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You shouldn’t jump at the first chance to acquire a company.

Lee Chilcote | April 26, 2012

Kris Ashby, owner of Elite Landscaping in Pleasant Grove, Utah, has had many opportunities to acquire lawn and landscape businesses over the years. He’s declined most of them because they simply weren’t good fits for his established business.

Spectrum Landscaping was different, however. First of all, Ashby is good friends with the former owner, but more importantly, the company was fairly similar to Elite Landscaping yet had a different, complementary geographic area.

“It was really a natural for me,” says Ashby. “Elite Landscaping was already operating in the Park City area [from our offices in Greater Salt Lake City], and we were trying to grow our business on that side of the mountain. Spectrum also emphasized maintenance and did landscape installation. It wasn’t a hard purchase.”

Today, Spectrum Landscaping has 10 full-time employees, and Ashby works out of an office in the Park City area two days per week. He has hired his own managers to ensure quality control and so he can continue to run both businesses.

“I have great managers in both companies, and we spend a tremendous amount of time hiring professional people who are really good at what they do,” says Ashby. “It becomes less of a babysitting issue, and more of a support issue.”
Making the transition to becoming an effective owner of two businesses wasn’t easy for Ashby, who has worked in the lawn and landscape industry for nearly four decades.

“I have a natural desire to micromanage because I have so much experience and knowledge,” says Ashby. “I’ve worked really hard in the past 10 years to try not to make people into what I think they should be, and work with them based on who they are.”

For landscape firms interested in acquiring other companies, he recommends making sure the new business would strengthen one’s core services. Losing one’s focus – and existing customers – is a real concern if you are spread too thin.

He also recommends investing in the right managers – individuals who are self-motivated, care about education and training and want to continuously improve.

Knowing the limits

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