Nearly 30 years ago, Pacheco Brothers Gardening began with a single mower that brothers George and Gary towed on a trailer hitched to Gary’s Chevy Monte Carlo. They mowed lawns, first in their neighborhood, then around their hometown of Hayward, California. Today, the brothers, along with George’s wife, Lynn, head up a 130-employee landscaping firm that specializes in maintenance and turf renovation. “We started off doing maintenance for about 80 homes and then for condominium associations,” George says. “Eventually we got into doing maintenance work for municipalities.”
Performing bid work became the company’s bread and butter. With tight regulations and stringent specifications for bid work, many smaller landscaping companies aren’t willing or able to participate in the bid process, limiting competition to the larger landscaping firms. The Pachecos handle 27 individual cities, as well as a number of school districts. The Pachecos treat the relationship with the client as a partnership, says Frank Palmeri, park superintendent, City of Antioch. “They maintain all 32 of our parks – 225 acres,” he says. “They follow through. They do what they say, and say what they do.”
The company has also found a niche market in field turf renovation. With more than a dozen sports leagues in the area, the Pachecos steadily reclaim sports fields at the close of each season, preparing the surface for the next sport. “Only five or six companies do field renovation in the entire San Francisco Bay area,” George says. “We usually limit work to a 150-mile radius, but will travel farther for field renovation jobs.” Their close association with school districts prompted the Pachecos to become sponsors of North Coast Section sports programs for boys and girls.
Avoiding labor pains
Because of the broad range of services the firm provides, the company has little, if any, downtime. They keep their employees working year round and offer them attractive reasons to stay. Not only does the company give employees medical and dental insurance plus holiday and vacation time, they’ve had a profit sharing plan in place for more than 20 years. The plan matches 40 cents to the dollar on the employee’s contribution. The Pachecos also have a $50,000 life insurance plan for every employee. The company has little turnover, and their workers are dedicated. “Some of my guys are like human backhoes,” George says. “They don’t stop until you tell them to stop. We’re fortunate we have a good crew.”
For the Pachecos, a clear division of labor contributes to the firm’s success. Since George studied business administration in college, he handles the operational side of the firm while Gary, who has a background in graphic design and structural engineering, heads up the design team. Pacheco Brothers is a true family business; Lynn handles the accounts, George’s and Lynn’s son Karl, who holds a business and marketing degree, serves as the operations manager and their son Mark, who studied horticulture at Arizona State, runs the Arizona facility.
George credits some of the company’s success to a regulated growth plan. “We try to create 10 percent to 15 percent growth each year – sometimes 20 percent. But more than that, you have to be careful.” The company also subs out very little – only large-scale concrete work – choosing to do their own tree work, broad leaf control herbicide application, split seeding and hydroseeding, and having specific teams dedicated to each.
On the design side, Gary leads a three-person team that works on everything from fountains to patios, but he notes that they spend a lot of time on irrigation systems. But Gary says that taking on an irrigation system project that another company has forfeited on usually means starting from scratch. “We’re basically redoing the entire system, since we can’t guarantee someone else’s work.” Pacheco Brothers Gardening has also taken on more poolside work. Gary would like for the design team to expand into doing more water features in the future, as well as taking on more projects in the Tri-Valley area, which includes the cities of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon and Danville.
Unlike the maintenance side of the business, which concentrates on municipalities, school districts and commercial projects, Gary’s team spends a lot of time with residential customers, including walk-throughs with the customer. Although he sees it as key to the company’s success, he says it can backfire on him. “I always show them the sprinkler system,” he says. “And every time I manage to get the homeowners soaking wet!” But Gary says it’s crucial to spend time with the customers. “I think our hands-on approach sets us apart from the competition,” he says.