JC Obrecht never really saw himself working in the commercial landscape business. He had a good job as a facility manager and spent every minute of his free time coaching travel basketball and baseball. But then his boss hired Perficut to handle the facility’s lawn and snow removal and JC met Perficut’s owners, Matt Boelman and Kory Ballard. And that meeting changed everything.
“I sat down with Matt and Kory and they told me their vision for the business,” he says. “The vision and energy and passion they had for Perficut got me excited. They made me want to be part of the team.”
JC was Perficut’s very first account manager, and the company didn’t really have a clear idea of what the role involved. At that time, Matt was doing the account management piece while also trying to run the company and it was just too much. So they started talking about what the account manager role might look like. They made site review checklists and talked about goals and shared ideas based on their past experiences. But the most important thing they did at that early point was talk to their customers.
“We interviewed a few clients to see what they wanted to see from the account manager role,” says JC. “We asked them really directly what they wanted and what they didn’t want, and those conversations really helped us cement the Perficut version of account management.”
They heard that customers wanted a clear channel of communication, and they took that to heart. Perficut’s account managers have full ownership of their accounts, which means if a customer calls with a question or an issue, they talk to their dedicated account manager directly. Every time. No call center, no operator, no voicemail. Customers also wanted more than just email check-ins.
“They wanted to meet us onsite and walk the site together, so they had the opportunity to point things out and ask questions in the moment,” he says.
Owning the Role
In the early days, JC was the lone account manager handling all off Perficut’s accounts, and his days were very, very full. He did it all, from answering the phone to visiting sites to jumping on equipment to pulling weeds to writing contracts. Perficut was a smaller company back then, but it was still a lot for one guy. Even with a very full schedule, he never lost sight of the larger goal: clearly defining the account manager role and how it fit within the larger organization.
“What we learned in those early years is that the account management role was about trust and building long-term partnerships, the kind of long-term relationships where our client wouldn’t even think about taking us out to bid. Or if they needed something that was outside of the scope of the contract, they would trust us to run with it and get it done instead of sending everything out to bid,” he says.
Once JC figured out what his clients wanted and needed, he molded the role around that. And then things really took off. His portfolio of customers grew and grew, mostly through word of mouth, and that’s just how he wants it to work.
“We’re all about growing organically,” he says. “Having that relationship means you have a contact who will vouch for you when they’re talking to their neighbor or having lunch with another property manager.”
The idea of starting with the relationship seems obvious, but ten years ago, it was a pretty radical idea. At the time, account managers were more like salespeople—they checked in with clients but there wasn’t as much focus on the long-term partnership aspect. More recently, he has noticed that other businesses in the industry have tried the approach without much success.
“It all comes down to finding the right fit,” he says. “Others haven’t been successful with this approach because they don’t have the right people. It doesn’t do much for the customer when they’re told they will have a dedicated account manager and then that person leaves after a year. At Perficut, we have great retention with our account managers, and that’s very comforting to our clients. They trust that we will be there for them long-term.”
Playing the Long Game
This approach has paid off as Perficut has grown over the last ten years, and the team now has five account managers who serve their customers in Eastern and Central Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. And JC’s role has shifted again a little bit to free up more time for mentoring and training. He looks over proposals before they go out and offers feedback as needed. He is still tending to those customers he’s had since way back when, but he’s also spending more time working with the newer account managers to help them understand Perficut’s version of account management.
Although the company has experienced incredible growth in the last ten years, JC still runs his part of the business the same way he did when he started 11 years ago.
“It’s all about the relationship. I want my clients to understand that I am their representative and their single point of contact,” he says. “I do everything I can to keep a clear channel of communication at all times, so whether they have contact issues, a billing question, a performance issue, or a question about how something is being done, they know they only have one person to talk to. I think that really sets the tone for the position and sets us apart.”