Raise the bar

Justin White,
CEO of K&D Landscaping

Firstly, I want to thank Brian Horn, editor of Lawn & Landscape, for presenting the opportunity to share my story through this monthly column and bring my dream to a reality. I remember as a kid reading this magazine in my father's office and imagining how awesome it would be if I could one day be a columnist. I think it’s important to explain why I have committed to writing this column, as it all ties back to our purpose at my company K&D Landscaping, which is to raise the bar in the landscape industry.

I grew up on the jobsite and saw first-hand how poorly the public and other trades treated landscapers. I saw how hard my parents and our employees worked to create beautiful landscapes, yet due to low wages in the industry, they still struggled financially. I have made it my mission to lift our industry up by first walking the walk, and then sharing my story to help inspire others. This means not only charging clients what we deserve, but also giving back to our community, promoting and growing our workforce and creating a new standard for landscapers across the country and globe.

I am the second-generation CEO of K&D Landscaping, located in Watsonville, Calif. K&D is a full-service company that believes in market diversification. We provide commercial maintenance, residential design/build, water management and commercial bid/build. We have 110 employees and are growing rapidly toward our next milestone of 300 employees. Our current revenue for 2022 is on track for $13 million.

My background is rooted firmly in the landscape industry; I was born in 1989 just a short three years after my parents, Kendel and Dawn, founded K&D Landscaping. I got involved with field operations at a young age and started operating tractors when I was just 8 years old on our family ranch. In 2006, (against my parents wishes), I decided to drop out of high school at 17 to start my career and join one of the K&D crews full time. I worked my way from laborer up into foreman, and eventually into COO as my dad’s right-hand guy.

Taking over as CEO in 2015 was my next big opportunity and challenge. I created my vision for what K&D could become and facilitated buy-ins from the family and employees.

I worked closely with mentors, coaches, family and our team to bring the short term vision to fruition and continue to evolve and enhance the long-term goal of $30 million by 2030.

Topics I’ll discuss in future issues:

  • Sharing my experience growing and running my family’s business.
  • What is currently happening inside our operation and what type of decisions we are making based on economic and industry trends.
  • A focus on culture, not only building culture but utilizing it as a strategic differentiation with clients and candidates.
  • How we implemented an entrepreneurial operating system five years ago and the ways we continue to evolve and add to the operating methodology.
  • Sharing experiences and ideas being discussed in my peer groups.

Approach this column with an open mind. We can sometimes avoid new ideas simply because they did not originate from inside our organization. Be open to change and the opportunity to try new things. At the same time, I welcome feedback and discussions. Please feel free to reach out directly via email.

Much of my columns will include not only success stories, but also failures and mistakes made. Utilizing some of the lessons I share can help you prepare your company for those same challenges. Anticipation is a key differentiator within our industry the more you know, the better leader you can become.

Share this with your team and challenge them with implementing change.

Raise the Bar is a monthly column by Justin White, CEO of K&D Landscaping, written to help improve professionalism in the green industry.



October 2022
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