Sustainable heroes

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One chance project in Miami Springs, Florida, was all it took to create a nationwide landscape service group.

May 2, 2016

Story by Katie Tuttle | Photos courtesy of Tylee Sewell

When Ahmed Hassan agreed to help with Daniella’s Wish, he had no idea the group he assembled would morph into a new service organization for the green industry.

Hassan hadn’t planned to do the project for 2-year-old Daniella, who was battling stage three neuroblastoma and needed a safe place to play outside. But he realized there were resources at his fingertips, both from landscape companies and from suppliers.

“The green industry is filled with wholesome people,” he says. “We love the earth and we love each other.”

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Hassan reached out to industry contacts and his group was able to pull off a $3,000 project.

“It impacted us in a way we never had before,” Hassan says. “We were standing around and everyone asked when we were going to do the next one.”

And Sustainable Heros was born. Since then, the group has done three projects across the country, the second being a completely edible school garden for Dorothy L. Bullock School in New Jersey and the third an outdoor space for a housing community for the homeless, called Aster Gardens.

Tylee Sewell, horticulturist, urban farmer and garden coach for the organization, says she really appreciates the sustainable part of the projects.

“It’s not just for one person,” she says. “It’s going to be continuously used by people. That’s why we love doing (these projects). We know it’s beyond us. It’s bigger than us.”

Have you completed a charity project you are proud of or helped out your community in another way? Email Associate Editor Katie Tuttle at to be considered for coverage in a future issue.

no pain this season

Follow these tips to keep your feet in good shape this season.
Workers standing, bending and stooping all day should stretch their Achilles tendons to help avoid any foot soreness.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Land Management

With the season underway, we thought we’d check in with Dr. Tracey C. Vlahovic, an associate professor in the Department of Podiatric Medicine and Orthopedics at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to get some tips on how to keep your feet healthy, since you’re on them all day.

Q: What are the three most important things to remember when working outside for a living to keep your feet healthy?

  • A supportive, well-fitting shoe/boot
  • A moisture-wicking sock or an antimicrobial sock made of silver or copper if prone to athlete foot (tinea pedis) infections
  • Sunscreen for all areas not covered by socks or shoes

Q: Is there a certain type of shoe/boot or padding you’d recommend? What should landscapers keep in mind when shopping for a shoe/boot?

A: Make sure you find a toe box, the front part of the shoe, where you have enough room to accommodate your toes. If you’re wearing a boot, make sure it has a high fitting area that supports the ankle. If any foot pain or fallen arches, I recommend over the counter Spenco insoles for the insides of both shoes – even if one foot hurts, you want to be even.

Q: Are there certain exercises that prevent foot injuries?

A.: Stretching the Achilles tendon – the long tendon in the back of your ankle – is important for someone standing, bending, stooping all day.

Q: Our readers have to get on and off equipment a lot. Any tips on how to avoid foot problems when working in a career where this is a common practice?

A: That's all to do with proprioception (where your ankles/feet are in space) and making sure your ankles are strong and healthy.

Some tips: You can stand on one leg for 20-30 seconds at a time and then switch. Also, you can take a towel or stretchy band and put it around the ball of the foot.

You can then move your ankle toward your midline (the imaginary line that divides the body into right and left halves) and away, and hold each direction for a few seconds. You can also do this up and down.

Q: Do you have any other advice on how landscapers can keep their feet in good shape this season?

A.: Make sure you inspect your feet daily after a tough day of work. Look in between the toes, bottom of the foot, at the nails. If the nails are thickened and discolored, it might be time to see your doctor for a topical therapy for toenails.

– Interviewed by Brian Horn

Ask the experts: Hiring and firing

Q: Up until now, my recruitment process has been moderately successful, though usually involving a type of “hit or miss” approach. I think it is now time I tried to really get ahead of my recruitment activities to help my company get to the next level. What are some basic things I should do to help me in this area?

A: A business owner called me the other day and asked me to discuss various staffing issues necessary to help his company grow to the next level. We acknowledged that finding high-caliber talent is a challenge for all landscapers. That point being said, I informed the business owner that recruitment must be conducted proactively all the time throughout the year, not only reactively when vacancies exist. Staffing interviews should be scheduled regularly at the same time each week.

I told the owner that recruitment is essentially a numbers game in which the company must do everything in its power to increase visibility, contact and attention to draw applicants to his organization. To that point, he must increase his “numbers” by expanding the number of recruiters, recruiting access points, and recruitment branding capable of contacting a greater portion of the local labor market. With that thought in mind, I stated that the basic recruitment consists of three key components:

1) Internal

  • The company must have an employee referral program available to all employees.
  • The program must provide a lucrative cash bonus to those employees who bring new talent into the organization; again, these employees serve as virtual recruiters.
  • If the company is not receiving a steady flow of referrals, the bonus is not lucrative enough.

