Rising Above the Price War

Certified Manager credential gives marketing boost

Crystal Arlington of AGMG
Crystal Arlington of AGMG

Q: What are the biggest challenges you are facing right now, and what are you doing to cope with them?

Thriving in a male-dominated business. My biggest challenge is that I am a 100% woman-owned company in an industry that is 98% male-driven. I find that some people have a hard time believing in my credentials as a business owner and landscape and snow professional simply because I am female. Once they spend a little time with me, however, they quickly realize that not only do I know the business, but I’ve physically worked the business. I understand the challenges of today’s lawn, landscape and snow management companies because I have done the work and spent the time to become a certified professional.

Commercial clients willing to accept mediocrity. Another challenge is that AGMG is a national exterior service provider with a regional touch. But I am finding more and more that, on the national level, the price competition has become fierce. Facility owners are driving down the price but not changing the scope of work. This results in customers who are not receiving the service they are expecting. Yet because they are getting the maintenance for pennies on the dollar, they become willing to accept mediocrity, some of which jeopardizes the safety of their environment.

Whenever I lose an RFP opportunity, it is often because I’m a dollar more. This price war has to stop. Not all national companies are the same. There are ones like AGMG that are looking out for the contractors because we are not just pencil pushers.

Aside from AGMG, I also have a local family-owned landscape and snow management business. I’ve plowed and run a lawnmower. I am one of them (contractors) so I get it, and I also know what it takes to give quality service and provide a safe environment. Lower price of services does not always equate to lower cost of ownership. Again, the price war has to stop.

Embracing change. A third challenge is that today’s business environment is ever changing, and you have to stay ahead of that—and your competition. New technologies are constantly being introduced, as are new certifications, education and means of communication. Fortunately, I am someone who enjoys learning.


Q: Discuss your certifications and how they are helping you gain a competitive edge in today’s market.

I became a CSP (certified snow professional) through the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA) in November 2006, and then earned my Landscape Industry Certified Manager credential through PLANET in November 2008. I sought both of my certifications for the same reason that I am always seeking education—staying on top of trends and staying ahead of the competition.

I am now in the process of going for my Green Associate Certification through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), better known as the LEED certification. I just completed my college course and am now waiting to take the test.

Certification gives me credibility with facility owners and managers, as well as my AGMG affiliate partners (contractors). It also allows me to make sound decisions for the benefit of my company and therefore, my employees, several of whom also hold certifications in landscape and snow management.

Most importantly, my certifications help me educate clients. I am less of a liability for them because I am well-educated and certified, and they can therefore be assured that there is a professional working on their side—which does matter in some markets.

Visit GreenIndustryPros.com/ProCast to listen to an in-depth conversation with Crystal Arlington.

Affiliated Grounds Maintenance Group Inc., founded in 1998 and headquartered in Lake City, PA, began as a regional service provider for commercial property maintenance. Today, AGMG is a national exterior service provider encompassing work in 27 states with over 3,000 landscape contractor affiliate partners. The company enjoys a current contractor retention rate of 99% and a customer retention rate of 98%. Fore more information, visit agmgus.com.

How To Get Certified: Visit landcarenetwork.org and click on the logo on the right side of the page.