Community competition

NCLC’s themes included the industry’s overall success and showcasing landscaping as a career.

More than 60 schools and 800 students took part in the competition, which includes events like hardscape installation.
Photo by Brian Horn

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – While addressing the crowd during the opening ceremonies of the National Collegiate Landscape Competition, Andrew Ziehler told the students in the audience a valuable lesson he learned from starting a business scratch.

He said in the early years of owning his company, Ziehler Lawn and Tree Care near Columbus, Ohio, he was always concerned about keeping information from his competition, but learned that wasn’t the correct way to operate.

“Never do that,” he said. “This industry is built on sharing.”

The NCLC is hosted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals and took place at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.

More than 60 schools and 800 students take part in the competition, which features competitive events in hardscape projects, plant identification, business management and more.

Along with the competition, there is a career fair and the presentation of more than $100,000 in scholarship donations from landscaping and lawn care companies and industry equipment manufacturers.

One of those scholarship winners echoed Ziehler’s lesson about helping the industry succeed as a whole.

Alyssa Brown, who received $2,500 from John Deere, said one of her favorite parts of the event is talking to those she is competing against each year and learning from them.

“We all succeed when one of us succeeds,” said Brown, who is a senior at BYU majoring in landscape management and planning to pursue a graduate degree in environmental science. “We progress as an industry.”

This was the fourth year for Brown participating in the event and she was the team captain of the BYU team. Brown said that she enjoys seeing how the industry continues to give back to the students.

“Our industry has a big sense of community,” she said.

Another theme commonly heard at the event was the continued push to show that the green industry is a place for a successful career and not just a summer job.

Roger Phelps, corporate communications manager at STIHL, the platinum sponsor at the event, said students are seeing the potential in the industry more and more each year.

However, Phelps says that’s not the case with parents and high schools, who are still skeptical.

“It’s most important to show a career ladder to parents and guidance counselors,” he said.

That career ladder is important to the students, but they have more of an immediate focus when it comes to joining a company.

“They want to know – what am I going to be doing when I get out of college?” he said.

Ivan Giraldo, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Clean Scapes, said he heard a lot of students talking about being good stewards for the environment.

He sees an opportunity for the industry to communicate that the green industry isn’t part of the problem but instead part of the solution.

“We need to keep explaining what our industry can do for the environment,” he said.

BYU-Provo’s team defended their title by winning first place again, while BYU-Idaho finished second and Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio finished third.

Frank Vareska from Cuyahoga Community College finished as the top scoring student while Colin Schulte from North Dakota State University finished second and Bradley Hill from Brigham Young University – Idaho finished third. For full results, visit

Sperber ready to make a splash

The former ValleyCrest CEO recently announced his return to the industry. He tells Lawn & Landscape that he wants his new company to have a national footprint. By Brian Horn

While waiting for his non-compete to end after exiting as CEO of then ValleyCrest (now BrightView), Richard Sperber said he spent a lot of time with family and dabbled in real estate. He also came to a realization.

“In the three years I figured out I wasn’t good at anything else but landscaping,” he told Lawn & Landscape. “I’ve always been passionate about the business and I love it.”

On April 1, Sperber, whose non-compete ended at the end of 2017, announced the launch of Sperber Landscape Companies. Sperber says the Calabasas, California-based company will eventually have a national footprint and focus on maintenance while being selective on high-end installation projects.

The company will launch with between 200-300 employees through acquisitions and partnerships he hopes to announce soon.

Sperber says he didn’t want to go the route of working directly with a private equity firm, instead deciding to work with a mix of investors.

“My whole goal is to build a great business again and have values that we had before,” he says. “It’s a people business, right? It’s hard to do that when you have a huge private equity firm breathing down your neck full time and they’re trying to manage you from the 50th floor of a high rise building in New York. Don’t get me wrong, I want to make money, also. But there’s just different ways to making money.”

Private equity firm KKR bought landscaping giants Brickman and ValleyCrest in two separate deals in 2013 and 2014 respectively and merged the two companies in May of 2014. The company was rebranded as BrightView in December of 2014.

“Our families worked hard over the years to build a certain culture, to treat our employees a certain way. It was all about delivering a great experience to our employees and a great experience to our clients. They moved away from that,” Sperber said. “It doesn’t mean they are doing something worse. They just have their own core philosophies, have their own ideas of how to run the $2 billion business versus $1 billion.”

He sees Sperber Landscape Companies eventually having a national footprint but doesn’t have a ceiling on a revenue number.

“As long as there’s no shortage of people that want to have some fun and build a great business, I want to get really big,” he says.

As far as the name of his new company, he says that could still change.

“It may not end up as Sperber,” he says. “I call that my working title.”

He adds that he doesn’t feel any pressure to live up to the expectations created by the Sperber name. Sperber’s father, Burt, was the founder of ValleyCrest and guided the company to become one of the largest in the green industry. He died in 2011 at the age of 82.

