Tips from the Top: Chris Angelo, Stay Green

Departments - Top 100

How one California company reached $13 million and keeps climbing.

January 18, 2013
Chuck Bowen

Chris Angelo has a lot on his plate. He’s successfully transitioned from a kid tagging along with his dad on the weekends to the president and CEO of one of the largest companies in the industry. He says a focus on his father’s core principles and investment in his people put Stay Green on the map and will keep it moving up the ranks.

At the age of eight I was shadowing my dad and walked through his jobs. In my teens I worked on gardening rounds, mowing rounds and enhancement rounds during the summertime.

One thing he taught me was always work harder than anybody else in your position.

If you’re staying flat and you like the status quo, landscape peer groups aren’t for you.

In the beginning, we didn’t understand the dynamics of managing a bunch of different relationships that span across multiple branches. We figured that on the other side of that mountain range, the clients would accept the same pricing that we did in one range and one valley, and it’s absolutely way different.

We’ve had a very successful transition from my father to myself. The second generation needs to be just as passionate as the founder was in order for the transition to be successful.

When we were smaller, it required less because we weren’t growing at a rapid rate. You could control it with one hand. When my father was running the business, the only people that had to think of the P&L were him and the CPA.

The owner/operator carries all the intellectual brain power that you run at the organization. So as an owner of a growing business, you’ve got to really be vulnerable and allow yourself to bring in team members that are going to challenge you personally.

We made several mistakes because we were inexperienced at having a greater level of talent in. I personally went against the decision of the second person in the interview process, against what the personality profiles said the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses were.

So we got the person into our organization who from a technical aspect knew the job, but from the personality and cultural aspect had a really hard time meshing with the team. That created a cancerous environment that became very negative.

The thought is, “Well, if I train these people, then they’re more valuable, they’re going to ask for more money or they’re going to leave for a competitor.” That mindset will not get you on that Top 100 List.

The face of the company isn’t myself or my father. It’s our frontline managers that are walking into our property manager’s office.

Spend money on training and education and foster their professional development.

As a kid, I could surf in the morning and I could be snowboarding in the afternoon. That’s how we live. We’re servicing 15 different landscape zones, if not more. We could be servicing properties on Malibu all the way into the inland deserts, and then the coastal valley.

We’re able to convert whole irrigation systems with new technologies. We just saved one property two million gallons a year. That’s just managing their systems more effectively, changing out some nozzles, making sure that the heads are working, and then tracking the flow of the system.

Thirty-nine. Yeah. I’ll be 40 in August. I had to grow up fast.