Beyond green

Blaze a trail for your business by offering unique add-on services.

After creating outdoor trails for a decade, Timberline Landscaping grew the add-on service into its own company —Timberline TrailCraft.
Photos courtesy of Timberline Landscaping

Adding services outside of the traditional green industry options has been a strategy for landscape companies looking to grow. A new service not only provides something additional to sell to existing customers but may even appeal to an entirely new market segment.

Some of the more common add-on services for landscaping companies include holiday lighting, snow removal and a handful of others. Some companies, on the other hand, have found opportunity to diversify by going a more unconventional route.

Keeping things COVID-era clean.

Surface sanitization was all the rage in 2020. It still is, to some degree, which is why some landscape companies are still seeing pockets of opportunity.

Last year, Lawn & Landscape profiled Purple Care in Fort Worth as the company was just adding sanitization services. So how has business been more than a year after offering it?

“We’re not lighting the world on fire, but business has been steady,” says Justin Berg, owner and president of Purple Care. “With this service, a lot depends on where you are located. Texas has been one of the more aggressive states when it comes to lifting mask mandates and opening the economy.”

Demand for site sanitization services is oftentimes less like lawn care and more like pest control. People call when they have a problem.

“We aren’t doing a lot of residential sanitizations anymore, but we do get some nice commercial jobs once in a while,” Berg says. “We had one commercial site where several employees had tested positive. That’s when a customer wants us to come in and clean.”

“We really like to target our existing customers with our add-on services. Many of our clients are now buying 10 or 11 services from us.” Justin Berg, owner and president of Purple Care

As spotty as demand might be, Berg says site sanitization has been a relatively straightforward service to deliver. He already has professional applicators working in his lawn care and pest control divisions. Site sanitizers essentially use the same types of equipment, with the addition of some kind of misting/fogging device being attached to a sprayer. “We also made sure to get our workers certified in sanitation,” Berg says.

Timberline Landscaping in Colorado Springs, Colo., has also gotten into the sanitization business. Timberline has taken a slightly different approach though. Rather than focus on building interiors, Timberline focuses on outdoor structures.

“We’ve been offering this service to school districts and residential customers. We sanitize things like playground equipment, benches and shared picnic areas,” says Stephanie Early, chief of strategy at Timberline Landscaping. Early said the company partnered with a sanitary supply company to make sure they’d be using an effective product that was also safe for children, pets and the environment.

Early says Timberline’s sanitization services have yet to take off — but she remains hopeful. The company just introduced this service offering last fall, right before people stopped using many of the outdoor areas Timberline was offering to clean. “This spring, we started talking about this service a lot with our existing customers, working closely with our maintenance department to build awareness,” Early says.

Curb appeal extends beyond turf and trees.

Rick Huizenga, owner of Evergreen Landscaping in Apple River, Ill., has been in business since 1983. He started focusing on hardscaping jobs in the mid-1990s. Then he added asphalt paving in 2003.

“We primarily do residential jobs,” Huizenga says. “Back around 2003, more of our hardscape customers started asking about getting their gravel driveways paved. There were only a couple of companies in the area that did paving, so we decided to give it a try.”

Evergreen Landscaping soon became a sought-after paving company. In many instances, paving and hardscaping go hand in hand.

The need for site sanitization services took off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sometimes customers ask us for a driveway estimate when we’re doing their landscape plan,” Huizenga says. “Sometimes a customer has us do the hardscaping first, but wants us to come back in a year or two to put in a driveway. Now that we’ve been doing paving for 18 years, some customers call us when all they are looking for is a driveway. Word of mouth is still our biggest sales generator.”

Since Huizenga and his crews had already become proficient in hardscape installation, branching into asphalt paving wasn’t too tall of an order.

“Whether you’re doing a paver walkway or an asphalt driveway, it’s all about getting the base and grade right,” Huizenga says. “We already owned a lot of the equipment we would need for paving, like a tractor, skid-steer and dump truck. We did have to invest in a big paving machine, as well as a roller and compactor. The smaller compaction equipment we were using on hardscape jobs wouldn’t work on a big driveway.”

Back down in Texas, Berg says Purple Care has found opportunity with fencing and garage doors.

“I’m big on the service industry in general and have a very simple philosophy,” Berg says. “If I can hire an expert or find a great subcontractor to work with, why not offer it? Our company is really good at marketing and selling jobs, scheduling, routing and dispatching. Customers find a lot of value in that.”

Berg was able to hire a couple of master craftsmen in particular vocations.

“The person we’d hired to do garage doors actually had his own business but hated all of the stress that came with running your own business,” Berg says. “Now he just focuses on what he loves doing, which is installing and repairing garage doors. It’s the same situation with our fence guy. We really like to target our existing customers with our add-on services. Many of our clients are now buying 10 or 11 services from us.

Nature trails are a natural fit.

In Colorado, Timberline Landscaping has been building nature trails since around 2007. This add-on service grew so much that Timberline created a separate company called Timberline TrailCraft in 2018.

“We joined the Professional TrailBuilders Association,” Early says. “We also teamed up with another trail-building professional named Tony Boone. You need someone who is an expert at trail design and understands drainage and caring for an ecosystem. We will not touch a trail unless we know it won’t damage Mother Earth.”

Timberline TrailCraft now touches all sorts of trails, from hiking and biking to ATV and equestrian. The customer base is a mix of governmental entities and private landowners.

“A lot goes into planning and training with work like this, and it takes a pretty special person to do it,” Early says. Some of the projects are in remote, sometimes dangerous locations. Sometimes crews are camping out to remain on site to complete a project. Equipment operation ranges from skid-steers and excavators to chainsaws and good old-fashioned hand tools.

“We’ve found that our TrailCraft workers need a good base of landscaping skills,” Early says. “Some trails have required engineered structures like bridges and retaining walls. We also have to clear a lot of rock and brush. It takes a lot of skill and hard work.”

In many instances, adding a new service does require new skills and a lot of hard work. When it helps deepen relationships with existing customers, appeal to new customers, and increase sales and profitability, all of that hard work is well worth it.

The author is a freelance writer based on Wisconsin.

August 2021
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