Lessons learned

Even young companies can give good advice about what not to do in business.

March 21, 2013
Lindsey Getz

Many established landscape companies say that over the years the biggest learning experiences have been from mistakes. Often those mistakes are made early on in business as new owners learn their way around the industry. David Fairburn, owner and president of North Point Holdings and Blue Eagle Irrigation Co., in New Hampshire says he makes a point to learn from his mistakes as he grows his business. The 26-year old is projecting $1.65 in revenue for 2013, proving that he’s taking those lessons seriously. He shares three.

Make sure the client knows you were there. “With irrigation you’re doing work that’s all buried under ground and since we also focus on doing a nice clean-up job, we ran into some trouble with clients not knowing we were there,” Fairburn says. “Many of our clients aren’t home when we work on their property so we made sure that we’re always leaving door hangers to let the client know service was completed. That may seem old-fashioned when so much of our focus is on using technology and automating everything, but we found it was a mistake not to also have that paper record. So every client gets emailed an invoice and a notice on their door.”

Get financial advice early on. “As a young owner without much credit history, I wish I had gotten some advising years ago on properly setting up financials and what direction to take,” Fairburn says. “It’s important to have a good financial portfolio from day one – particularly in this economy. Right now we’re at a point where we have to start subbing some work out because we don’t have the capital to grow the business in house. That’s not a bad thing – a lot of people grow by subbing – but I do wish we’d gotten more direction on our early portfolio.”

Keep employees engaged. “When it comes to employees, training is the easy part,” Fairburn says. “It’s keeping employees motivated that’s our biggest challenge. When we first implemented all the technology we use we realized that we weren’t seeing our employees enough. Having everything automated – where work orders are sent right to the truck – meant they didn’t have to stop in the office. It was efficient but we also weren’t seeing employees face-to-face anymore. So we had to find a middle ground and we make a definite point to still have one-on-one time with employees. They have to know who they’re working for so that they remain engaged – and so they care.”