Few PLANET members have been as dedicated to the certification process as outgoing International Certification Council (ICC) Chair Michael Becker, Landscape Industry Certified Manager. The owner of Estate Gardeners in Elkhorn, Neb., has served nine years on the governing body, including three as chairperson-elect and three as chairperson. His tenure as ICC chair is up this fall at the Green Industry Conference (GIC).
"It's been a great experience," says Becker, who became involved shortly after receiving his certification in 1999. "I was asked to participate in the occupational analysis (OA) for the then-CLP exam. The process was interesting and I found the people on the council to be sharp, dedicated professionals. Furthermore, I always felt that the industry didn't have the public perception that it should. The true professionals in our industry are not only committed, they blend art with the science of plants, have a unique skill set, and operate a sustainable business. Certification would validate this in the customers' eyes and benefit the entire industry. I wanted to be part of this.
"I know it's a cliché, but certification is the tide that raises all boats. Certainly, customers benefit by having Landscape Industry Certified professionals on their property; so do the actual service providers. Landscape professionals who become certified are recognized for possessing the high level of industry knowledge and experience to do a great job. They also increase their market value, and certification is portable. As long as recipients continue to recertify by taking the required continuing education credits, the certification stays with them no matter where their career may take them."
Becker notes, too, that companies benefit from having Landscape Industry Certified employees on their payroll, from both an expertise and marketing perspective. Suppliers benefit when they do business with true professionals, and the industry overall reaps a tremendous benefit. "An industry's reputation doesn't develop in a vacuum. It follows the character of those who provide the products and services."
No single highlight
When asked to recount the highlight of his certification career, Becker draws a breath and says, "There have been several." He mentions the OA being a 10-year process that has seen virtually every exam and certification made stronger and legally defensible. He talks about the challenges three years ago associated with the branding effort to replace the "alphabet soup" of acronyms with "Landscape Industry Certified." He points out that the latter was an extremely complex exercise with many moving parts and stakeholders involved.
"Rebranding was an especially difficult effort with seven or so different PLANET certifications. The goal was to present customers with a uniform message that truly meant something to them, and I believe in my mind and heart that we came up with the right solution. Certification continues to gain traction within the industry with the help of PLANET toolkits, press releases, and other resources. Still, its ultimate success and wide acceptance will be measured by the marketing effort at the grassroots level."
Then there was the ALCA-PLCAA merger (that resulted in the emergence of PLANET) that occurred, in his words, "right smack in the middle of everything." Not everyone will agree with me, but I think what was going on at the ICC with certification helped meld together both sides of the merger."
He mentions the importance of the OA for educators' initiative and how it will help faculty adjust their curricula to meet industry expectations. More recently, he's excited about the proposed accreditation of companies—an effort that will give customers an opportunity to quickly identify their service providers as fiscally responsible, ethical,
insured, and among the top professional organizations within the industry. Becker says the PLANET board will see a model of this accreditation at GIC, with a launch possibly as little as two years away.
This certification champion is not afraid to admit he's gained more from being involved with ICC than he's given back, both at the personal and professional level. "I encourage anyone interested in helping to promote professionalism within the industry to get involved with certification. The education is invaluable, as are the friendships that derive from working so closely with very talented and dedicated individuals."
Becker points to his own experience. "Our company had its best year ever last year and we're tracking on target this year. There's no question that much of this credit goes to my experience with certification and my tenure on the ICC. I strongly believe that business owners who commit themselves to the certification process and market their employees' certification credentials will see their bottom line grow. That's the absolute truth."