Aug. 18 2008 12:00 AM

Back in the day, going to school meant walking, and in my case it was uphill both ways. Well, maybe not both ways . . . my point is that going to school may be tough, but the alternative is tougher, for sure. The same logic goes for continuing education in the workplace. You just can’t have enough education or training in this new economy. People without established skills and certification are going to lag behind the crowd and get lapped by emerging leaders. Let’s delve into what training and certification of your skills really means and how it affects your livelihood and personal life. Forget the cliches we hear about how much more a college education means in added dollars during a lifetime; how about how to use your skills once you’ve acquired them?

What I’m saying is all the education, training and basic intelligence in the world won’t help you if you don’t apply them to the job or task at hand. I know lots of very well educated people who never achieve their full potential because they haven’t applied their skills properly. It’s not rocket science; in fact, only rocket science is rocket science. Confusing, but totally true. So, what about your job in the green industry, and what can you do to better yourself through training?

Whether you’re an architect, foreman, maintenance equipment operator or account manager, there’s a simple logical approach you can take to set yourself apart from others. Training and properly applying your training and experience is the first step. Before you enroll in a training course, ask yourself this: “When I successfully complete this course, what will I do with my newfound knowledge?” This is a mandatory analysis and should lead you to a positive conclusion, not a dead end. Remember, the important part of your successful training breakthrough is what you do with it, not just getting new ideas and acquiring knowledge.

I’m big on breaking down difficult challenges into small bite-size challenges that I’m able to conquer. Take your current position and look forward five years from now. Where do you want to be? Let’s say you want to move up the corporate ladder to management, partnership and of course, more money. What do you have to do and know in five years that you don’t know now? Answer that question and you’re on the way to getting the training, skills and certification to get there.

Your company can help you offset the cost of training. Most companies pay 100% of the cost of employee continuing education because they know that better-educated employees are better long-term employees, and long-term employees are the most important element in successful business today. When I was running my own business I always asked my clients about their people and how long they’d been with the company. I can recognize a successful well run company by the answer to that question every time.

What type of training do you need?

Remaining competitive in today’s complex business environment is obviously a goal both you and your company need to focus on. The faster you can complete tasks and answer customer questions, the more you’ll accomplish and earn. Look for training that addresses fast-paced customer service and innovative solutions to their problems. Train yourself to look for ways to give your customers tangible solutions to what they perceive as difficult or complicated problems. That’s the simple part of success I mentioned earlier in this article. Customer-driven people and businesses are always much more successful and make more money than process-driven people and businesses.

Avoid training in processes that don’t solve customer problems and find training that emphasizes customer satisfaction and education. Well informed customers are your best customers, provided you’re better informed than they are.

Keep up with new technologycustomer,service,advancement,

Technology is moving faster every day, and computer skills and an understanding of information technology is one area you can’t ignore. The problem is that many good people are afraid of technology. If that’s the way you feel, get over it and enroll in a computer or IT training class. Your company will pay the bill and congratulate you before you go to the first class. I’m not a computer genius, and you don’t have to be either, just be ready to learn. We’re all in a race to the future and technology is the ever-moving finish line, so get going with technology training.

The importance of customer service

Customer service training is another highly effective route to successful business and career advancement. Consider yourself in the customer service business as it pertains to providing quality services, solid ideas and suggestions that help customers become more knowledgeable and successful. I’m not that rocket scientist; I don’t have to be. I just need to be logical and attentive to what customers want. I’m sure they want a faster response, more information and effective service. Look for training that emphasizes the customer’s perspective and problem solving. Don’t get bogged down with complicated statistics, confusing graphs and formulas. Find a training agenda that stresses high quality customer service information. In fact, look for training courses that combine technology and customer service training together. Ask yourself, “What do I want to learn that I don’t already know or how can I improve my skill set?”

Educational opportunities

PLANET offers a complete library of training and educational material geared toward the green industry. The amount of superb quality training material PLANET has available is amazing. The PLANET certification programs offer the highest level of certifications available today. I’ve earned my Certified Landscape Professional (CLP) status and I’m looking at additional coursework to continue my quest for knowledge. Husqvarna Forest & Garden offers in-person and online training to select landscape contractors. Husqvarna University provides extensive training for fleet, operation managers and technicians. I’m a graduate of Husqvarna University, as are many contractors, and we know this certification makes us better in our professional lives. All partners in the Husqvarna Eagle Elite programs receive Husqvarna University free of charge.

Check out the highly regarded training courses offered by Mindleaders. Mindleaders offers online training courses, including certification on the following topics:

Customer Service: Defining Service

Customer Service: Communicating

Customer Service: Fixing Problems

Customer Service: Building a Department

Customer Service: Tools of the Trade

Customer Service: Business Skills Videos

You can reach Mindleaders at They offer training courses featuring skill assessment, questions, simulations, exercises and sample files. All are geared to build and improve your customer service competence.

Take action, complete your training and never give up. A very smart man once said, “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” That man was Thomas Jefferson, President of The United States, inventor and co-author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson also said, “Of all my accomplishments, I’m most proud of my part in crafting the Declaration of Independence because it will outlast every other thing I’ve done in life and influence generations after I’m gone.” He sure was right about that. Now’s the time to influence your future; take complete advantage of your God-given skill sets and move forward to higher opportunities by expanding your horizons through training and continuing education.

I’d like to hear from you with your comments and success stories brought about through training and certification. You can reach me at