Ep 021 – The Hidden Power of Peer Groups with Vince Torchia

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Are you tired of feeling like you're carrying the weight of your landscape company all on your own? It doesn’t have to be this hard. In this eye-opening episode of Roots of Success, we challenge the conventional methods of business growth with the help of Vince Torchia from the grow group. Explore the power of Ace peer groups and discover how landscape business owners are revolutionizing their success by collaborating with others in the industry. If you're ready to break free from traditional approaches and take your company to new heights, tune in for this game-changing conversation.


The Power of Many

Key Moments:

[01:52] What is ACE Discovery?

[04:17] Does company size matter in ACE Peer Groups?

[05:01] Small Companies vs Large Companies

[09:01] New Generation of Business Owners

[10:37] What do you learn in ACE Meetings?

[15:55] The structure of ACE Meetings

[17:45] Tenure of Peer Group Members

[21:30] GROW 2024


    1. What are the benefits of joining ACE peer groups?
    2. How can peer groups help landscape businesses grow?
    3. What is the ACE Discovery event for Peer Groups
    4. What topics are discussed in ACE Peer Group meetings?
    5. What are the advantages of attending industry events?
    6. Why is it important for owners to form relationships with other entrepreneurs?
Episode Transcript
Vince 02/01/24 Tommy Cole: Welcome back to the Roots of Success podcast. I'm your host, Tommy Cole with McFarlin Stanford. And today we have a special guest, Vince Torchia from the Grow Group. He is the vice president and head of operations of the Grow Group and a very awesome person.Welcome, Vince. How are you? Vince Torchia: I'm good, Tommy. Thanks for having me back for round two. This is fun. Vince's Background i n the Green Industry Tommy Cole: Yeah. So Vince we're going to get into some great conversation about ACE Discovery and the GROW group and a lot of good things but first and foremost if you've been living [00:01:00] under a rock for the last many years and don't know who Vince is, that's totally okay because he will give us what he does for the GROW group and for McFarlin Stanford. Vince Torchia: Yeah, no, Tommy, thank you. So I've been, I've been working with Marty Grunder since 2011. So I met him when I was an intern. We both went to the University of Dayton. So I was happy to meet and kind of work with somebody like Marty in the industry. Not only to just grow right our companies but also a great person to learn from great like no one knows more about the Industry, no one's been in that longer kind of thing than Marty. So worked at then what was called Marty Grunder inc then became the grow group I went back to law school during that time and even have a small role at Grunder landscaping company So been in the industry since 2011. I love the industry. I think it's great only good things coming for Landscape pros and very happy to work with you and your team as strategic partners. We can do so much together And yeah, it's been a great partnership what is ACE Discovery? Tommy Cole: Yeah, I totally agree. Everything you said is great. It's been an awesome relationship and, the sky's the limit with with our team and your [00:02:00] team. It's just gets better and better every year. And we sort of fine tune the good things and make them even better. So it's been great. Well, let's jump right in. There's this thing called ACE Discovery every year in March in New Orleans. That we invite business owners that are interested in, in changing their business only for the best. What does that mean in your terms? Vince Torchia: Yeah, I think ACE Discovery, Tommy, from a very high level is one of the first things that makes us different in the Ace peer groups that we offer. So, nobody can just sign up and join an ACE peer group, get put into a group, and then go on their merry way. We have this whole program called Discovery, which acts as onboarding, right? We tell you what our process is like, we get you set up on how we do things. Different people run different peer groups different ways. ACE peer groups are run through a discovery meeting, right? So ACE peer groups are different. And that discovery, again, is onboarding. It's a way for us to spend three days with people that are going to be in these groups. [00:03:00] We get to know them. And Tommy, as you know, they get to know us as well. Not only the one or two facilitators they're going to be working with, but they get to meet kind of the whole swath of coaches that we have and see, Oh. ACE peer groups is more than just Vince. It's more than just Tommy. It's more than just Jim. It's more than just Marty. It's more than just Jason. It's more than just Chris. It's this whole team of people. And that is an awesome part of ACE Discovery that they get to come in, see what we're all about, try what we do and meet the team that's going to help them be successful. Tommy Cole: Yeah. Good, good analogy. You know it's not just a single person or a single two or three people. There's a wealth of knowledge that when you take all these people together. You can form a really awesome landscape team, right? Vince Torchia: Absolutely. And it's all the different verticals, whether it's construction or finance or sales or ops or maintenance or legal or HR or valuations, like we've got all those buckets covered. And Tommy, why we do that is because we are industry people. So like, we [00:04:00] know what people are thinking about. We know what they're dealing with. We understand what sales meetings are like, we understand what succession planning is like. So we're in the middle of the weeds and companies all day long. So. We know what kind of group if I was in a peer