“The Edge is Where the Action Is”

by Andy P. on January 8, 2013

No matter what type of systems you are talking about, this principle holds true.  Edges are the space where two different systems interact, exchanging resources and information to create an extremely dynamic environment for life to thrive.  Things are constantly in flux at the edges, which creates new niches for individuals to take advantage of the resources and energy that are most abundant.

Ecosystems are a great place to observe the reality of this idea.  Take wetlands,  for example.  If you look at variety of life and activity in the marshes surrounding Lake Erie, the center of the lake looks completely barren by comparison.  The aquatic species find more resources because the land species also frequent the water’s edge to sustain themselves and vice versa. Not only do species from each system migrate towards the edge, there are also species adapted specifically for life at the edge.  These species move freely between the different systems and take advantage of the resources in each.

The Come Alive Outside EDGE is the place where the passion of Come Alive Outside movement interacts with the world of business.  As with any edge, this interface is a place to exchange energy and resources to create more activity and success on both sides.  And just as with natural ecosystems, the individuals that are clever enough to adapt to the edge will find a wealth of life that cannot exist anywhere else.  The Come Alive Outside EDGE is a way to capture the business opportunities of today while creating a better world for tomorrow.

Energize your Team around a Passion

Over the past 20 years, the members of the JP Horizons team have travelled the world on our quest to energize a zillion people.  We’re not quite there yet, but every time we’ve seen a company that is able to energize its team around a common focus, the most immediate effect is in the number of smiling faces walking around the office.  We all need something to believe in.  When we understand how our work and our efforts are an integral part of something greater than ourselves, there’s no limit to what we’ll give, what we can accomplish and how much fun it can all be.  The companies in which everyone is only working for their next paycheck are the ones that are usually struggling to make ends meet.

Over the past 2 years, we’ve seen the phrase “Come Alive Outside” absolutely light people up.  We all know the problems that arise from a sedentary lifestyle and the joy that we’ve felt walking around outside on some perfect, sunny afternoon.  Getting North America back outdoors and living a life in the sun, rain and snow is a cause that people get passionate about.  It is also a cause that lines up particularly well with the expertise, energy and resources of professional landscape contractors.  There is perhaps no industry better suited to getting people get back outside and enjoying green spaces than the Green Industry.

The EDGE between the Come Alive Outside movement and business performance is certainly not limited to the Green Industry, but just as with wetlands, this is a good example for observing how the concept of the edge looks in reality.  The Come Alive Outside message is worth spreading because it inspires people to live a healthier life.  But, if you work in the Green Industry, it is also worth spreading because it can spark or reignite a passion for why you do what you do.  We don’t just put in landscapes, hardscapes and lighting features to make money.   We do it to make people happy, to make them healthy and to create a more beautiful, vibrant world around us.  We do it to make the world smile!  That is a reason to come into work in the morning!

Draw People into the Landscape

Come Alive Outside makes a lot of sense.  It’s kind of like telling someone to go open a window if you’re sitting in a really hot room and everyone is sweating.  But if it makes so much sense, why does it need to be said?  Why hasn’t someone already gotten up and opened the window?

The fact of the matter is that the world is not particularly well-designed for us to Come Alive Outside in. For people who live in the city, it might be quite a hike just to get to the nearest tree, let alone a nice green space or a pond with some benches around it. For those who live on a quarter acre in the suburbs, life is always a car ride away. We drive the kids to school.  We drive ourselves to work. We drive the kids to soccer practice.  We drive to the store. We drive home.  For most of us, the outdoors is just the space between the car door and the front door. Your landscaping is something to walk past when you get home from work and your yard is something to mow on the weekend. So why don’t we Come Alive Outside? Because, for most of us, outside isn’t a very good place to come alive in.

For decades, landscaping (residential and commercial alike) has been designed as something that is stuck up against a building or a space to travel past on your way inside. The vast majority of landscapes are not designed with places for people to engage and interact: to LIVE inside of them.  There are, of course, beautiful exceptions to this rule, but they are the designs that fill the pages of magazines and coffee table books, not enough backyards of subdivisions.

As with anything on an edge, drawing people into the landscape not only helps get people living outdoors, it also drives the performance of a business that can design, sell and install such a landscape.  Selling a landscape that people can live in differentiates you and gives you something special to sell.  But, more important than having something unique to sell, designing landscapes that encourage people to Come Alive Outside gives you a reason for selling.

