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One of our Backstage Pass features, Level Green, keeps climbing as a premier landscaping company.

To see Laflamme, left, and Arman, right, go backstage with Level Green, visit bit.ly/llpass.
© Jon Arman
Since 2002, Level Green Landscaping has serviced the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. markets. Led by head gardener Doug Delano, who started co-owning the company once his previous employer was purchased in a high-profile acquisition, Level Green has reached $24 million in revenue an has 260 employees. Here’s some of what Lawn & Landscape learned on our trip to visit Level Green.

1. It’s okay to say no.

If it doesn’t make sense for the business, however hard it may be, you can say no. Joey Schneider, branch manager for Level Green’s North branch, says the company is prepped with lists of clients and properties that they want to work for and on.

“It’s sort of our top 100 list of customers,” he says. He recommends evaluating the prospective client on things like growth opportunities and size. While you may land a small job farther away with one of your top 100 customers, the job lends itself to potentially landing more jobs with the company down the line.

2. Sell strategically.

Finding the right client goes beyond waiting for them to come to you – you must seek them out and secure them accordingly.

“We no longer walk out the front door with a shotgun every year, aim it up in the sky, let it go off and hope that some birds fall down and hoping that they’re the right birds,” says Larry Leon, director of business development at Level Green. “We have a plan, we understand the market, we analyze our market.”

Leon says Level Green studies their markets within each of their segments and have developed a targeted approach to the process of finding clients. The way they bid maintenance work on a cemetery, for example, is going to be different than the way they pitch to a federal government building. Establishing a comprehensive plan to make each diverse client feel like their needs will be met goes a long way in landing the clients you desire.

3. Keep evaluating.

“It’s all about treating your people right,” says Dave Keffer, branch manager. “Having the same people year over year allows us to service our customers more efficiently.” To keep retention a priority at his 85-employee branch, Keffer says the team does annual evaluations, but outside of that, they talk to their employees every day. “We just make sure we’re all on the same page,” he says. And, about 3 or 4 times a year they have an appreciation event for the employees. During morning huddles and safety meetings, employee anniversaries and birthdays are recognized, and safety awards are sometimes given, too. “And it’s not always about work,” he says. “We talk about our families, too.”

4. In the business of relationships.

Paul Weaver, construction manager, says he won’t waste time going after small bids. Instead, the company focuses on large contracts that will lend themselves to more business later on. “We’re a relationship company,” he says. “I build a relationship with every one of my clients.” The company takes on a lot of commercial jobs like shopping centers.

5. Set the right tone on jobsites.

Being out in the field and constantly discussing quality control with your crews is how good managers show they care about what their work looks like, says Paul Wisniewski, a division manager at Level Green. He or others on the Level Green team will often tag along and train in the field so they can see what inefficiencies or bad practices are prevalent at their company. Level Green puts an emphasis on job sequencing to ensure all clients get serviced on time, and Wisniewski’s job includes checking in with crews to see if they’re following the designed sequence appropriately.

“It’s going out with the crews, see if they’re following the map, and fixing those (inefficiencies) as they’re implementing,” Wisniewski says. This also includes an acute attention to minor details, like if they’re parking the trucks in the right spot. Wisniewski says these small things add up as they measure how well they’ve trained crews. Measures of good training include watching for jobsite efficiency and customer renewal rates.

Wisniewski admits it takes a lot of work to put plans on paper and to follow up to make sure those plans get implemented, but he says the practice is worth it. “I’d say what’s most important is that we are safe, we train our people well, and that we provide great customer service,” Wisniewski says. “All that will lead to being more profitable.”

6. It’s all hands on deck.

The company recently transitioned to a new software, so there’s a been a learning curve to overcome. But Lynn Garris, office manager, says the growth of the company is reliant on every individual.

“It’s more responsibility, but it’s on everyone, not just one individual,” she says. “There’s too much opportunity to not get an invoice paid.” To keep everyone detail oriented, account managers meet weekly and go over receivables.

With the new software, she says some employees actually have more time for other tasks. To remedy any feelings about loss of responsibility, she says it’s important to explain that a person’s skills are better needed elsewhere, and it’s not so much a loss of responsibility, just a shift.