group I'd know what I want that peer group to look like same as you and that's how we try to design these Ace peer groups all starting with ace discovery. Does company size matter in ACE Peer Groups? Tommy Cole: Good, good one. So let me ask you this. So let's take this two different ways. One, I'm a real small company. I'm not sure if this is the right fit. Is it something I can budget for? And then let's take the larger company approach of why this. is, is good for their business. So let's start off with a small business. Let's say you are pushing a million dollars. You're, you're about a million to, to 5 million, that range. And you're like, man, I'm not sure, but. A lot of times we hear people like, well, my friend is in it or, or I can also get some business coaching by my dad or, or I'm too young for this. I'm too old. It's too expensive. Like, tell me what is, the [00:05:00] reasons why that that person should join Small Comanies vs Large Companies Vince Torchia: Yeah So if you're a smaller company in many ways you're set up actually to have A quicker benefit from joining a peer group than say maybe a larger company and the easiest way to explain that is as you said is when you're a Small company. It's like riding on a jet ski. Like you can take left turns, you can change direction. You don't got to get approval from 25 people. You just chart your course and you go. And many things that we teach Tommy again. Our foundational to the groups are not things that are incredibly hard to understand. They're not. It is like, let's get you the basics of running a really successful company. And if you're smaller, you can build that foundation better and your growth will be a lot more stable. Your jump from 1 to 3 to 5 to 7 to 10 to 20 will be stable because you have this great foundation built from aces. And Tommy, whether you're in an ace peer group or you do something else, no one's going to win an argument with me. Within the fact that they shouldn't spend money on developing themself. [00:06:00] Like, I'll beat you on that argument all day long, right? So whether you're, like, it's a personal trainer at work, workouts, or you want to get better at golf and get a golf coach, or people have, you know, people that they talk to to want to make their lives better. Like, that's really what ACEs is about. It's an investment in yourself, right? So people can put away the money. The ROI is up to us, not up to them. If we're asking you to spend money every month with us or to spend money on an annual basis, like that's on us to deliver, right? And we will deliver and we will help you deliver what you need to deliver back home. But for the small company, it's like, get this stuff while you're small so that you can grow and save all that time, energy, effort, and money. These large companies have had to learn the hard way. You know, Grunder Landscaping grew and Marty paid for his mistakes in his wallet. Like, oh crap, shouldn't have done that. That just cost me a hundred grand. Okay, lesson learned. Like, peer groups, right, we can, we can show you the right way to do that. And then, Tommy, for long larger companies a lot of them want to know who am I going to be around? What's my group look [00:07:00] like? I want to be around other people that, you know, have the same kind of mentality as me. And while I agree with all of that, old companies, Tommy, as you know, in large companies kind of can get stuck in their way. Sometime they've been doing, they've been doing it like this for a while. They haven't had anybody come in and look at things or shake things up on them in a while. And so big company is going to benefit because you're going to have 11 other people and your facilitators come in to look at your business with no emotion. I don't care that Tommy's worked there for 20 years. I don't care that Jim's been there for 10. I don't care that this was your father's property and he gave it to you. And when I say I don't care, I mean, it's not that I don't feel that, but it's like, What's the business case for it? Like that's what the group brings is this outside non emotional perspective That can help you cut through decisions And sometimes tell me it's stuff staring you right in the face that you've just never noticed because it's right here all the time it's like when you know when you're having people over to your house and like they notice things and you're like, oh I never noticed that before it's like well you live in this house every day. Like of course, you don't notice that right? Yeah, so small companies [00:08:00] they can they can take a lot of takeaways very quickly large companies They'll get a ton of takeaways, too But they really get shooken up as far as, Hey, the way you've always been doing it maybe isn't the way you should be doing it anymore. Tommy Cole: Yeah, yeah, good, good analogy. You know, at the end of the day, landscapers tend to overthink everything. They figure out all the reasons why you shouldn't versus the reasons why you should, and just move forward. And so a small business owner is like, well, they'll think of everything. They always ask me like, when's the best time to join? I'm like yesterday. Right. So when's the best time to plant a tree? Yesterday, right? And so, there's never going to be the perfect moment to join. There's never going to be that. It's no different than like, you know, getting married, right? We're going to do it, yeah. Eventually, I'll get to that point. Eventually, I'll have kids. No, there's no perfect time to do it. But I can tell you this, of all the aces that we work with, they're like, Man, I should have done this so long ago. And what's fascinating, Vince, to me, Is that we're seeing this new generation of [00:09:00] young entrepreneurs jumping in like crazy. Newest