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March 16, 2015

Build your business

Not only do we feature growing companies like the one on page 31 in our print edition, but we also have owner profiles on our site Below are a few samples of stories where owners share their story and some ideas of how they dealt with certain challenges.

Expanding expertise

Jeff Blunkosky rounds out his service menu and gives clients a turnkey solution by aligning with professionals that complement his design/build business.

Pittsburgh Stone & Waterscapes in Pennsylvania’s Steel City installed about 30,000 square feet of patio pavers by the end of last year. In-house crews will prep the foundation and then enlist in an “associate” company as a subcontractor to lay the pavers.

“You can get subs involved in the work that is either going to be low-liability on your side, or that will not affect your service bracket,” says, Jeff Blunkosky, company president.

“We surround ourselves with others in the industry that handle products and services that complement ours.” “Involving other (landscape) companies becomes a great revolving door,” Blunkosky says of the back-and-forth referrals that result.

To read about how Blunkosky approaches designing and installing water features, turn to “Go with the flow” on page 84. For the rest of the story, visit

Quality, not quantity

A passion for nature and design shows in Van Zelst’s award-winning work, and a decision to stay right-sized has kept the boutique firm focused on delivering quality to its high-end clients.

From the outside, it might have seemed that Van Zelst had a crystal ball and executed a strategic move out of risky developer-based business just in time. But actually, he just recognized a need to scale back the business and focus more on the type of work he loved to do: high-end residential design/build projects for quality-minded clients who are looking for more than a cookie-cutter landscape.

So in the mid- to late-90s, Van Zelst pulled back from multi-family and commercial accounts.

Van Zelst basically stopped bidding. Through referrals, he grew the residential side of the company and within a few years, virtually flip-flopped the customer mix. “We looked really smart because about two years later, that whole (multi-family and commercial) market turned south and we already were positioned really well in the residential space,” he says.

For the rest of the story,

Haute hardscapes

Capturing the summer cottage market on northern Michigan’s lakeshore, Matt Esch and his team create high-end outdoor living spaces that garner industry attention.

The lakeshore cottage properties on Michigan’s “thumb” are a canvas for creativity at Esch Landscaping in Pigeon, Mich., where the home offices are just a mile from Lake Huron and the client base appreciates high-end design/build work, including the complex hardscaping projects that Esch and his crews master.

Esch grew up mowing lawns there, maintaining vacation homes when he was just 13 years old.

Once he got his driver’s license, Esch was able to travel “out of town” to the communities dotting the lake – geographic expansion is important when you live in a town of population 800. “I have the same story as a lot of landscapers,” Esch says, though his target market and business approach distinctly separate him from the lot.

For the rest of the story, visit


Right here waiting

If you like these podcasts listed here, we have tons more stored on our Lawn Care Radio Network. Visit, to subscribe to the network via iTunes.

It’s showtime
With tradeshow season in full swing, hear Virginia Wood’s, executive director of New England Grows, tips on how to approach one.

The state of social media
Landscape Leadership’s Chris Heiler says the social media buzz has worn off a bit. He talks about how to still use it to market a company.

Inside the Top 100
Steve Glennon, CEO and COO at Cagwin and Dorward in Novato, Calif., takes you on virtual tour of his $31 million landscape operation. Visit to watch the presentation.