Brian Cressy took a two-year time-out from Green Horizon Landscaping, trading client meetings, design proposals and fieldwork for packing school lunches and carting kids to soccer practice. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I thought it was the right one,” he says.
“I was having a hard time taking care of the kids full-time and running a successful business, so rather than run the business into the ground, I chose to shut it down for a while,” says Cressy, relating a common stress shared by entrepreneurs and anyone in business balancing a family.
Since returning to the business a year and a half ago, he has been digging in to the market with a renewed spirit. “I missed it,” he says. “I have a whole different appreciation for business like this.”
With business partner David Barkie, Cressy started Green Horizon Landscaping in 1996, after graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a landscape design degree. He grew his Hopkinton, N.H.-based residential design/build firm, also providing maintenance and snow services. When he shut down, he sent everyone a letter. When he returned, he reached out to contacts again and relied on social media, networking and some advertising.
“I’m more focused on the business – I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I think that time off really made me appreciate that,” says Cressy, who five years ago started Firepoint Properties, which specializes in real estate acquisitions to improve and renovate them for rental or flipping for profit. His business partner for that company is Justice Rines, a law and MBA student at UNH.
Finish your homework
That’s what Brian Cressy’s mom used to remind him when he was younger.
The owner of Green Horizon Landscaping in Contoocook, N.H., never forgot that nugget of advice and takes it to heart.
He focuses on spreading a lot of good around, and what comes as a result are rewarding experiences and community connections.
So when The Contoocook School approached Cressy about helping build a patio, he was ready to dig in.
The school had run into funding problems before the start of the installation, so Cressy reached out to suppliers and secured donated materials.
Then, he helped train a valuable crew to help with the installation – the students.
The project was a class project, says Cressy, who donated the labor, supplies and a few field lessons to complete the 15-by-15 square patio.
“I went into the classroom and gave instruction on the process involved and they helped us get it done,” he says.
Cressy doesn’t do the work to get a pat on the back.
But being a community steward has elevated his company’s reputation in the area, and getting involved with work like this can’t hurt business.
People want to work with people who do good. His intentions are authentic.
Cressy has been involved with the Boys and Girls Club as a Board Member for about eight years. He has also helped out with the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.
“I try to donate our time in a number of ways to help different organizations in our community – people see that we are giving back,” he says.
This spring, he launched Maple Row Builders, after getting queries from clients who wanted to know if the carpenters Cressy worked with could take on projects.
Mutually beneficial relationships are the core of Cressy’s business and the crux of his growth strategy. He networks with like-minded professionals and builds rapports with city officials, architects, developers, realtors – neighbors, locals and friends of friends. Strong relationships with the right people have resulted in promising deals. In particular, Cressy’s Concord-based business has been growing a presence on the desirable New Hampshire Seacoast.
“Our first job there was for a customer that had a vacation home on the coast,” Cressy says. “He liked the work we did for him in the past and wanted us to do his newly constructed home on the beach. That led to another job ... and it slowly evolved from there.”
It helps that Cressy’s other business, Firepoint Properties, buys, renovates and rents/sells properties on the Seacoast.
Cressy approached a reputable local architect, and since then has grown a solid relationship. The same goes for a developer on the coast. And for Firepoint, Cressy has connected with a number of reality professionals so he’s alerted of properties for sale.
While Firepoint and Green Horizon share synergies – Cressy’s landscaping firm can certainly provide complete landscape design/installation and even maintenance for the properties Firepoint buys and rehabs – the two businesses are completely separate. Cressy likes to keep it that way. However, the positive reputation he and his crews/craftspeople have cross business lines.
“We have developed a good name, and that speaks for itself,” Cressy says. The firm is about 80 percent residential design/installation.
Rescuing real estate.
He’s been called the “real-life local property wizard” by a local newspaper. Cressy just enjoys real estate – and he figures his investments will create a nice retirement nest.
That’s his sort of exit strategy, and he’s having fun. “I really enjoy it,” he says. “It takes a little bit of work to find the right properties, but I have a lot of eyes out there looking for me.”
Firepoint has seven rentals available on the Seacoast, and another two homes are being renovated for sale. “We go in and look at the homes, and we try to get a ballpark on what it will take to renovate it,” Cressy says. “If the numbers work out, we buy it.”
For Cressy, the real estate business evolved organically from an investment he made years back. Then about six years ago, he and a close friend who owned a similar property decided to join their investments and create Firepoint Properties.
But after six months in business, Cressy’s business partner suddenly passed away. “It was a challenge personally because he was one of my best friends, and then I was dealing with trying to figure out how to run the business,” he says.
“I stayed focused, then a few years went by and I met another guy who expressed interest.”
Actually, it was a client Cressy was working for and had gotten to know quite well. Rines, a law student, handles the contracts and behind-the-scenes dealings. Cressy seeks out properties and builds their network.
The work involves partnering with contractors who can execute the home rehabs – and that means knowing who to trust. Any landscaper can attest to the complexity of working with subcontractors. Cressy has managed to recruit local talent, prompting more referral work.
Meanwhile gradual growth into the Seacoast market is a business boon for Green Horizon. Servicing clients in that area is worth driving less than an hour, Cressy says. “If the work continues to pick up on the Seacoast, we’d consider opening another location,” he says. “But that’s moving down the road.”
Cressy is intent on building slowly and in a meaningful way. “We want to keep a close eye on quality,” he says, adding that the upcoming off-season will afford more time for careful planning. “It’s a nice time to reflect, regroup and figure out what’s next.”