Generation of Business Owners Tommy Cole: That's my age and even Marty's age. It was like, we're going to figure it out and I got everything I need to know and I'm going to learn from it. And then 20 years later, you're just like, man, I burned money. I burned bridges with people. I didn't, I'm still stagnant on what's going on. But this young generation is like just jumping in knee deep. Haven't you seen some of that lately? Yeah. Vince Torchia: it. Tommy. The access to information now is higher than it ever has been and only continue to get that way. Kids are using chat GPT. They're in Facebook groups. They're joining more events. They're networking more. They're not as worried about like their competition locally. I think 25 years ago, competition locally was like, I'm never going to say anything to them where now we meet a lot of young leaders. Who are like friends with their competition. Cause they realize like rising tides raises all boats for me. Like, yes, we're going to compete and yes, I'm going to beat him sometimes. And she's going to be me sometimes, but like overall it's better that I know them and they [00:10:00] know me. And they're just like willing to jump in and do things, which is really, really fun for us to see. And also their their energy is contagious, Tommy. Cause they're like, yeah, I'm going to bump my knee. I'm going to scrape my elbow. I'm going to make some, my some mistakes, but I'm going to go a hundred miles an hour. So like, I'm going to learn from it and I'm going to move on. And that's been great for our peer groups, especially Tommy. It's motivated for people. There's 35 year olds who are getting passed up by 25 year olds being like. I better kick it into gear. I don't want to come to this next meeting and have this, this, this younger kid beating me anymore. Right. So it's been, it's good competition. It's friendly competition, but it's definitely motivating people. What do you learn about in ACE Meetings? Tommy Cole: Yeah, love it. So becoming an ace, you know, give me some ideas of what, what's being discussed. Like when we, we go to peer group meetings, like what do we do there? And what do we talk about? What, what am I going to learn from? Like, let me paint that picture. We're not talking about what shrub you should install. We're not talking about, like, you have to use this certain type of [00:11:00] truck. We're not saying you have to use Stihl equipment, right? That's none of that. But what are some big high level things that get discussed in these meetings that we learn about and grow with? Vince Torchia: Yeah. So number one, it's really set out to be like business advisors. Right. So by the way, if you have questions about shrubs or if you have questions about battery equipment, or if you have questions about specific things, you'll have plenty of vehicles to talk about that with your group, but to your point, Tom, and when we come to a meeting, it really is. Letting the cream of the crop of challenges and opportunities rise so that we can discuss them. So it's everything from, sales planning to sales or production handoffs to device management, to, the ability for companies to buy other businesses or acquire other work, get into different verticals. Hey, I've got a great landscaping company. Why don't I do lawn care? Hey, I've got a great tree guy. Why aren't I doing my trees? Hey, I've got to hire new people. I want new commission plans for them. I want job descriptions I want career ladders [00:12:00] and these are things that we're having discussions on as groups We're not a franchise model, so you don't join and get this big encyclopedia of here's the career ladder and here's this and here's how you do this and here's all the recipes. It's a peer group, right? So when we're at meetings, we have topics we're going to discuss. They're shared with group members ahead of time and they come to discuss those topics. So Tommy, recent ones I've been, I've had, so I've had three meetings in the last month. We've talked about people building a new facility. What should I look out for? Where should I be aware of? What would you do differently? Getting feedback from all the group members. It's funny. The first answer that always comes up for people is parking like they spend all this time on their building and like, Hey, you didn't realize when you build us at 5 million at 10 million. you have twice as many people that work at your company. So where are they going to park? Right? So, so we've done facility. We've done like ownership wealth. Like there's a lot of times when owners have to choose between am I putting, am I going to take that distribution? Am I going to take a higher salary or am I going to forgive that and give that to somebody else on my team and let the company grow? Okay. Right. That can be a difficult situation for owners. [00:13:00] But we've talked about owner compensation. We've talked about like state of the unions. Like, hey, how do I tell people at my company what's going on? Like, do I do that monthly? Do I do that annually? Do I do it quarterly? Do I do it at a March kickoff? Do I do it at a spring kickoff? Do I do it at a winter kickoff? Like, how do I keep people in the know about what's going on at our company? How do I do a retreat? We had a topic about a retreat. Hey, I want to take my leadership team, take them off site and have a full planning session. What do I do with that? Yeah. So we've covered every basis. The last two that we covered were one on device management. Do we buy the cell phones? Do they buy the cell phones? Are we reimbursing? Who owns what vehicles? Do sales people take vehicles home? Do production people take vehicles home? And then sales manager. A lot of companies have like that kind of player coach. Like I'm a salesperson, but I'm