When Todd Thomasson, owner of Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes in Aldie, Virginia, started out, he was basically doing it all — working 100-plus hours every single week and wearing all the hats. After working all day in the field, he’d meet with clients every evening. Maintaining such crazy hours, Thomasson admits he “barely remembers his 20s.” It was a busy time — but the company has grown tremendously because of that hard work at its start. A decade older and wiser, Thomasson says he has learned to hire for growth — and to let go of some of the control he’s solely maintained — but he admits it hasn’t been easy.
Thomasson says that he has learned he doesn’t want to be everyone’s go-to for everything at this point in the company’s growth. Along those same lines, he doesn’t want every single customer to have his cell phone number anymore. He has delegated much of that work to managers who can be handling those matters.
“The fact is, if it’s getting to me, there’s been a breakdown in the system somewhere and I want to know why,” Thomasson says. “And if it gets to a point where I must intervene, it’s important to get to the bottom of why.”
Getting to this point where he’s been able to take a step back and let managers handle a lot of the day-to-day stuff has also meant accepting the fact that mistakes are going to be made.
“You have to be able to let your employees make mistakes, too — after all, it’s how they learn,” Thomasson says. “Mistakes are how I learned. Hopefully with your direction, they won’t make mistakes as bad as you did. It’s certainly not easy to do. It’s not easy to sit back and watch mistakes being made. However, it is how you handle those situations that will make a tremendous difference in what your employees learn. And it’s how you handle those situations that will ensure they don’t happen again.”
Thomasson says it is a huge mistake to come in yelling and cussing over a mistake that was made. He says that will only cause employees to resent you. Instead, Thomasson says he keeps a very open line of communication with his people so that they aren’t afraid to come to him if a mistake is made. This is where steps toward growth can really be made.
“As we sit down and talk out a problem, we get to the bottom of why it happened in the first place,” Thomasson explains. “It’s possible it was even my fault — maybe I didn’t give that employee everything they needed to succeed. If they were missing a tool from the truck for the job one day, did I provide them with the checklist of what they would need? You must always ask yourself if you provided your employees with what they need to be successful before you let them take the blame for a problem. Working together is where you come up with the best solutions and the best opportunities for growth.”
Thomasson adds that when you are working to get to the root of a problem that it’s very important to leave emotions out of the discussion. He says he has spent a lot of time focusing on emotional intelligence.
“Controlling your emotions is hard,” he admits. “I am not always successful at it but it ultimately leads to a more productive conversation when you can do that.”
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