With a ribbon-cutting ceremony just around the bend, one of Intermountain Plantings’ clients urgently needed help.
The customer’s grass was already browning. The client had specified they wanted a native type of sod that went against the contractors’ best wishes, and ultimately, they were struggling to keep the lawn looking alive.
Erik Kimball, president of the company, says that between labor and new turf prices, the ensuing fix cost the company roughly $10,000. But satisfying the client was the top priority, not saying “told you so.” In the end, they replaced a half-acre of sod.
The decision paid dividends in the long term, leading to four more projects and what Kimball estimates as millions in future revenue.
“Customer service is number one,” says Brad Stewart, company CEO. “If there’s issues on a site or with our product, whether it’s irrigation or plant materials before or after the job is completed, we really do live by the saying ‘the customer is always right.’”
Intermountain Plantings ranked No. 78 on the 2021 Top 100 list and earned $31 million in revenue for 2020. Stewart estimates that the company’s been growing at a 20-25% clip annually for the last four years, to the point where the company opened up another branch in Boise, Idaho, just over two years ago. Much of the plant material the company orders comes through Boise anyway, and the climate and clientele there is similar to the one they’ve established in Salt Lake City.
But Stewart is the new guy on the block of the company’s executive team. Kimball founded the company nearly 30 years ago, and Chad Richards – the vice president of business development – started as a general laborer at Intermountain 11 years ago. Stewart’s been there only three years during the company’s most profitable era. He attributes the growth largely to the company’s emphasis on customer service, not simply having more projects than ever before.
“It shows that hard work pays off,” he says. “We take pride in our work. We really are about quality as well as quantity.”
The work is not quick – most of Intermountain Plantings’ projects take several weeks to years to finish. Work for homebuilders to create housing developments must be quick, and Richards says his employees had to figure out how to ramp up the time it took to finish the job.
“We really do live by the saying ‘the customer is always right.’” Brad Stewart, CEO, Intermountain Plantings
“There’s a hurdle or a challenge in putting commercial crews in residential landscapes,” he says. “(We figured) if they can run those big jobs, they can handle the smaller ones. They’ve created their own way on how to be effective and efficient on these projects.”
And that’s what Kimball prides his company on most: its ability to adapt at any level of the company.
“I feel like if you have people you feel like you have to micromanage, you have the wrong people or the wrong person,” Kimball says. “We try to build that in. We tried to build a culture where we can make decisions at the lowest level possible.”
Stewart says the company’s trust in employees was on full display when a large residential builder was well behind on its own landscaping.
They hired Intermountain Plantings to finish the job in 30 days.
Despite initial skepticism the work could get done, it did. Intermountain Plantings put all divisions of the company to work, and Stewart says it’s actions like this that speak volumes to their clients.
“We probably had 60 landscapers on site. It almost looked like they were being driven by an orchestra. They were working together in tune,” Stewart says. “We finished the job in the time requested even though it was an unrealistic request. It’s things like that where you can go from being a provider to a partner.”