a sales manager. At what point do we get over that hump? So those are some of the five or six topics we've covered at the last three meetings I've been at all have been great topics. All have been very well discussed. Tommy Cole: Wow. Love it.anything and everything except for actually putting the work in the [00:14:00] ground, that that's what I tell a lot of people is, I believe people get in this industry because they love this industry. They, they, they grow up like, listen, I'm on a small business. I'm going to learn. I'm going to push them over. I'm just going to go do it myself. I'm going to go get the education. I'm going to figure it out. Where peer groups comes in now is the whole business to run, right? That's the, that's the great area that we run into the most. They're great at installs. They're great at maintaining properties. They're great at the most complex problems. Weed control, you name it. But like, how do I run this office? Like literally we did not get in this business to go, I'm ready to coach and train my entire leadership team every single day. I'm ready to have a one on one with them every single week. I love people, right? That's, that's just not what they get into. And this sort of opens the picture a little bit of like what I should be doing with my business and my [00:15:00] people at the end of the day, right? Vince Torchia: Absolutely, Tommy. It's, it's just a total, you know, surrender is probably an extreme word, but it's like, if you're not going to make the changes you want to make, you're not going to get the results that you want to get. Like, if you're not willing to do the meetings, if you're not willing to be the coach, if you're not willing to babysit some people on your team to make sure things get done a certain way. Like you may not get all the results that you want. So it is a little bit of a totally different mindset for people. But as we know, that's what that mindset carries you into the next level. So it's about going from that technician, right. To that manager, to that leader, so that you can create more leaders. That's like, what we're all here to do is to find people on our team, see more in them than they see in themselves and give them an opportunity to grow. If you do that, your business will grow no matter what, like if you have the right people and you're willing to coach them and mentor them, just as you said. You'll get all those results. I think that's a very early awakening for many aces. And again, we give them the, give them the tools and tactics of how to do that. What is the structure of ACE Meetings? Tommy Cole: Yeah. So one of the things I like about ACE [00:16:00] peer groups is the structure of these meetings. And when I mean structure, like it's, Like you've mentioned, it's a Board of Advisors, they're all business owners. It's very well thought out. There's no, time in these meetings to kind of just chill and hang out. Right. And, like 2024 is planned and half of 2025 is probably already planned right now. Like that's how far in advance we do Vince Torchia: Yeah. Tommy Cole: Explain why that is so important in ACE Peer Groups. Vince Torchia: Yeah. Well, as you said, it's going to be 12 other landscape owners, right? So you can imagine how quickly things can get off the rails when you have 12 owners that all have different opinions, different things they want to discuss. Different points they want to bring up egos, right? The whole thing. So if we lose that structure, we lose the meeting, right? The meeting just becomes a spiral and all of a sudden we're talking about five different things. We'll tell different people it doesn't work. So while we're doing it as a function of making the group more effective by us, holding the timelines and holding to agendas and covering specific [00:17:00] topics. We're also Tommy, as you know, silently coaching the group. Like this is how you should be running your company and running your meetings at your, at your business. If your sales meeting is from nine to 10 on Tuesday mornings. That doesn't mean everybody shows up at 9. 15 and it goes until 10. 30 and the owner talks for an hour and 15 minutes. It means the meeting starts at 9 and there's an agenda, and at 10 when the meeting's over, we do our wrap up, we do our action items, and we leave, right? So we do that for those two reasons. We have to keep the meeting structured so people can get what they need out of it, but we want Our ACE members to take that as a sign of what they should be doing at their own company But tommy, I think the structure again, we've got multiple facilitators in each group. We have ACE Discovery You got a whole team of people. I think to your point outside of that the structure really does make our groups different Tenure of Peer Group Members Tommy Cole: Yeah. And talk about the longevity of, of these groups. You know, a lot of people are like, well, is it a, is it a year or is it two? I mean, and now I'm seeing, you know, groups are now [00:18:00] taking experiences. So we have ACE experiences, which is fascinating to me, which has taken off. We've got the next several years sort of bulked with, with current groups, but. Explain that and what I want to hear from Vince is there's also more than just business. Right. It's more like a lot of personal growth. A lot of relationships have been formed and continue to develop year after year. Vince Torchia: Yeah, so people join initially for a two year commitment So that's three meetings within your group to a summit, which a summit, which we could talk more about, but they, they commit for two years, Tommy. But again, if you have 12 members in your group and you're in for two years and you've gone to six meetings, you've only seen six other companies. So there's still six other companies that