Out with the old

Features - Maintenance

Technology drives New Way Landscape and Tree Services forward, while the team is motivated by the owner’s positive attitude.

June 3, 2013
Kristen Hampshire

New Way Landscape has been servicing properties for more than 30 years.

When Randy Newhard blew into California in 1976 riding a Yamaha 360 Enduro motorcycle, he began working for the largest landscape company in the United States – now a competitor. Today, 33 years after starting his business, New Way Landscape and Tree Services, he employs more than 200 workers, runs 75 trucks and has 11 satellite offices throughout California.

A robust, real-time reporting system, developed by company president, Kathryn DeJong, gives the company a competitive advantage because property managers can gain full access to status reports and even file service requests online.

But despite all this, New Way still runs like a homegrown family business, and that’s why talented employees stay on board and longtime clients continue working with the company.

When asked about how he finds good people, Newhard says, “A lot of people want to work for us. At some of the national companies, they feel like they are just a number. Kathryn and I treat people the way they want to be treated – we let employees know we care.”

Newhard is just a positive guy. He reads inspirational books and shares enlightening nuggets with the entire staff via email. “I sent my staff a little story this morning about how we need to think positive no matter what comes up, whether it’s our clients or their boss or whoever throwing challenges at them – they can attack those challenges and work around those roadblocks if they feel empowered,” he says.

A new start.
“Things are always better when you have a positive attitude,” Newhard says. This attitude is exactly what led Newhard to follow his dream of opening a business in 1980.

Kathryn DeJong, company president and Newhard’s daughter, was key in the company’s technology advancements.

The previous four years, he had been working in the landscape industry for a competitor, and then for the Port of San Diego, City of San Diego in Balboa Park, and Mission Bay Park. He began to take on residential landscape maintenance jobs on the side – and this extra work quickly grew to a substantial $1,000 or so per month. When his job changed from gardener to landscape maintenance at the city (and his new role included cleaning bathrooms), he decided to make a go at landscaping on his own full time.

He quickly grew his residential business, servicing celebrity athletes like San Diego Padres baseball player Steve Garvey and the late Capt. Mike the Weatherman, a famous San Diego T.V. meteorologist. Then, New Way began to grow the commercial side of the business, with a focus on municipal work.

“That is the type of work I did when I first moved to town, so our company used to do almost every city in San Diego County for a while,” Newhard says, adding that this business sector became increasingly cutthroat with competitors driving down prices and margins. “We slowly moved over to commercial and homeowners association work.”

Today, the landscape division of New Way – which is 90 percent of the business – is equally divided in thirds: commercial, homeowners’ association and military housing. The other 10 percent of the overall operation is New Way’s separate tree care business, called New Way Tree Services. The growth in the military housing sector has been promising over the years, even during the economic downturn.

“We work through a private property management company and the properties are ‘off-base,’ so we do not deal directly with the government,” Newhard says.

Inspiring the Team

Randy Newhard is an avid reader, and he often highlights a line or two from a book he’s got on his bookshelf and emails the inspiring tidbit to his entire staff at New Way Landscape. “That helps keep people motivated,” Newhard says.

A couple of his favorite titles include:

  • “If It Ain’t Broke…Break It!: And Other Unconventional Wisdom for a Changing Business World” by Robert Kriegal and Louis Patler
  • “First Things First” by Stephen Covey Here are a few of Newhard’s favorite nuggets of business wisdom…
  • People respect what we inspect – employees as well as all individuals stay on course and task if they know they are held accountable. It is human nature to “drift” if they aren’t supervised.
  • Remember the 5 Ps: proper planning prevents poor performance. We are all really busy these days doing multiple tasking, and if we don’t take time to plan or communicate, projects or items do get rushed and sometimes performance isn’t the best.
  • All of the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today. So take the time to nurture employees who have the desire and willingness to want to learn and succeed. They are the stars or flowers of our future.

The company currently services the largest military housing property in the country, with 2,200 units. “It’s one location and about 10,000 people live there,” Newhard says. “It’s very rewarding to help take care of those military families and reduce their stress during the times when their loved ones are away. We take pride in taking care of those families.”

Turning to tech. Before “paperless” was a common business practice, New Way was scanning documents and innovating its technology. The bulk of these efforts were led by DeJong, who joined her father’s business at age 18. She worked her way up to President (in 2006) after serving as receptionist and filling four other positions before reaching that top rung.

During that time, DeJong began to master databases. “I really spent all of my free time learning about database management, taking courses and learning about functionalities and how to do graphs, get percentages and make the most of the information,” she says.

What resulted from these efforts is New Way’s evolving Service Request System, which has been in place for about 10 years. Clients can book services online or view the status of jobs on their properties. The extensive reporting system requires participation from technicians, who input property data via iPhone.

For example, a technician on a property might notice a broken irrigation head or beds that require maintenance. Then the client may file a service request for mulching. All of this is tracked. “We can run reports that tell us what percentage of a project is irrigation, what percentage is trees – so it gives us information on what needs to assess on the property,” DeJong says.

The custom database system is a highly effective customer relationship builder and sales tool. Property managers are given a password to access their account online – and they can choose whether to share this with an HOA board or grounds crew, for example. All parties have access to what the property needs and what has been accomplished.

“The system establishes trust,” DeJong says. “You can show a client that you recognize a deficiency on the property and come up with a plan of how to fix it. Then, they believe your best interests are their property and taking care of them.”

Technicians input information via iPhone, and a customer service representative back at the office inputs the data. After the system is updated, field technicians can access the system and update clients on site – or they can email reports to customers.

“Being proactive is part of what we do,” Newhard says. “When we can show customers what we have to do on their properties and they can see the updates, it provides a great value-add to them.”

Photos courtesy of New Way Landscape