With a background in high-end residential real estate development as managing director of United-Kingdom-based Catterson Wood, Phil Wood worked a lot with landscape professionals.
“A lot of developers, and obviously I knew lots of developers, they used to treat landscaping as almost an afterthought for development,” says Wood, now the founder of southeast Florida-based United Landscape. “I always knew that the landscaping scheme needed to be an integral part of all designs that are as important as the buildings we were putting up.”
With that perspective on landscaping, and just an overall interest in the United States landscaping market, Wood made the decision around the middle of last year to form United Landscape.
“I finished a big development we had, and I was at, I guess, a professional crossroads, and I thought, if I'm going to do it, now is the time,” he says.
Wood tapped into some industry knowledge with this venture. Dean Murphy, former Terracare Associates and Monarch Landscape Companies executive, and Rick Cuddihe, president at Lafayette Consulting Co., are serving as non-executive directors.
“I think the team we've brought in, they've obviously got an enormous amount of experience with mergers and acquisitions and deal-making and raising finance, but we really wanted them to like the industry as well,” Wood says. “Aside from Dean and Rick, all the other guys we've got in are really excited about the industry, which is really important for us moving forward.”
Wood says a minimum of five acquisitions by the end of 2021 is attainable to come under the United Landscape umbrella. He says United Landscape is a financial sponsor group, which means that he works with a pool of funding sources – rather than operating as a single fund.
He’s targeting companies in the $2-$5 million range with locations in central and southern Florida and a focus on commercial maintenance because of the recurring revenue, but also seeks to provide a wide range of green industry services and with residential customers.
“We obviously like those kinds of businesses who are heavily involved in (commercial maintenance), but we are looking at arborists, lawn care service, irrigation,” Wood says. “We really want to offer the full gamut of services, ultimately.”
He’s also looking for companies that wouldn’t need drastic changes.
“It’s about us making incremental changes rather than fundamental change to the business,” he says. “We don't want to change what has made that business successful, but what we can do is offer our group’s operational, strategic and financial expertise to make those incremental changes, which I think make a big difference to the bottom line of those companies.
“In terms of making big changes, particularly with personnel, we see the personnel as the most important part of the business. It's just about making improvements rather than (wholesale) changes to these businesses.”
Wood says the group is also flexible on what kind of owner is selling.
“If somebody wants to retire, we can deal with that,” he says. “If somebody is ambitious and they feel they've taken a company as far as they can and want a group like ours to help them go to the next level, we can do that. So, the idea is we want to approach each of these companies in quite a flexible manner.”
Visit united-landscape.com to learn more about the company.