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Sowing the seeds Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2009

Dale Karmie would rather see ForeverLawn Inc. shutter its doors and go out of business than sacrifice even a bit of his integrity to earn an extra buck.

“Back in the beginning, if we went out to deal with a customer, the goal wasn’t selling that customer on as much as I could sell. It was to solve that customer’s problems,” says Karmie, the company’s president and co-founder. “We weren’t looking at what the customer wanted but the problem they were trying to solve. A lot of times, they would say, ‘We’ve had a half-dozen people out here, and you are the first person to suggest that.’”

It’s that commitment both to customer and to purpose that Karmie and his brother, Brian, used in 2004 to launch ForeverLawn, which now has between 30 and 35 dealers across the country. The company, which installs simulated grass product, maintains headquarters in both Uniontown, where Karmie works, and in Albuquerque, N.M.

Karmie says focusing on your core values and principles doesn’t mean you’re less interested in making your business profitable.

“If we don’t make money, we’re not in business,” Karmie says. “I realize there are people out there based on the motivation of money. I know those things can motivate an individual, but I don’t believe they can drive a business long term through the pitfalls.”

When your focus is on money, it becomes easier to veer off-course to meet that financial goal.

“It’s important to us that we’re not one person one place and somebody else another place,” Karmie says. “Pretty quickly, you forget who you are supposed to be.

“We try to be the same people all the time. There is a certain transparency with employees and co-workers that keeps you true.”

It’s as simple as following the same behavior and taking the same actions whether you’re dealing with a customer, an employee or someone else who comes in contact with your company. It’s that consistency that will drive home your commitment to your values.

“We’ve tried to put ourselves in a position where we side with the customer,” Karmie says. “When you take that stance, some of the employees react: ‘Why would you do that when you had a legitimate argument here?’ This is about trying to do what’s right, not make the dollar the bottom-line decision. We want to protect the image.”

When you go to such lengths to protect your image and to stick to your core values, Karmie says you’ll usually come out ahead in the long run.

“I think the key is you have to be convinced that what you are doing is right,” Karmie says. “If employees see their leaders sacrificing their values, I think that will kill the business. We don’t wear it on our sleeves. I don’t go around and say, ‘I operate my business with integrity.’ I think it’s more subtle so you’re not overwhelmed. When it’s a little more subtle, it becomes part of the subconscious.”

Transparency, consistency and repetition are among the keys to building the foundation you want with your business. He equates it to the care that a farmer takes planting crops.

“A good harvest comes through perseverance and hard work,” Karmie says. “A bad harvest comes on its own. Weeds grow; they don’t have to be planted. That’s been a critical part of keeping grounded and growing our business is understanding and believing that.”

With consistent communication, your team will back you up on your commitment.

“If it were me alone standing on my character, I would fall,” Karmie says. “The fact that it’s part of the company, maybe someone who is a part of our team comes up to me and says, ‘Remember, this is how we operate.’ It becomes the nature of the company.”

How to reach: ForeverLawn Inc. (330) 614-9390 or www.foreverlawn.com