2) External

  • Key employees (e.g., account managers, human resources, admin staff) must consistently inform relevant business partners (e.g., suppliers, trade groups, vendors, temp agencies, head hunters, community sources) of available positions within the company.
  • Partner with a contract recruiter on a commission-only basis to identify, screen and direct potential employees to the company.
  • Here again, it is simply a numbers game, in which these external partners serve as virtual recruiters for the organization.

3) Technical

  • The company must have an at least one job posting on different social media sites (e.g. Monster, LinkedIn, Twitter, craigslist) at all times.
  • The company must have its key vacancies listed on its homepage at all times, with the homepage being refreshed each week.
  • The company must begin to accumulate and track “followers” in that they serve as virtual recruiters for the organization.

Q: I want to fire an employee for bad performance, but I know you are going to tell me to have documentation first. What does effective performance management documentation really look like?

A: A business owner contacted me the other day to discuss a disciplinary matter regarding one of his non-exempt field employees who refused to complete a task, and then walked off the job. The owner wanted to terminate the employee immediately, which was well within his right given the company’s at-will policy.

Despite my conceptual support for the disciplinary decision, fact finding revealed there was no performance management documentation of any kind in the employee’s personnel file. Based on the lack of feedback, that could have become problematic in a possible wrongful termination claim.

“I told the owner that recruitment is essentially a numbers game in which the company must do everything in its power to increase visibility, contact and attention to draw applicants to his organization.”

I suggested a written warning be given to the employee. I proposed the following documentation be included as part of the feedback process.

“On Wednesday, January 13, 2016, “employee name” refused to clean up some debris at a jobsite as directed by his foreman and immediately walked off the job. Based upon the company’s stated business goals of job quality, customer service, and gross margin, “employee name” did not contribute to their achievement in a satisfactory manner. Moreover, his failure to perform that reasonable job-related assignment satisfies the definition of insubordination (i.e. “refusal to obey some order which a superior officer is entitled to give and is entitled to have employee obey”).

Willingly disobeying a lawful order unambiguously violates the company’s job performance expectations, with direct impact on company results (e.g. inefficient labor utilization, poor job quality, possible job loss which reduces company revenue and damaged team morale). Based upon that violation, “employee name” must demonstrate immediate, significant, and sustained performance improvement. Failure to meet any of these stated criteria in the future may result in additional corrective action up to and including immediate termination.”

Had this documentation already been present in the employee’s personnel file, underscored by confirmatory evidence from an investigation of the incident, it would have been easy to support a decision to terminate the employee.

Steve Cesare, Ph.D, The Harvest Group, NALP consultant member

Ask the Experts is brought to you in partnership with NALP, the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Questions are fielded through NALP’s Trailblazers, the industry’s leading company mentoring program. For more questions visit

Jensen, NLS join Monarch Landscape Holdings

SAN JOSE, Calif. and WOODINVILLE, Wash. – Two regional landscape firms have joined Monarch Landscape Holdings. Monarch made its first expansion into California with the addition of San Jose-based Jensen Landscape and strengthened its Pacific Northwest presence with the addition of Woodinville, Washington-based Northwest Landscape Services (NLS).

The two companies will continue to operate under their respective brands.

The private equity backed Monarch has revenues exceeding $80 million and more than 1,000 employees across four states. The value of the deals were not disclosed.

“I’m honored that landscape firms the caliber of Jensen and NLS have chosen to be a part of Monarch because it validates the partnership we envisioned creating with our equity partner, One Rock Capital Partners,” said Brian Helgoe, CEO of Los Angeles-based Monarch.

Jensen was founded in 1969 and will add more than 350 employees from eight locations across Northern California. For 2015, the company had $45.7 million in revenue. NLS was founded in 1990 and will add 400 employees from nine locations in Washington and Oregon and Idaho. Meridian Capital served as exclusive advisor to the shareholders of NLS.

Crews and managers from both firms are expected to remain in place.

Monarch was formed in May 2015 and is backed by One Rock Capital Partners, a New York-based investment firm.

Monarch intends to continue building its West Coast presence via additional partnerships with mid-sized, regional landscape firms that generate revenues in the $10 to $50 million range.

TruGreen and Scotts LawnService complete merger

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – TruGreen completed its merger with Scotts LawnService. Scotts LawnService is a former subsidiary of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. As a result of the merger, TruGreen is expanding its services in lawn, tree and shrub care to approximately 2.3 million residential and commercial customers across the U.S. and Canada.

TruGreen President and CEO David Alexander leads the newly combined company, which will operate as a privately held company under the TruGreen brand and remain headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.

Jim Gimeson, former president of Scotts LawnService, joins as chief operating officer, and John Compton, a Clayton, Dubillier & Rice (CD&R) operating partner and former PepsiCo president, will continue to serve as TruGreen's chairman.

“This continues the significant momentum we have experienced since becoming a standalone company, and we're excited to expand the capabilities we can bring to our customers to help them live more of their lives outside,” Alexander said.

