I’ve always believed that if you do an amazing job, male or female, great things will happen.


LMN: What advice would you give to any women looking to get into the industry and start their own company?

Pam: I need to give three answers for this question, and my advice would be for both men and women looking to join the green industry: 1) I would strongly encourage joining a peer group and working with a coach/mentor as frequently as possible. 2) I would encourage start-ups to join, and to become as involved as time allows, both local and national trade organizations. People in the green industry are eager to share, eager to teach others from difficult lessons learned, and there is not anything that happens to a start-up company that hasn’t already happened to somebody else. 3) Lastly, if the situation allows, I would encourage others to work or intern with an existing landscape company for at least a year prior to diving into business ownership.


LMN: What can our industry do better as a whole to increase female stakeholders?

Pam: I think that realizing women’s unique strengths as owners and leaders will continue our advancement in the green industry. I have seen women rightfully being promoted to positions of great leadership over the last ten years. Our national organization, NALP, has a woman CEO. Our local organization also has a woman as the executive director. These women are tremendously intelligent, passionate about building something bigger than themselves, great communicators, and approach leadership and team building through collaboration. I believe the more we can encourage women to let go of their fear of not being equal to men, and truly believing that they are equal, we’ll see the continued advancement of women in our industry.


LMN: In an industry with high employee turnover, how do you retain and recruit good talent that’s in it for the long haul?

Pam: Having a clear vision of your brand, and how you want to be perceived by your customers, pretty quickly qualifies potential team members. If the question of pay comes up in the first five minutes of a conversation, chances are you’re not a good fit for our company. We fully understand that people need to be paid for the work they do, but you can pretty quickly tell who is interested in a job vs who wants a career. We sell our brand, and we’ve worked really hard to build a uniquely-positive culture that encourages people at all levels to make decisions that they truly believe are the right decisions. We reward those decisions, and team members who go above and beyond, financially. We also work hard to create new opportunities for team members who want to advance. Owning a company that has averaged 20%+ growth annually over the last five years has provided us the opportunity to train and promote people into new positions that satisfy their professional goals. It’s exciting!


LMN: In landscaping, teamwork makes the dream work, how do you create an environment & culture where your employees thrive?

Pam: One of our core values is teamwork. It is visible to all on our warehouse door and rewarded in monthly meetings where peers nominate each other for being an “Amazing Team Member”. Construction can nominate maintenance and vice versa. The only rule for being eligible for nomination is if you did anything big or small to make somebody’s day better or easier. We also have regular company cookouts, include birthdays as a paid holiday, and award Hero points, and cash prizes, for receiving positive customer feedback.


LMN: As an outsider looking in, you’ve done a fantastic job at creating a holistic brand and message that surrounds your company. Are you naturally skilled on the business front or have you had to work at it?

Pam: Oh boy, I work my tail off at building the business! There is really nothing about owning a landscape business that comes naturally to me!However, I am a good listener, I am passionate about always doing the right thing, I’ve always been very aware of our opportunity and responsibility to positively impacting the communities of which we serve, and I strongly believe in servant leadership. I am also driven to grow professionally and personally so that I can continue to inspire a team of people who have committed themselves to Plants Creative. And I happen to use a landscape company to try to accomplish all of this daily.


LMN: How do you see your company evolving and keeping up with a fast-paced industry?

Pam: If we can get out ahead of the recruiting curve, and find qualified team members, our growth opportunity is endless. We are continuing to attract customers who believe what we believe, and we’ve really only scratched the surface of that population. Also, by working smart through technology, we’ll continue streamlining processes that will continue to make us competitive in the market.


LMN: In 2018, what do you see as the emerging trends to better your business?

Pam: Internal process improvements, key staff additions to be more timely in measuring how we’re doing, and continued development of our branding and marketing strategies.


LMN: Looking back on where you started and where you are today, is there anything you would do differently?

Pam: No, I don’t ever look back, I’m just not wired that way. I have sincere gratitude for every person who has contributed positively to Plants Creative over the last 13 years, both team members and customers, and I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m focused on maintaining a clear vision for our future.


LMN: What’s the end goal for you, what do you want your company’s legacy to be?

Pam: I want people’s lives to have been positively impacted through their experience with Plants Creative. I also want Plants Creative to be known as the company who truly cared about the end result in building both landscapes and relationships.


Behind The Scenes


For more on Plants Creative Landscapes, please visit their website: https://plantscreative.com/