When Hurricane Ida devastated some areas of Louisiana a few years back, Mullin in St. Rose jumped into action.
It wasn’t lost on Mycah Schexnayder that her company was helping the community despite their office being destroyed by the storm. Schexnayder, now in finance & administration for Mullin, says the winds ripped off portions of their own roof.
But there was the company, raising $80,000 and helping feed families in the area anyway. They converted their front parking lot into several food and dry goods donation stations. People who had been without power for a week could get catered food, and some didn’t even need to get out of their cars to do it.
“I think we showed it’s not all about making money — it’s about helping people, too, and giving back,” Schexnayder says. “We were under tough times. We had crews out cleaning up. But to put our stuff on hold for a couple days, that really stands out to me.”
This generosity goes beyond times of extreme turmoil. Schexnayder adds that the team adopts a few families for Christmas and buys every single gift on their lists. Company President Chase Mullin says he’s been fortunate in his own personal life, so he’s tried to pay it forward individually.
“As far as the company’s concerned, I’ve really carried that same mentality over to the business,” Mullin says. “I think anything you pay, you’re paid back at least tenfold, if nothing else than in a good night’s sleep or a good feeling.”
Whether it’s benefiting the community, the clients or their own employees, the company’s people are behind their standing as one of Lawn & Landscape’s Best Places to Work.
“Anybody can cut grass and anyone can do what we do,” says Nubia Gutierrez, Mullin’s director of human resources. “That has been something that Chase has led the organization by. What is it that we can do to make ourselves unique? What is it that we can be the choice of employment? I truly do believe it has been the people that have made that happen.”
Work hard, play hard
Taking care of those people has helped Mullin retain those employees. Gutierrez started with Mullin seven years ago when the team had roughly 35 employees. But the company wanted to kickstart its human resources group — Gutierrez says that once companies reach a 50-employee threshold, that’s when an HR department is needed to monitor different labor laws.
Well, now the company hovers around 150 employees in the field, and Gutierrez says she guesses the team will soon grow to over 180. The company built its own facility in 2017, and now the company is doing everything it can to ensure employees are comfortable there.
Take the company’s brand-new culture patio, which Schexnayder says the company christened with their first barbecue in May. Mullin brought in duck sausage and some adult beverages. He says this was the first time they got to use their new furniture, shade sails and outdoor fans.
“There’s always something going on here,” Schexnayder says. “We’re always trying to create ways for us to be co-workers but also friends.”
This goes beyond events on the company’s site, too. The company offers cabbage ball and sand volleyball teams, plus Gutierrez says she helps assemble more unique programs like this spring’s crawfish boil. It was there where she jokes that she “couldn’t tell you how many pounds” of crawfish they cooked for over 300 people. All employees were invited to bring their families, where those with younger kids enjoyed bounce houses, clowns and balloons.
Gutierrez says they also rented out a whole theater to watch the Super Mario movie in April, following up last year’s viewing party of the Buzz Lightyear movie. Gutierrez says everything was on the company’s dime — after all, a family trip to the movie theater might usually cost upwards of $80 or more. That’s not the case for company events, where drinks, popcorn and tickets are all paid off. Plus, Gutierrez says some families walked away with extra prizes if they sat in the seat where something was placed beneath.
These family-oriented events aren’t just planned by happenstance – it’s the company’s intention to treat employees’ families right. This Halloween will be another example of that, as Gutierrez says they’ll turn a rented-out carnival area with rides into a trick-or-treat spot.
“The team members are great, but their families are the ones we’re trying to affect,” Gutierrez says. “It’s impacting them. It’s telling them, ‘My mommy and daddy works for a good company.’”
Of course, it helps them retain employees, too. Mullin remembers attending a conference where the speaker shared that workers with a best friend in the office were much, much more likely to stay in the long run.
“We’ll all just hang out. We’ll just be together, not just talking about a specific project or an invoicing issue,” Mullin says. “It makes the workplace much less stressful and a more enjoyable place to be.”
The way forward
Mullin says that another part of that retention has come down to establishing clearer career ladders. They always had met with standout employees to communicate their unwritten career paths, but now they can show someone during the onboarding process how they can earn promotions.
Gutierrez says her HR department has helped establish clearer career paths for employees. Of course, things have always been good — Gutierrez adds that there are employees who have been with the company since it first started. But Mullin says he wanted new hires to know what their way forward would be.
“Everybody understands the opportunity they have with Mullin,” he says. “Our goal and belief is that it will help them shift their minds from a job to a career.”
Mullin says they hope to have every single field-level person eventually try and earn a role as a crew leader at a minimum. And while they have a clear printout of a career ladder to distribute, Mullin adds that it’s flexible.
“Our belief is that it’s not always defined,” he says. “It can change from person to person, but we like to at least show them a general pathway.”
Finding new employees comes down to everybody being ready to recruit, Mullin included. Of course, they have a recruiter on staff, and they openly celebrate new hires, promotions and bonuses, but it’s everybody’s job to bring in the right people.
“I’ve spent a fair amount of my time recruiting,” he says. “I’ll recruit down to the field level sometimes depending on where I am. It really is all hands-on-deck effort.”
Mullin recalls being on a fishing trip several years back with other landscapers in the area. One of the landscapers mentioned that he wanted to be the McDonald’s of landscaping – quick and reliable service was the name of the game, with strong brand recognition.
Mullin wanted to craft his own vision – he respected the comparison but wanted to carve one out on his own. Instead, he believes Mullin is the Ruth’s Chris Steak House of landscaping. This means he wants to serve clients the way makers of affordable but nice luxury cars or luxury hotels treat their clients.
Gutierrez has a different term for it: She says they’re trying to offer the “white glove” experience. One specific person at Mullin stays with the same project the whole way through, meaning they’re available to answer any questions they might have as they remodel their backyards.
Gutierrez admits that the company isn’t for everyone, but they are for the clients who want to rest assured the project is getting done the right way.
“We’re not the lowest in terms of pricing,” she says, “but we give them the experience of sitting back and relaxing.”
Mullin adds that it can be stressful for clients to have landscapers trotting onto a property for backyard renovations, or it can be annoying when clients don’t hear back from their landscapers about when they’d be around for maintenance. So, he believes in strong communication with the customers.
“It’s kind of overcommunicating,” he says. “It’s overservicing the customers.”
Overservicing clients also means that the customers get great value in what they buy; the company trains its employees to bring up trash cans or carry newspapers to the front door. They greet people as they walk by or turn off blowers as clients pass. And if a client lives out of town, it can be a matter of sending them pictures and timeline updates so they rest assured the work is getting done.
“It’s the things that everybody knows we should do, but we tend to forget,” Mullin says. “I think that as a company scales, it’s ingraining those things in the culture from the top down so that same mentality and mindset remains.”
The author is associate editor with Lawn & Landscape magazine.
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