In this episode, Joel sits down with Bob Marshall, Senior Vice President of Sales at Brightview, the top commercial landscape company in the country. Bob shares insights on the importance of hands-on leadership, emphasizing the value of being present with employees on the frontlines for 40 weeks per year. He also discusses the essential skill of active listening for breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of community, as well as the benefits of enabling peer recognition and learning for frontline associates. Finally, Bob offers valuable advice for the next generation of leaders. Tune in to this enlightening conversation on leadership and employee engagement.

Share your journey and background with us.

I’m the SVP of Sales for BrightView Landscape Services. As you mentioned, we head up a sales organization for BrightView. We have about 200 business developers that sell for us. As I started my career coming out of college, I was a foodie. I went to culinary school, went on to hotel school. My first job out of college was housekeeping. It was an opportunity I thought coming out of school was the best for me from a training perspective that could give me the foundation I needed and wanted. I launched my career out of college. I went from housekeeping to housekeeping manager to front desk supervisor to front desk manager, then to food and beverage ops. Then went into gaming in Atlantic City and launched my career working in many divisions and departments. Fast-paced, a lot of challenges, opportunities, and a need for folks that are inquisitive. That’s where I cut my teeth.

Share a bit about a mentor or two or philosophies that have been impactful for you.

Early days in Atlantic City, I worked with a group of folks that believed in managing by walking around. We didn’t sit in our offices; we were out and about. Often we would walk through the casino floor routinely; we’d be on the floor looking at what’s going on, understanding if our employees need help, looking at problem areas, and generally evaluating and being around for our people so they can see we are involved and engaged. That creates engagement. It’s a big deal in how you motivate people. I’ve done that my entire career. When I became a leader, a lot of my success is because I’m out and about. I try to get in front of our people. I’m on the road every week, 40 weeks of the year plus. Being able to be in front of employees, that’s where we can make an impact. I believe that the mentorship I received then is important for me to do that with our employees today. That’s the way I operate. I believe if we are out in front of our people, we’re leading, bringing them along, creating engagement and excitement, we can help them.

What has been something that you have gleaned from the frontlines that has changed the way you view your job?

Over the past 12 months, being in this role, we’ve gleaned some challenges or opportunities for our business development. We took this approach of listening and changed some things to help that. We were able to make some differences in some of our awards and recognition programs, compensation, and continually make improvements in what they do. Last year around this time, I sat with a group of employees, and they had some real challenges with how they work in our CRM system. We’ve made changes to that. It was a frustrating point to them, and when I looked at it, they are non-sales activities, why are we doing that? We are knocking down those barriers for our folks so they can focus on their job. It’s listening, hearing what they are saying. Sometimes when they are talking, you have to go what do you mean there? I’ll run back conversations in my head constantly. It’s through those things we’ve made improvements. It’s easy to forget how impactful a conversation is.

It’s easy to forget how impactful a conversation is.

It’s important we’re with our people. I always say, ‘Remember when…’ I think we forget that the title is important. I’m just a regular person, and I think our people view us as regular people. There is a title with you that is associated with your role within the company that people look to for leadership. We have to recognize that and make sure we are stopping and spending time with our employees. You spend a lot of energy to do it, but it’s very rewarding. We do need to remember where we were and what it was like when we had the opportunity to spend time with a senior-level person, and when they are focused, they are not swivel-heading but sitting there talking to you. They are not multitasking.

How do you build community with individuals who are on the road?

Try to get in front of them as much as you can. Zoom is wonderful. When we have meetings, we ask everyone to turn their cameras on. It creates engagement. I’d like to be better about calling out of the blue. The nice thing is, I’ve had one of my VPs say they do the same thing I do. That creates engagement with our people, and they are doing that to the business developer level.

What are the biggest opportunities you see in front of you?

We’re really poised for growth. We have a tremendous sales leadership team, a great operational leadership team, so we’re really poised from that perspective. I’m so excited when we are back talking to customers face-to-face more than today. I have the privilege of leading this team. They have figured out how to sell in a COVID environment. It’s tremendous.

How do you enable the local teams to win every day?

We went down a path of implementing technology to help support the business. Three months in, we said it’s not working how we thought it was going to and pushed it to the side. We didn’t overburden the business with an idea or thought, we tested it. We have a second piece we are testing and have gotten some success from it, and this year we went to extend from 10 to 20 people and wait another year. The point is to not rush it because of an enabling tool. To me, it’s looking at it very closely, spending time with it, making sure it’s scalable, and that it actually helps and is proven.

What would you like to be your legacy?

I would like to think that people would think of me as caring. I can talk to all levels in the organization. I was really working with our people out in the field, and I was helpful. I would hope that becomes my legacy.

What’s something that you believe that if everyone else in the world believed too, would make the world a better place?

We need to be compassionate, kind. At the end of the day, work is tough, but there’s no reason we can’t be nice and compassionate. Take the approach that even if someone has a different opinion, they are well-intended.