In 2018, it was the worst year on record for New Castle Lawn & Landscape, based in Birdsboro, Pa. Since then, Co-owner and General Manager Brad Stephenson said the company has made plenty of changes to revitalize the 28-year-old business and foster growth. Some of the most impactful changes pertain to culture and development.
“It’s a really big family,” Stephenson says. “It’s a pretty cool place to be. I always said that if I ever owned my own company that I’d make sure when you drove to work everyday, you were looking forward to coming to work and not making an excuse not to come to work because you hate your job.”
A clear path
Making sure employees have a roadmap to success has been paramount for New Castle management. That’s why the company implemented career progression charts in each division, so employees can map out their professions and have clear goals to strive toward. The charts show the different levels in each department that employees can reach and what needs to be learned. “There’s pay rates involved with that as well,” he says.
Stephenson says New Castle team members know that they can approach their supervisors and even chart a path in a new department if they so choose.
“We’re very open to people moving from one department to another if they have a passion for something else,” he says. “We’ll never hold somebody back from improving their career.”
And this isn’t just evident to employees, but vendors the company works with, too, like Techo-Bloc.
Phil Martin, a territory sales rep with Techo-Bloc who’s been working alongside New Castle for some years, remembers that he saw this in action just recently.
“One thing I found very interesting lately was during a conversation with Phil, their designer. He told me they were shifting job responsibilities recently and moving one person from operations to estimating and really just identifying people’s skillsets and moving them around accordingly,” Martin recalls.
“That just shows how much pride and emphasis they put on organization and the quality that’s coming out and going to their customers.”
Martin says he finds it incredibly respectful that there are so many opportunities for advancement within the company.
“They don’t just bring somebody in to be a laborer forever,” he says. “There’s really an opportunity to hone your skills, grow from within and advance through the company, which I think is really paying dividends for them.”
It’s something that’s been instilled even before the career progression charts were established, Stephenson says.
Case in point is Matt Hall, an estimator with New Castle who has been with the company for a decade but started as a crew member for four years and then became a foreman. “From foreman, I went to a supervisory position and did that for a year and then there was a need for an estimator for all our hardscape projects and that’s where I’m currently at,” Hall says.
New Castle is also concerned about what’s going on outside of work. That’s why Stephenson started holding monthly one-on-one meetings with each person last year.
“The one-on-one meetings that we have monthly are for more personal stuff,” Stephenson says. “I started them last year. And I was doing them with nearly everybody in our company. It was more about getting to know everybody and digging into their personal lives to see if there’s anything we could do to help them.
“We’ve helped a lot of our employees get through some tough times,” he adds. “It’s near and dear to our hearts to make sure our employees are taken care of. And those one-on-ones have opened up the door to that.”
While Stephenson started the one-on-one meetings, he says he’s now transferred them over to the supervisors of each department so not to bottleneck the process. He adds that the supervisors are completely prepared to take on the task, as they’ve been trained heavily on emotional intelligence.
“That’s one thing that we’re pushing really hard. I think it’s really important,” he says. “We send our supervisors to courses on emotional intelligence through our local chamber.”
Hall says he was a little hesitant when it came to the one-on-one meetings, but now he’s learned to see the value in them.
“At first I wasn’t the most receptive to them, but once you start getting into them, it opens up dialogue between myself and my supervisor,” he says. “You realize there are some things that can be worked on and it’s a nice safe environment to bring up some things that you may not have wanted to in a weekly sales meeting or what not.”
Even with supervisors checking in monthly, Hall says that the management at New Castle isn’t smothering. This is something he really appreciates.
“The freedom to make your own decisions is a big deal,” he says. “No one is hovering over you. As long as you show results, you’re left on your own…it’s nice to have that freedom.”
Hall says employees also feel appreciated because the company is making the investment in their safety and health — especially for installation crews.
“There’s always new equipment we have being bought to make the job easier,” he says. “If you need something, they’re willing to go and get it for you…they’re trying to alleviate those aches and pains for the guys here so they can perform the best they can and save their bodies while doing so.”
For Stephenson, he says this is all part of building a culture where employees are happy, engaged and having fun.
“We’re dog friendly, so our office staff brings their dogs in,” he says. “And during the off season, a lot of our production guys will bring their dogs in, too. It’s great.”
Volunteering is also important to plenty of the staff members, so Stephenson says there’s always opportunities to give back.
An Employee of the Month is also named to help boost morale. Stephenson says the winner’s name is engraved onto a special cup and they receive a $50 gift card and a parking spot. He adds the winners are chosen for how exemplifying New Castle’s core values.
“We have three core values — have a good attitude, be determined to improve personally and professionally and be caring,” he says. “It’s very simple, but that’s how we pick our Employee of the Month. They have to represent that.”
Martin says its this dedication to employees that helps New Castle stand out as one of the best. “The pride they take in their people and their brand is second to none,” he says.
“Whether it’s volunteer days or picnics for employees, they are very high on presenting a professional image,” Martin adds. “Giving back to their employees and community is just as important as the product they are ultimately giving to homeowners and their clientele.”