Grow your Sales from the Why

People don’t really buy things.  People buy the lifestyle that the thing will give them.  They buy the version of themselves that they will be when they have the thing.  They buy the feeling of spending their money on something worthwhile, something they can believe in.  “People don’t buy what you do.  They buy why you do it.”  Simon Sinek coined this idea in his book Start With Why.  In a famous TED Talk, Sinek states, “Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do… Some know how they do it… But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do.”

Having a clearly defined purpose for doing what you do can energize your team, as mentioned earlier, but it can also inspire people to buy whatever it is that you are selling.  This is a very simple idea but it runs contrary to how most people do business.  Most things are sold, starting from what and perhaps working down to how.   “A beautiful landscape that is low-maintenance and has color all year round.  And a great patio out back with a water feature that you can enjoy while you’re eating dinner outside in the summer.”  Even if this landscape is beautiful and will encourage people to Come Alive Outside, listing its features makes it sound like just another landscape.

This is the edge where the passion behind the Come Alive Outside movement can cross over and inspire sales.  If you are selling a homeowner a landscape because you are sincerely trying to create a more healthy, vibrant world, then they’ll buy a landscape for the same reason.  Start with the why.  When you lead with this purpose then you give the customer a chance, not to buy a landscape, but a chance to be part of something great.  Don’t sell them a landscape; sell the opportunity to create memories while benefiting from the outdoors!

Engage Community Outreach Marketing

None of this works unless it is sincere.  The idea is not to be a business that just latches onto the sincerity and passion of a cause in order to sell more widgets.  Few things turn people off like hearing someone brag about all of the good that they do in the world.   The idea is not to run an ad in the paper with your latest community project or walk into a sales call tooting your own horn.  The idea is to truly and sincerely dedicate yourself and your business to making the world a better place.  Be an activist.  Be a leader in the community.  Lead the charge for positive change in the world and people will notice.  Create some positive change that affects someone’s life and they will never forget.

A beautiful new jogging trail or a restored park that used to be overgrown will be used by thousands of people to create real memories.  Time and resources spent to make your community a happier and healthier place are not a donation but an investment.  You are investing in people’s positive memories.  Marketing through direct involvement in the community is about more than just getting some quick exposure through an event or service project.  It is about becoming a fixture in people’s lives.  If you can help make Come Alive Outside a lifestyle for people in your community, then everyone involved reaps the benefits.  Everybody wins when somebody goes outside!

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Linda Coors January 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm

The above article was first published in a People Solutions newsletter on January 4, 2013, and we received a great response back from Bill Hildebolt, CEO, Nature’s Select Premium Turf Services. He gave us permission to use his comments, which are copied below:

I read with interest your latest newsletter regarding how everything occurs at the “edges.” This is a very astute observation which is a universal truth in both nature and human interactions. Most innovations and improvements are made by the friction created at the edges when different worlds meet.

One of the most important and least appreciated “edge force” that literally shaped the Earth as we know it and impacts the daily life of the world’s population occurred many thousands of years ago when glaciers covered most of the northern hemisphere. Here is an excerpt from my book The Professional Entrepreneur which explains this phenomenon in more detail (pages 57-58):

“When an era changes, you either adapt or go extinct. In the past, this was a gradual process, which sometimes took centuries. There was time to adapt to changes – just like a glacier passing over rough terrain, leveling and pulverizing everything in its path. Once the glacier melts away, the landscape is changed forever. The plants and habitat that survive had time to adapt to their new environment. Such was the case of the Wisconsin Glacier that, 20,000 years ago, turned the U.S. Midwest into the most productive agricultural land and diverse habitat for plants and wildlife in the world. The massive weight of the glacier ground the rock into fine powder that became the building blocks for the fertile black topsoil that is now the breadbasket of the world.”

The Wisconsin Glacier carved out the Great Lakes and formed the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie. It also brought down organic material from Canada that when combined with the minerals (calcium, magnesium, etc.) released from the pulverized rock created some of the most fertile soils in the world. As the glacier melted and receded it left behind an agricultural paradise. Without the edge forces of glacier meeting Earth, we would not have the living standard we enjoy today.

Bill’s book, The Professional Entrepreneur: When Cowboys Grow Up, is available here at the PLANET Bookstore if you’d like to read further.


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