Landscape Business Names IDEAS
The biggest companies in the landscape industry didn’t get there by chance. Hard work, business intelligence and a willingness to try new ideas all play a part in any company’s success. The trick is finding good ideas to try.
This year, Lawn & Landscape took an alphabetical approach to its annual Top 100 list, picking out the best ideas, strategies and programs from some of the best companies in the industry: Nanak’s Landscaping used cloud computing to gather all its employees’ knowledge in one place. Dennis’ 7 Dees diversified into retail garden centers to help smooth out cash flow and safeguard against market instability. Urban Gardener pursued LEED-certified jobs. ISS Grounds Control implemented a quality control system for its jobs.
All of these things aren’t necessarily easy to implement, but they aren’t hard to do, either. Your company might not start building zoos overseas and open up offices in Dubai like ValleyCrest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t branch out into new markets in your region – or new regions entirely.
So, check out the ideas and see what might work for your company as you finish up 2010 and start planning for 2011. Maybe next year, you’ll see yourself on this list.
We make every effort to identify and contact companies via e-mail, phone and fax to gather the data to compile the Top 100 list. If you know of a company we missed, please contact Editor Chuck Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-523-5330.
Lawn & Landscape's 2010 Top 100 List is sponsored by:
**Note: Click the image of the Top 100 list below to enlarge, or click here to see the PDF.
A is for acquisitions
With more than 120 offices worldwide, ValleyCrest Landscape Companies has grown from $450 million in 1999 to leaping over the $1 billion mark in annual sales within a decade. A good share of that growth has been fueled by strategic acquisitions.
The acquisition campaign has been in place since the ‘60s and fully engaged since the early ‘90s. Some notable examples include: Omni Landscape Group in 2004, adding $50 million in annual revenue and more than 600 employees, expanding its operations primarily in the Mid-Atlantic; Pine Ridge in 2008 with 200 employees; and Waverly Landscape Associates with sales of $45 million serving more than 300 commercial customers in metro Boston.
A crucial aspect of acquisition is successfully integrating new employees into the company culture. “Our companies are made up of people, ” says founder Burt Sperber. “And we spend a lot of time trying to learn about the people in the company. We spend as much time (as possible) understanding the philosophy of the people more than anything else and ensure that they have similar values that we have.” – Tom Crain
B is for best practices
The last couple of years have not been the ideal time to scour the markets to find new business partners and advisers. Too bad the executive team at Teufel Landscape has had no other option.
Just last year, during the height of the recession, Teufel executives received a call from their banker – a partner, an adviser and a reliable source for credit for more years and decades than many employees have worked for the company. The bank was closing its lending business. Teufel needed to find a new credit source as quickly as possible.
“It could not have been a worse time to look for a banker, ” says Rick Christensen, landscape division manager and a veteran of almost three decades with the company. But that one drastic moment spurred Portland-based Teufel to examine and change major chunks of its business.
Executives drafted a revised and realistic budget, recommitted to employee education and training, increased communication with both employees and customers with a monthly newsletter, and even found a way for the company to fund itself. Those best practices might not seem big, but they have paid big dividends.
“We’re now at a point where we’re comfortable with our size, ” Christensen says. – Matt LaWell
C is for cloud computing
Nanak’s Landscaping was a mess. Oh, the offices and the trucks and the folks at the top were just fine, but the organization of information on bid histories and properties was nothing short of a disaster on par with the city dump.
“Everything we knew about our marketplace was contained in people’s heads, in notebooks, on Post-it Notes, and that was all over the company in little bits and pieces, ” says Sampuran Khalsa, CEO, president and owner of Nanak’s, which has six locations in Florida. “We all felt like we were experts in the markets, but we’d forgotten 90 percent of what was going on.”
The disorganization prompted Khalsa to start work on a cloud computing project that, during the last three years, has revolutionized the way the almost 20 employees in sales and marketing do business. Now, those employees put information into the system right after talking with clients, no matter where they are. They can turn on their smartphone before they even turn on the truck. All those bits and pieces of information – more than 7, 000 jobs – are in the system. No more notebooks.
Installing the system took about a year, Khalsa says, and though it has not been without its challenges, it has been worth the investment.
“There’s really no way, ” Khalsa says, “you can keep everything in your head.” – ML
D is for diversifying
To diversify their company, David Snodgrass, president of Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping & Garden Centers in Portland, Ore., and his partners, brothers Dean and Drew, went back to the foundation their grandparents built more than 80 years ago and bought back a group of garden centers.
The purchase helped stabilize the 200-plus employee company’s balance sheet: 24 percent of its $18.5 million in revenue last year came from residential design/build; 28 percent from commercial bid/build; 18 from landscape maintenance and 29 percent from retail.
“It bucks the economy trend, ” Snodgrass says of his retail division’s performance this year – up when other areas are stable or down. “That goes back to the diversification – the green industry is never hitting on all cylinders in all areas. Sometimes there are pockets of strength and pockets of weakness. Being diversified allows us to leverage the pockets of strength into the pockets of weakness.” – Chuck Bowen
E is for employee engagement
Recognition, innovation and empowerment are the tenets for employee engagement at Ruppert Landscape. By engaging employees, Ruppert management attests, the trickle-down effect starts with satisfied employees who then take ultimate care of their customers.
A shining example of morale boosting lies with employee giving and volunteering. “Our employees bring their ideas directly to us from their previous involvement in church and neighborhood causes already close and personal to them, ” says Chris Davitt, president. “When the cause also includes active involvement versus just a money contribution, it’s a good fit for us.” Popular causes have included a breast cancer walk, feeding the homeless, running a Wiffle Ball fundraising tournament and participation in an Extreme Home Makeover landscaping project.
Remaining decentralized allows Ruppert employees to control their own destiny. “A good way to motivate employees is to never let them get too far from the decision-making process, ” says Davitt.