“I have a lot of confidence because my dad spent so much time with me and taught me so much,” he says. “There are so many people helping me that liked our company and loved my dad, so I owe it to him to do it. We have to write our own ending and not have someone else write our own ending.”

Stay Green acquires Pacific Crest Landscape

The move helps the family-owned company expand into Orange County in California.

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – Stay Green has acquired Pacific Crest Landscape of Orange County, expanding the family-owned landscape services throughout Southern California.

“This is an exciting time for Stay Green, and we are thrilled that (President) Donnie Smith and his Pacific Crest team are now part of the Stay Green team,” said Stay Green CEO Chris Angelo. “Donnie shares our core values about customer service and helping clients achieve landscapes that are beautiful, sustainable and efficient.”

Smith has more than 25 years of landscape industry experience and will continue to supervise operations from the Orange County location that he first acquired in 2009.

Smith said he plans a smooth transition as his team continues to provide service to their Orange County clients, and he sees opportunity for future growth as Pacific Crest becomes part of the Stay Green team.

The Pacific Crest clientele now served by Stay Green consists mainly of commercial office parks and retail centers. Pacific Crest also provides tree pruning, irrigation services and more.

The Stay Green headquarters are in Santa Clarita, and its more than 400 employees serve clients throughout Southern California including Kern County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Orange County, Inland Empire, Riverside County and San Diego County.

Stay Green generated $25.4 million in 2018 revenue and ranked No. 81 on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list.

Aquatrols hires Lewis as U.S. territory manager

Lewis will be responsible for overseeing the company’s business in the Pacific Northwest region.

PAULSBORO, N.J. – Aquatrols, a manufacturer of soil surfactants and related technologies, has appointed Jay Lewis as their newest U.S. territory manager.

In his new role, Lewis will be responsible for overseeing the company’s business in the Pacific Northwest region, including western Canada and Hawaii. Lewis joins the Aquatrols team from Textron Specialized Vehicles, where he worked most recently as their channel development manager. An Oregon native, Lewis has previously managed distribution in the western region for Jacobsen Golf.

Photo courtesy of Jay Lewis

Lewis is the second addition this year to the company’s sales team, led by North American Sales Manager Mike Navel.

“I am confident that Jay’s passion for the industry and continuous drive will be a great asset to our team and to our customers in the Pacific Northwest region,” Navel said.

Weed Man adds mosquito control to service options

Select franchise locations will be implementing the company’s mosquito control this season.

CLEVELAND – Weed Man has added mosquito control to its current list of services.

Weed Man is currently releasing marketing materials for this service and select franchise locations will be implementing the mosquito control this season.

With a mosquito control service, Weed Man will reduce the amount of pests known for carrying and transmitting diseases like Zika and West Nile.

Weed Man now has 21 service offerings customers can leverage based on their individual lawn and region.

“The Weed Man promise has always been to treat every lawn as if it was our own, so we have been working hard to roll out this new service to continuing being our customer’s first choice for a healthy, pest-free lawn worth enjoying,” said Weed Man Chief Operations Officer Jennifer Lemcke.

“Our franchisees have matched our enthusiasm and consumers will soon start to see the offering available to them.”

Administered by service technicians, Weed Man’s mosquito control service utilizes specialized equipment to target mosquitoes where they are or could be living to reduce their populations on the property.

New and improved

Get the lowdown on some of the industry’s latest products

BAHCO Anvil Secateurs

The pitch: BAHCO’s Anvil Secateurs reduce fatigue and the risk of wrist injury with a shock-absorbing buffer.

  • Designed with a narrow taper anvil and sharply-angled carbon steel blade
  • Highly corrosion-resistant nonstick blade, coated for reduced friction
  • Improves accessibility and cutting quality for home, garden or vineyard use

For more info:

EGO commercial series

The pitch: It’s a new line of outdoor power equipment designed for all-day run time with weatherproof construction and an enhanced recharging time.

  • The new program features a commercial grade 15-inch string trimmer; 600 CFM blower and a 25-1/2-inch hedge trimmer
  • All tools are powered by the battery backpack and every EGO tool is backward compatible with the Power + line-up
  • The equipment operates quietly at roughly 80 decibels per use

For more info:

Leonard sheath kit

The pitch: This kit combines a Leonard Deluxe Soil Knife, a pair of Leonard Traditional Bypass Pruners and a Leonard Dual Leather Sheath.

  • The Leonard Deluxe Soil Knife features a 6-inch stainless-steel blade
  • This dual-edged blade combines a serrated edge and a sharp edge
  • A built-in cutting notch slices through twine and plant ties, and it’s equipped with a one-piece molded composite handle

For more info:

PerfEdge steel edging

The pitch: PerfEdge steel landscape edging allows surface water to drain from unwanted locations, keeping areas dry and usable.

  • Permanently delineate landscape beds, walkways and gardens from lawn areas while promoting water movement and drainage
  • PerfEdge is available in 10-ft by 4-in pieces in either 20- or 16-GA thickness
  • Finishes include raw steel, galvanized, or one of three EcoCoat colors: black, brown, or green

For more info:

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