During its investor and analyst day in December, Scotts announced a definitive agreement to sell off its lawn care division to TruGreen for $200 million in cash and a 30 percent stake.

TruGreen ranked second on this year’s Top 100 list with $996 million in 2015 revenue, while Scotts Lawn Service ranked fourth with $353 million.

CD&R, which, purchased TruGreen from ServiceMaster in 2011, will own 70 percent of the combined companies, which will operate under the TruGreen brand.

SiteOne acquires Blue Max Materials

ROSWELL, Ga. – SiteOne Landscape Supply has announced the acquisition of Blue Max Materials. Blue Max Materials has five locations serving both North and South Carolina.

“Blue Max Materials is a terrific company and an excellent fit with our existing business in North and South Carolina,” said Doug Black, CEO of SiteOne Landscape Supply. “They are best-in-class in hardscapes and landscape supplies distribution and will bring important new capabilities to us in these strategic product categories. Blue Max also has an excellent team of experienced associates who are passionate about their customers’ success – a perfect fit with our customer-focused culture at SiteOne.”

Horizon expands in Texas market

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Horizon Distributors expanded its current footprint in the Texas market with the asset acquisition of Metro Irrigation Supply Co. Metro operates eight sales centers with locations in North and South Texas.

“Metro has a reputation for superior customer service and offers a comprehensive range of irrigation, drainage and landscape lighting products,” said Jim Ross, president of Horizon. “We are excited about the opportunities this creates to provide value to customers and new opportunities for the Metro team.”

Metro will continue to operate under the Metro Irrigation Supply name. No changes are expected in either Metro or Horizon Texas market management, sales or operations and there are no plans to consolidate or reduce the number of Metro or Horizon distribution locations. Organizationally, Metro will be a separate region in Horizon’s Central Division led by General Manager Shawn Connors. Former Metro President Kelly McColm will serve in an advisory capacity to Ross and Connors moving forward.

“The Metro people have an outstanding reputation for exceeding the expectations of the Texas irrigation professional,” added Ross, “We plan on providing them the additional resources necessary to continue to build on their success.”

The Bruce Company acquires new company

MIDDLETON, Wis. – The Bruce Co., which ranked 68th in Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list, acquired of Landscape Care Co., located in Verona, Wisconsin.

“The Bruce Company’s vision centers on growth and I can’t think of a better fit for our company than Landscape Care Company,” said Bliss Nicholson, CEO of The Bruce Co., headquartered in Middleton, Wis.

The 10 employees of Landscape Care will join The Bruce Company’s 350 employees effective immediately.

Mike and Kathy Simon, owners of Landscape Care, will transition to The Bruce Company in leadership positions similar to those at their former company.

“We’re excited to partner with The Bruce Company, one of the most respected landscaping companies in Wisconsin,” Mike Simon said.

The acquisition advances The Bruce Company’s goal to grow the family business without compromising customer service, said Seth Nicholson, president, chief operating officer and second-generation leader at the 64-year-old company.

He said no employee jobs will be lost in the changeover and the company will be looking to hire more qualified individuals to assist in caring for our customer’s landscape needs.

“We have been Madison’s outdoor living experts for 64 years,” Nicholson said.

“We owe employees, customers and our communities The Bruce Company’s best effort to prosper for at least another 64 years.”

The Care of Trees acquires Total Tree Care

KENT, Ohio – The Care of Trees, a Davey company, acquired certain assets of Total Tree Care Inc., a tree care company serving residential clients in Connecticut. The Care of Trees is a subsidiary of The Davey Tree Expert Co.

For 60 years, the arborists of Total Tree Care have provided specialized tree and plant health care services to clients in central Connecticut and along the shoreline. Tom and Harianne Williams founded Total Tree Care in 1957. The couple passed ownership to their son, Luke Williams.

“Like Total Tree Care, The Care of Trees is a client-focused company,” Luke Williams said. “We are excited to become a part of The Care of Trees because, like us, they focus on improving a tree’s overall health.”

Ken Clear, regional vice president for Davey and The Care of Trees, said the clients of Total Tree Care will benefit by gaining access to the Davey Institute, the company’s diagnostic and research facility.

“The wealth of knowledge available from Davey’s diversified service offerings, technology, equipment resources, and research and development capability will undoubtedly benefit both the clients and arborists of Total Tree Care,” Clear said.

Davey ranks third on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list with revenue.

Total Tree Care’s six employees will join the Hamden, Connecticut, office, where Peter Tyrell serves as manager. Tyrell has more than 20 years of service with The Care of Trees and is a Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture.

Jim Stief, executive vice president of U.S. residential operations, reiterated that Davey is committed to future growth – organically and through acquisitions. “We will continue to focus on high-quality companies with customer demographics that are similar to our own, within markets where we want to grow density,” he said.