It was December of 1987, 25 years ago, and I was in Boston teaching a landscape and irrigation estimating class to 25 strangers. These attendees were contractors from the New England area. I vividly remember that group even though I haven’t seen many of its members since.
Some of my best clients, landscape and irrigation contractors that I still see on a regular basis, were in that class. One in particular comes to mind: S. Michael Flowers.
Early roots. Flowers studied landscape architecture in the early 1980s at The Ohio State University. He then moved to Harwinton, Conn., with his wife Leslie and formed Flowers Landscape Development, Inc. in 1986. I put together a 12-month business plan for him in late 1988 and in it his stated purpose was, “To provide full-service landscape construction and maintenance services for jobs ranging in size from $2,000 to $250,000 within a 25 to 35 mile radius of Harwinton, Conn., …and to meet or exceed quality standards, budgets and scheduled deadlines.” He provided the full gamut of landscape services to both residential and commercial clients near Hartford, Conn. Meanwhile, he took a number of turf courses at the University of Connecticut. It was during this time that he developed a passion for installing and managing athletic fields.
Economic downturns breed opportunity. During the latter 1980s, Flowers’s company grew and he developed an excellent reputation for quality landscape installations and maintenance services.
Flowers developed strong relationships with some large commercial builders who gave him lots of work. Unfortunately, the recession of the late 1980s hit New England very hard and Flowers saw his sales plummet.
That was the bad news. The good news was that the recession gave Flowers an opportunity to rethink the mix of products and services that he provided for his clients. He had a chance to reinvent himself and pursue his new passion: turf management.
Turf’s up. Flowers had the expertise, the passion, the contacts and now he had the opportunity to reinvent his company. In the mid 1990s, he began a total makeover of Flowers Landscape Development, Inc., and rebranded it as Championship Turf Services. He hired a marketing company to redo all of his literature and his website.
A cursory look at Championship Turf Service’s website (www.turfchamps.com), and the viewer immediately senses that much thought, planning and execution lies behind not only the website, but also the enterprise represented on the screen.
No ego. So what makes Championship Turf Services so different?
First, it’s not about Flowers. He’s not even mentioned on his own website. It’s about the team of professionals at Championship Turf Services and the quality of the product and services that it provides. It’s not about egos trying to get face time.
The team at Championship Turf Services has six to seven full-time employees with more than 70 years of combined experience in the sports turf and golf industries. Its team of agronomists and turf managers brings field-tested expertise and a passion for quality to every project.
- Tim Michaud came from the golf industry and has almost 40 years of experience maintaining courses.
- Jeremiah Rozarie worked for CTS initially as an intern from the UConn turf grass management program and then joined the company as a field manager six years ago.
- Keith Raymond came from the UConn landscape program and has been with CTS as a field manager going on seven years.
Leading the charge is Flowers with his passion for what he does. Flowers isn’t just a student of sports turf; he’s also a student of his business. He knows how to market CTS and he knows how to price his projects and services. His reputation for quality work speaks for itself.
A few years ago, he lost one of his maintenance accounts to a company with a substantially lower bid. The low bid was accompanied with low quality. Due to the poor performance, three years later, Flowers won back the job at his price, not the low bidder’s one.
It’s not just about the grass. Many companies have come and gone since I first met Mike Flowers at that estimating workshop 25 years ago. Faced with the adversity of a lousy economy, he not only reinvented his company, but he also rebranded it.
His passion for and knowledge of athletic field management has set him apart as an example for others to emulate.
His hard work over many years has paid big dividends. Flowers can’t guarantee that the teams that play on the fields that he builds and maintains always have a winning season; however, he can guarantee the perennial success of the turf that’s under their feet.
JIM HUSTON runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm. See www.jrhuston.biz; mail firstname.lastname@example.org.