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Ken Keller: My trees, your people and lessons learned

Posted: May 25, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 25, 2014 2:00 a.m.

 

When we moved into our home, a row of six tall and bushy pine trees provided ample shade and privacy for our back yard.

Pine trees have a reputation for killing most things beneath their branches, including grass, and the needles falling from the trees quickly collect and become a fire hazard.

Apparently, residential developers like to plant pines because they grow quickly and they give a neighborhood that “lived in” established look that homebuyers admire.

While we weren’t thrilled with these trees they were there and the other option was having the hot summer California sun pound hour after hour, frying everything that lived in the yard.

The years passed and the trees grew. You look at how tall they and large they have become, and while you are proud on one hand, you start to wonder what the return on investment is. What the breaking point is. What the removal and replacement cost will be.

Pines look nice from a distance and in our case continued to serve their shade function but we knew that there was a cost involved in even a so-called low maintenance tree species.

How do these pine trees relate to your employees?

For starters, we didn’t choose to plant them in our yard. Maybe in your company, you have employees that you did not personally hire. As a result, you may not be thrilled with the choices your hiring managers make. But you live with the decision. You rationalize that they know what they are doing.

Second, once on board, the employee needs to be oriented and on boarded with the culture. If a person does not take root in the company culture or if it is not a good fit for with the environment (policies and procedures) or people they leave on their own accord or are asked to leave.

In either case, there was a lot of energy expended with all the recruiting, training and meshing with the team and how things are done. More energy is expended when it becomes clear that a person isn’t working out and greater amounts of time and focus are used when a person is asked to leave the company.

So, for the last twenty plus years, we had assumed that everything was okay with the trees, that they had strong roots, got plenty of water and sunlight and although we were concerned when the strong Santa Ana winds blew that a tree or trees might fall for many years nothing eventful happened.

Third, when things get ugly, it happens quickly. It is becomes clear when someone isn’t working out. All too often owners stick their head in the sand and trust, perhaps hope, that the management team will address the issue, save the employee and everything will return to normal. However that is defined.

That rarely happens and once an employee who likely didn’t want to be there in first place is either terminated or leaves of their own accord every employee who knows anything wonders “What took so long?”

We had long known about the trees and the potential damage they could do. But one of us was in denial. I was going to get around to it someday. One morning a branch crashed into the yard, damaging our home and the back yard.

I could say that an ounce of prevention is less expensive than a pound of cure. But it would be more appropriate to state that when something needs to be addressed, take care of it right then and there.

The longer decisions and action are delayed, the more resources are needed to get things back to normal. In our case, it has been over nine months since that branch fell. The tree company removed the trees in less than two days.

Take action today.

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together for education, sharing and on-going success. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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