Associated Landscape Contractors of America

When was the last time you went out to dinner and were so happy with the service that you felt the staff deserved more than a 20-percent tip? More often than not, you probably feel like you're being overly generous in leaving a standard 15-percent tip. It seems that many businesses today don't provide customers with the service they deserve and for which they have paid.

Even so, some organizations still take pride in going out of their way to meet their customers' needs. The Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) is one such group. ALCA is an association comprised of members from all aspects of the grounds-maintenance industry: landscape maintenance, installation and design/build contractors; interiorscapers; industry suppliers; landscape architects and educators. ALCA works to provide its members with information that will help them run a better business by offering a full range of programs and materials.

"One of the things that ALCA prides itself on in meeting the needs of its members is that we're the association to come to for business information," says Debra Holder, executive director.

For example, ALCA offers the Executive Forum, an opportunity for top managers to exchange ideas in roundtable discussions and hear well-known industry speakers. Annual Specialty Conferences also are planned, such as the Interior Plantscape and the Landscape & Grounds Maintenance conferences.

"Financial [and] management information in particular is an important focus for us," Holder explains. "We have several seminars on these topics at every conference."

Holder says the organization works hard at offering value-added information. "We feel so strongly that if [members] attend one conference or Executive Forum, we feel that the benefits alone from attending will more than pay for their dues," she says. To bolster this belief, ALCA offers new members a $50 coupon to use toward any educational event.

Certification is another specialized service of ALCA's. About 800 ALCA members currently are either Certified Landscape Professionals (CLPs) or Certified Landscape Technicians (CLTs). Holder describes certification as being "a qualifier. Consumers and specifiers feel more comfortable that they've achieved a certain level. It shows they do have the knowledge base. Certification helps to upgrade the whole industry."

Not only does ALCA benefit its members, however, but it works toward serving the industry as a whole. Holder describes how the organization encourages students to consider working within the grounds-maintenance field. "We want to promote landscaping as a viable career opportunity," she says. "We have materials that support these causes." In fact, ALCA has produced a brochure specifically designed toward attracting students-even as far as the colors used on the cover, which were chosen because they are attractive to kids.

Other member benefits include ALCA's monthly Landscape Contractor News magazine, its Safety Resource manual, full-color marketing brochures and a variety of manuals, guides and videos. (Members receive a 30- to 80-percent discount.) ALCA also represents industry interests to help affect legislation. ALCA informs members on the latest news through Legislative Alerts and columns in the magazine.

Membership costs range from $25 for student members to $5,000 for landscape contractors with sales greater than $50 million a year.

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