Larry LaFleur was only 15 years old. But he already knew working on a factory floor – making sprinkler heads, ironically enough – wasn’t for him. So when a friend with 37 landscaping accounts decided to go on a mission trip, Larry happily agreed to take them over. Since he was too young to drive, he brought a 16-year-old buddy with him, and soon they were learning real-world lessons about the realities of running a landscaping business.
“I liked being outdoors and the hustle involved,” Larry remembers. “At that time it was the typical mow-and-go work, but I liked the excitement and seeing how efficiently we could get a lawn done, be off in the truck and on to the next job.”
Meanwhile, Larry’s 13-year-old brother Justin was working for another friend’s landscaping company. “Unlike Larry, I wasn’t as interested in scheduling or the production side of things,” Justin says. “Instead, I was always looking at a yard and wondering how we could make more money by making the homeowners even happier than they already were.”
Even in those days, Justin’s ease and rapport with customers was apparent. “I was always selling,” he says. “I guess now they call it up-selling, but I was just looking for ways to do a little bit more for the customer and get a little extra income in return.”
When Larry left to study horticulture at Oregon State, he sold his landscaping business to his younger brother, who ran it successfully until he too sold out and left for college. “We still thought some day we’d do something together,” Larry says. “Justin’s my brother, but my best friend, too. So we always thought something would happen to let us work together.”
That opportunity came a few years later. By the late ’90s, Larry was home from school and had founded Nevada Landworks. Justin was helping out when he could since school was still his main focus, until 1999, when the company – which was still focused on lawn maintenance – was taking off to such an extent that Justin came home and went to work full time with his brother. But the two of them were still learning to work together and play off each other’s strengths.
The brothers’ differing talents was a potential benefit, but initially caused problems; “Larry would be slaving away working in the yard, and I’d spend two hours talking to the customer about pottery or showing them pictures of landscapes I liked and suggesting ideas to them,” Justin says with a laugh. “I liked the artistic end of it. I liked doing things different. And I liked wowing the customer. Larry, of course, didn’t see it that way.”
Slowly, Larry and Justin began to see how their individual talents could complement each other. They began to branch out from maintenance work and started taking on installation projects. Today, Nevada Landworks is very much a company that reflects the brothers’ talents, the work ethic they inherited from their parents and the family atmosphere that binds them together.
Image is everything
Nevada Landworks is very much an image-oriented company – from the types of landscape designs they create, to the way their trucks and employees look while they’re on the clock. “Image is such a great marketing tool,” Justin explains. “Our crews look sharp wearing uniforms and gear with our company logo. Our trucks are always clean and our equipment is well cared for. These things are intangible, but our customers are inviting us into their homes – inviting us to take care of their homes. It’s important that we don’t look and act like a bunch of slobs when we’re working for them.”
“When you make that initial call to us, you’re going to talk to a live individual 99 percent of the time,” Justin says. “And after I call you back and set up a meeting, I’m going to be there early – usually waiting on you – and remembering your dog’s name, your horse’s name, your kids, anything that’s important to you. I’m going to look at the inside of your home and walk through the yard with you. I’m very, very thorough. And when you get your professional project proposal from me, it’s going to be like a story – sometimes five or six pages. And that story is going to tell you everything that is going to happen from the minute we set foot on your property. And when you’re ready, I’m going to be there with you every step of the way. I’ll be with you picking out rocks, trees, pavers, pottery – all of it. And when we’re ready, Larry’s going to come in with one of our crews, and he’s going to transfer all of these things into reality and make your dreams come true.”
Not surprisingly, this nearly fanatical commitment to customer service relying on the talents both brothers bring to their business has won them rave reviews from the customers they serve. “They are absolutely terrific,” says Arlita Piazza, looking out over the water features in her backyard. They care so much about what they do and treat everyone they deal with like family. They are so talented – they are true artists!”
Larry and Justin are excited about their company’s future. In 2007, the brothers opened their own nursery, managed by their mother, to supply their business and sell plant and landscaping materials to competitors and the public.
“I wish I could tell you how big we’re going to get, but the truth is we don’t know,” Justin says. “It’s not fair to say we’re going to stop when we get to $5 million or $7 million a year because those are just numbers. Our goal is to get big enough to where everybody that works at Nevada Landworks can have a really great life. And that’s not dictated by me or by Larry. That’s dictated by our employees – our extended family. So really, the sky is the limit for us.”