Tips from the top: Ivan Giraldo

Tips from the top: Ivan Giraldo

Departments - Top 100

Ivan Giraldo, President, CleanScape

July 2, 2014
Chuck Bowen
Industry News Business/Finance

Company: CleanScapes   Location: Austin, Texas    Ranking: 62   
2013 Revenue: $20.7 million

I always had a very good admiration for nature and the outdoors. I love knowing the positive impact that we can have on our environment.

My business partner stepped out of the business for a while after he sold his company. But he wanted to get back, and we decided to start CleanScapes in 2005.

We were able to bring up a very good group of people that worked together at previous companies or people that have a lot of experience in the industry. So we didn’t have to start from zero on training.

We started with the knowledge, we started with the same drive – people that really were self-motivated. That, plus the economy when we started was on the way up and construction here was booming.

We went from zero in 2005 to over $20 million. It wasn’t easy, but we were able to do that just because those two factors: the team that we put together and the economy.

I never owned a company before. My business partner owned a private company for many years. They sold to a national company and I stayed with the national company and I was able to learn quite a bit.

One thing is knowing how to do things, and the other part is understanding how to make money doing it.

Texas didn’t suffer what a lot of other states in the country went through on that recession.

We saw a little bit of a slow turn on the construction part of it. Maintenance kept kind of the same. We grew during those times because a lot of companies started cutting corners.

That gives the opportunity to extend out in the market.

A key portion of who we are and what we do is labor-intensive, it’s people-intensive – from supervision to customer service, customer contact, actually doing the job on the field. So for us, bringing in, keeping the good employees in place and bringing the best people out there to join our team, that always is a challenge.

The other big challenges for any business are the new reforms they’re out there trying to affect, especially the service industry – from immigration reform to the health care act. That’s something that we’re watching that very closely.

It’s the same thing with clients, you know: The best client is the one that you retain, not that you have to go and look for. Client retention is a key for any business. It’s the same thing with employees. We want to retain all the good ones. And that’s a challenge.

The second thing is reflecting the good work environment out there. So people that are looking to find a good home, a good place to work, they will come to us.

Technology is coming to our industry, especially on the irrigation portion of it – installation, but especially on irrigation management or water management.

There is a misperception that as an industry we do not manage our water resources well, or that we tend to over-fertilize.

The other part is the push to run our equipment as clean as we can on emissions. We tackled that many years ago, converting all our riding mowers to propane.

We saw a big opportunity to reduce emissions. So we made the decision on doing that and on conversion to that. All the riding mowers come from the factory ready and running on propane, and we started now truly converting our fleet and our new landscape trucks to propane.

I’ve been very blessed and I guess not recognizing that a long time ago, maybe that could be the biggest mistake.