My dad would bring home a load of mulch and all the kids would run. I’d run home and grab a pitchfork. When someone always asked me what I want to do, I would say I want to open up a nursery. People would look at me and ask, “Like a daycare?”
When I first started the company, it was all about landscape horticulture – that’s all we wanted. And then I woke up one day and said ‘I got great horticulturists but they might not understand customer service, might not understand the business side of the business.’
Fourteen percent growth last year was actually a down year for us because the year before we did about 29 percent. We’ve steadily grown. We achieved growth even when the economy hit in ‘08 – very small, but we grew $300,000 or two percent.
I’ve always said “OK, we’ll go hard for two and we’ll back off for one.” So last year actually at 14 was a back-off year for us.
Now it’s time to back off a little bit to make sure that we have the growth under control and the right people, place and procedures.
As we continue to grow, I continue to take a step back. I hear it all the time from business owners: “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.”
In order to grow, you got to delegate and you got to find the best people. You create the best team, and you give that ownership and just let them do their thing. Learn how to delegate and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because you will make mistakes.
At any given moment there’s probably 10 to 15 fires that we need to put out. My job is to evaluate what’s the biggest fire and how can we focus on that. So I continue to focus on people to make sure our team is motivated and on board with what we’re doing with our growth strategy.
Employees are harder and harder to come by as the economy improves. If the team turns around and says, “Hey, we need to hire a new crew; we need to hire a new manager” – and they say we needed it done yesterday, it’s already too late. So we’ve got to continue to keep a full 24/7 focus on recruitment.
We actually now use rehab facilities, too. It’s really exciting to see these guys – they’re motivated, they’re excited about opportunities and they want to change their lives.
I’m very proud of our team. I started the company but it’s not about me now. I’m not digging the holes. I’m not running the crews. We create a lot of opportunities for folks and it’s really exciting to see them grow within the company and grow as people.
Our head of business development used to work for Proctor & Gamble but he’s been in the industry for 10 to 12 years. My dad is our CFO – he is a retired IBMer. Our COO is from the building industry. We definitely have a diverse background.
We have ValleyCrest guys and we have Brickman guys. I just think it’s phenomenal that we now have a landscape company that’s doing over $2 billion a year combined, and believe it or not they don’t even make up a big market share of our industry.
What I love about it is it brings more validity to our industry. Folks want to put money into this industry, so we’re definitely doing something right in the green industry.
We’re actually seeing more and more companies coming into our market every day. It makes it even more challenging to diversify. How do you set yourself apart from the other 3,000 landscapers? Our focus is always on customer service because there’s always somebody cheaper.
I think it’s one thing to break the Top 100, which is a phenomenal thing,but it’s another thing to stay in the Top 100 and continue to grow. The hardest thing is: You got there, now you got to stay there.