Cut out for the green industry

Employee of the Year - Cover Story: Employee of the Year

Having a general manger like Justin Green has allowed 360 to grow like never before.

June 12, 2017
Kate Spirgen
Green, left, and Guffey have known each other since childhood, when they lived in the same apartment complex and have been the best of friends for years.
Photo courtesy of 360

Working at 360 was supposed to be a temporary gig for Justin Green, but once he got started, he couldn’t stop.

Green had been in lawn care and landscaping since his teenage years, but he was pursuing a career in corporate sales when he started working with his longtime friend Brandon Guffey at his Charlotte, North Carolina-area company.

Green came on in January of 2016 to help organize and clean up operations, starting in lawn care. He quickly moved to take over other divisions and eventually became general manager. And after turning down two corporate job offers, he says he can’t see himself doing anything else.

“Over there, I would just be one of many and here I’m kind of one of somebody,” he says. “Over there, you would cap out and my future here is as bright as I want it to be.”

Consistently working 50 to 65 hours a week, Green has been blowing past his sales goals and growing the business from $421,000 in 2015 to $1.3 million by the end of 2016. “I think most of it’s Justin,” Guffey says of the growth. “I think it’s him portraying the confidence to the customers and with his leadership of the crewmembers. It’s not anything I was ever able to do.”

Since Green got started, the company has added an irrigation division and the pair wants to keep growing. While 360 had tried to add irrigation in the past, it wasn’t successful since they didn’t have enough jobs lined up to pay for a dedicated crew.

But once Green started upselling irrigation to the company’s existing customers, it really took off. Now, it’s one of the biggest divisions. His years of experience have given him a solid knowledge of everything from sod to chemical applications to landscaping, and he’s using that, plus his employees’ strengths, to grow the company.

“So, we grew very fast here and it’s like OK, we got lawn care, now let’s focus on landscaping and then we did the landscaping,” Green says. “Then a hardscape guy came on board and I said, ‘Hey, let’s branch out and start doing hardscaping. So, whoever came to the door, if that was their expertise, then we kind of just said let’s go ahead and do it.”

As the company grew, Green instituted practices to make the crews look more professional, like putting logos on all of the trucks, making crewmembers tuck in their shirts on the job and banning any hats that don’t have the 360 name on them.

People person.

“I’ll work sunup to sundown – that’s pretty much every day. But it’s because I enjoy it. It’s not because I have to,” Green says.

He loves the people and he loves the quality of the work he and his crews are able to produce. He says the reviews are one of the best parts of the jobs, and his guys aren’t satisfied with anything less than five stars. If a four-star review comes in, they’re immediately on the phone with the client asking how they can fix any issues and make the property a five-star job.

“Justin’s one of those guys that will ride you all day long and the guys listen to him and respect him and know when he means business,” Guffey says.

It’s a top-down approach to customer service that makes it work, Green says. He strives for the best and he’s instilled that in the foremen, who push it out to the crew leaders, who make sure crewmembers know the expectations.

“I’m always wanting laborers to know you’re not just a laborer. If you work hard and you’ve got what it takes, you can step up and be another key piece,” Green says.

But finding the right people is the most difficult piece of the puzzle for 360. That’s why Green doesn’t look for the candidate with the most industry knowledge or the best resume; he looks for someone who will work hard and dedicate themselves to the job.

“You want somebody that’s goal-oriented and you want somebody that wants to move up, not somebody that wants to be a laborer,” he says. “You want somebody that’s going to say, ‘Hey man, what does it take for me to be a crew leader?’ And they’re out there. They’re just a little harder to find.”

During the interview process, he makes sure to pay attention to how candidates carry themselves and the particular words they use during the interview. He also does a test to make sure a candidate can actually perform the task they say they can. And he makes sure to follow up with crew leaders to make sure the employee is a good fit who can keep up the 360 standard of work.

On the same page.

Guffey and Green have known each other since childhood and have been best friends since elementary school. They met growing up in the same apartment complex and have spent years hanging out at each other’s houses.

“He’s always looked out for me. I mean he’s got a huge heart and he’s an awesome dude,” Green says of Guffey.

Green loves his freedom, and Guffey has no problem handing over the reins so that he can focus on the business. Green sets his own hours and his own wages and for the last year and a half, so Guffey hasn’t had to worry about production.

“I was the one wearing all the hats, trying to manage all the divisions,” Guffey says. “I was the general manger but I was also the company owner. So whenever Justin came in, I was able to step back and focus more on the business side of things and let him run the crews.”

While Green handles the sales, production and management side, Guffey is working on marketing and advertising, so the two can make sure that they’re growing and ensuring quality work.

But they still bounce ideas off each other and come to each other with any problems. “Anytime there’s a big decision made that I make or Brandon makes, I come to him or he comes to me and says, ‘What do you think about this?’” Green says.

A bright future.

Bringing on Green has also allowed Guffey to take on new ventures like opening a supply yard.

And after growing so quickly, Green wants to make sure there are proper procedures in place. Franchising could be in the cards, and to prepare, he’s hoping to get everything running smoothly.

The company is also thinking about a nursery and an electrical division. Guffey wants to have 10 total divisions and the company still has three to go.

“Anything, honestly, that comes along that we think might be beneficial for the company, and for us, then it’s something we would look into,” Green says.