Skip Thompson had more than one reason to take the Lawn Care Manager certification exam (formerly CTP) in 2002. "I wasn't planning on a career in the green industry," he recalls. "Hence, I didn't have the horticulture background that many of my peers had. Becoming certified was a means to obtain some education in the field, and it indicated to customers that I truly was a professional."
The Director of Operations and Development for Tidewater Landscape Management in Columbus, Ga., and incoming International Certification Council (ICC) chair-elect notes that the exam and subsequent certification is so all-encompassing that it applies to those who maintain properties just as it does to those who provide lawn care services exclusively. "Actually, anyone dealing with virtually any aspect of the green industry would benefit from becoming certified," he emphasizes
That logic applies to suppliers, as well. Last fall, Colorado-based Agrium Direct Solutions mandated that all its 95 salespeople, along with its five sales managers, become Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Managers. "Even though our salespeople have an agronomics background, the course is a great way to train new hires, and it provides an excellent refresher for veterans," explains company sales manager David Helt. "Becoming certified also gives our sales force additional credibility with customers and ensures they will be able to provide value-added support."
Direct Solutions Marketing Manager Bryan Gooch agrees. "The certification idea surfaced during a company-wide, four-day training session last year. We talked about ways to take our training to the next level and our training manager suggested the certification requirement. It was a great idea from the start. Agrium believes in what PLANET is all about. Like PLANET, our company is committed to grow the industry and continually help raise the bar of professionalism. Making the Lawn Care Manager certification part of our training program would further validate our commitment."
Candidates can become certified by taking the Principles of Turfgrass Management course offered by the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education. Amy Skelton, program coordinator at the Center, administers the course. She explains: "The course, authored by Dr. Keith Karnok, professor of crop and soil sciences at the university, is self-paced and self-study. It consists of students reading/studying the material presented in the study guide (Principles of Turfgrass Management), and passing two graded proctored exams. The guide consists of 14 chapters, each having an end-of-chapter quiz to help students self-assess their learning. Four self-tests help participants further prepare for the two exams.
"Becoming certified requires passing both exams, one of which covers the first seven chapters; the other the last seven. Students must score 70 percent or better on each exam to successfully complete the course. Upon notification that a student completes the course, PLANET awards the designation of Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Manager."
Skelton notes that the course, which needs to be completed within a year, is recognized by the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) for education points toward their certifications. The course content undergoes review every three or four years to ensure it is still valid and current.
"Successfully completing the course substantiates competency and provides that all-important level of credibility for customers," says Skelton. Thompson agrees. "The exam is not a pushover by any means. It is very in-depth, one reason why the ICC chose to give it the 'manager' classification."
He goes on to explain that five people within his company have the certification, which is promoted on business cards and in proposals. "Like other PLANET certifications, having Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Managers on board helps to differentiate us from the competition," Thompson adds. "The study guide is also a great reference manual and training tool."