you want to see. So very few, I mean like one or two companies will choose to leave after two years. Cause they're like, Well, I've been in this group with Tommy and I haven't seen Tommy's place yet. So I want to at least stay and see Tommy's place and Tommy. We've got people going on 15, 16 years of being [00:19:00] in groups. And to your point, they're best friends with them, their families going vacation together, but it really does create an awesome experience and bond for owners because owners lifestyles are generally similar, right? So there's a lot that they can relate to one another about. And then to your point, once you get into year three and year four, We start introducing these ACE experiences. So we've taken groups fishing in Alaska, right? So they have a peer group meeting Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. In Anchorage, we have an ace in Anchorage that we get to tour. Then we go from there and we fish the rest of the week in King Salmon for an awesome experience. We've had groups go to Italy, right? We go to Italy, we do our ace meeting, get to experience Italian culture, Italian landscapes, Italian architecture. Vineyards like learning while we're there. It is fun. And spouses go to Italy Tommy, which is a great experience for people as well, to really mix in their, their group, but it's still educational. And it's still people at night talking about their business, talking about where they want to be and talking about how the group is going to help them accomplish those goals. So we love the [00:20:00] longevity. We love the relationships that come out of this and. We know as facilitators, again, how much business there has to be and how much social component supports that. Tommy Cole: Yep. Love it. I like the fact of peer groups where this is a good quote from Jim Cali, but. He's always said the word share the ulcer and right. And, and a lot of business owners could, could attest to this is like, man, the business owner just takes all the beating and all the weight on the shoulders when there's not enough sales coming in or we're not hitting production rates or, or we've got a, we got three down trucks. We only have two left. Like there's all these things. And what is great about the ACE Peer groups is. There's 11 other business owners for you to pick up the phone and go, I just had about the worst day possible because this and this happened. And you don't have to take that home to your significant other and go, could you believe like what happened? And they're like, I don't even know what you're talking [00:21:00] about. Right. Vince Torchia: right. Yeah, Tommy Cole: up the phone and just talk to these people because they're literally some of your best friends. Vince Torchia: absolutely. Right. Then the networking component of it is incredible. And again, everybody's in a very similar personal situation. So the topics are just easy to discuss, easy to understand. And people get a ton out of it. No question about it. So yeah, ACE Discovery Tommy is March 20th through the 22nd in New Orleans. We'll have 50 companies. They're all learning more about what ACE peer groups are all about and the onboarding that goes around with it, but it's going to be an awesome event. GROW 2024 Tommy Cole: Yeah. So sign up today. Spots are filling up super fast. We're going to have a lot of great companies attending this year. And then, and in a short time, in a few weeks from now, we also got an awesome event known as Grow, and I'm sure Vince will be all over there running around with his head cut off, but tell me, tell me a little bit about Grow and what's going on this year. Vince Torchia: Yeah. So when this comes out, it'll be a week before grow, which will be awesome. But we're going to have 800 plus people in Des Moines, Iowa for a three day [00:22:00] educational event. It's energetic. It's fun. There's breakout sessions, keynotes, a tour of a company, RJ Lawn and Landscape, who has been in a peer group since 2017. Ryan and Annette McCarthy. It's just gonna be an awesome event, Tommy. We're thrilled to have McFarlin Stanford as our strategic partners, have them do breakouts, you're facilitating a conversation about the tour with RJ. Our peer group members come, prospective peer group members come, they bring their teams, right, so their teams get to know one another at Grow. But yeah, we'll be in beautiful Des Moines, Iowa, February 6th, 7th, and 8th for Grow. And we're looking forward to it. We appreciate the support. Tommy Cole: Absolutely. I, it's one of my most favorite events of the year. I get excited about the tour because I'm just kind of geeked out about people's facilities and operations. I saw a little episode that Marty shared. With us in the, in the, in the room of production room with the TVs and the movable desk. And I was just like geeked out, really excited for that. I love this event cause the energy is like through the roof, literally [00:23:00] you can feel it. You get goosebumps. Everyone is after this event is ready to run through a brick wall. And we're in the middle of winter, Vince Torchia: Right. Yep. Tommy Cole: so, Vince Torchia: no, we love it. Two great events coming up. Tommy Cole: great. Well, always a pleasure, Vince. Again another, another round two, I can't wait for round three, but it's good to have you on board and explain what ACEs peer groups is all about. And a little bit about the grow event coming up, but looking forward to seeing you on the road and we'll see you soon. Vince Torchia: Tommy. Thank you. Thanks for everything you're doing. You got a ton of listeners. There's a ton. This is so much good information for them for Moose to success. So thanks for all you do and I'll see you soon. Tommy Cole: Great. Appreciate it. Vince Torchia: All right. Yep. Take care.