What Makes a Crew Leader Think Like an Owner? 

A lot of you business owners would love if your crew leaders would think more like an owner, right?  

Of course you would.  

It’s probably one of the biggest recurring things I see pop up in FB groups – “my guys won’t [insert any number of issues]” 

I worked for Tussey Landscaping for 15 years. (Nope, I never owned it. Just an employee.) I started when I was a teenager as a laborer on the crews, and eventually worked my way up to leading a crew. 

I was your typical employee. A young buck that was more concerned about how much time I could get off, what perks I could get, than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, as a kid I was taught to work hard, and I was no slouch. …but I was still a typical employee without focus. 

Then I got married.  

(ha ha, this is where a lot of people’s stories change, eh?) 

Switching my Mindset and Focus

I suddenly went from not caring that I had the winters off, to wanting 12 months of stable income. I wanted to make more. I even had a go at asking for more money. But the problem was that “more money” was the only thing that conversation was about. (More on that in a bit) 

I remember feeling a bit disenchanted and frustrated after that conversation with Steve.  

Who’s fault do you think it was? 

I even started looking into starting my own gig or doing some other business entirely. But the problem was my heart just was not into that. I genuinely enjoyed what I did at Tussey, and had no desire to do something else. But I DID want to grow my career, make more, buy a home, build a life… The problem was, I didn’t know how to go about doing that. 

Fast forward a few months… 

I was out at Pondomonium, the annual Aquascape event in Chicago. I watched for my chance, and caught up with Greg Wittstock, the CEO of Aquascape, and was telling (ok maybe complaining to) him about my situation. To this day I’m impressed that he even listened to me. I mean I was this geeky 22 yr old just-married kid, talking to a guy that had many much larger problems than mine to listen to. 

Best Advice I Ever Got as an Employee

But listen he did. And he gave me the best piece of advice I ever got as an employee. 

Greg – “Did you talk to Steve about this?”  

Me – “Well… kind of yeah” 

“What do you mean?” 

“I asked for more money” 

“Dude no… Listen, go back to Steve, and ask him this question: What can I do to make the company more money, so I can make more money” 

This was a proverbial mic drop moment for me.  

A light bulb went on. I don’t know why I never thought of it in this way before. It was a paradigm shift in my head.  

How My Job Turned Into a Career

And do that I did. Steve was gracious enough to listen, and offer me the rope to either climb or hang myself. Steve was good at doing that with his team. This whole thing completely changed the trajectory of my career.  

He gave me the opportunity to dive into doing more of our marketing in house. The company had struggled to find a good marketing company for years, and we kept on striking out. Plus we wanted to get a YouTube channel going.  

So that’s what I did. I did the website, content creation, YouTube, social media, events, everything.  

Listen, I went in blind. I didn’t really KNOW how to do this stuff. But I was hungry, comfortable with tech, and I just hustled and plain figured it out. And luckily, completely changed (for the better) how we got leads, and dramatically increased the quantity of quality leads.  

In under 3 years I more than doubled my income. Bought a home, my wife and I had our first child. I truly felt meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in my work. I took pride in what I did. I was proud to be a part of Tussey and my contributions. 

Granted, I was pretty much doing 2 full time jobs, marketing + crew leader. But I was working year round, and gaining ground in my career. Exactly what I set out to do. 

You know what that did? I suddenly wasn’t the annoying employee asking for time off, etc. In fact (I’m not necessarily proud of this) I was that guy bringing my laptop to family camping trips because I wanted to get more work done. Point is, I wasn’t bringing the bare minimum to the table anymore. I was over delivering.  

Ultimately, the fire this whole experience lit in me is what led to the opportunity to start SynkedUP. Life’s journey is crazy, isn’t it? 

So, what’s my point in this whole story? 

If You’re an Owner…

If you’re an owner, my hope is that you’ll provide the opportunity for your employee to grow. A lot of owner’s fight being the bottleneck in their organization, and your employees can’t grow through your bottleneck. You have to get the info out of your head, into systems and processes, and let your people grow past you. Many times, those people will be better at things than you are. Plus you’ll have MUCH better quality of life. I talked about this a bit in last week’s article. 

If You’re an Employee

If you are an employee, my hope is that my story flips on that same light bulb in you, that Greg’s advice did in me. 

Usually the owner you are working for has a lot of things competing for his or her attention. A lot of problems to solve, decisions to make, and they’d LOVE to give you more opportunity, to help you transition from a “job”, to growing your career, and invest into you to become a long term part of the team.  

But they are stressed, and you are just asking for “more money” or some other benefit. Like I did. And they don’t know how to move forward to provide that for you. Many times they’d love to pay you more, but they’re struggling to be profitable, make payroll, and get the needed equipment, the way it is. How can they pay still more?  

Point is you can’t get blood from a turnip. To pay you more, there’s gotta be more revenue and profit in the company. To earn more, you need to bring more value to the market. When you bring value, the market rewards you. 

The question is: how can you help the company make more money so you can make more money? 

If you’re thinking: well the owner should pay me more, THEN I’ll work harder and be more responsible… It’s the classic chicken and egg scenario. Someone needs to make the first move. So, take the plunge, and go make that first move.  

Owner’s paint the picture, vision, direction, and provide the opportunity. Don’t allow yourself to be the bottleneck. Being the bottleneck just holds your good guys and gals back. They’ll leave. 

Employees, ask how you can make the company more money. Show up. Be a professional. Take pride in your work. Go the extra mile.  

You’ll both benefit.  

If you are like, “well my boss won’t listen…, They’re too old school, or think they have to do everything themselves…” Just try. And if they don’t listen, see, and recognize your call, maybe you’re not working for the right company. Sad but hard truth.  

If your employees have zero interest in bringing more value, then maybe you haven’t hired the right people. Or maybe they want nothing more than 40 hrs week and day laborer wages, which means their ceiling is much lower than the hungry employees. But, before you write them off as “they’ll never take me up on it.” Remember, there was a day when I was that kid that couldn’t get his head on straight at times too. Don’t give up to soon. Maybe you haven’t given them a reason to believe that them providing more value would translate into benefits for them. 

So, what do you think makes an employee step up to the plate and think like an owner? I’d like to hear from both owners and employees. I was an employee, and am vouching that it’s a two way street. 

I’ll sign off with that. I could write for pages on this stuff. But you got things to do. Hopefully this was short, sweet, to the point, …and effective.  

DM me on IG if you want to talk more on this.  

Good luck.  




Weston Zimmerman
CEO and co-founder

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Learn how you can use SynkedUP to power your landscaping business, with scheduling and time tracking, materials, costs, billing info for service tickets, and more.

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See SynkedUP in action

Learn how you can use SynkedUP to power your landscaping business, with scheduling and time tracking, materials, costs, billing info for service tickets, and more.

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