What the Experts are Saying

Updated Mar 15, 2013

Landscape Rof The Untitled 1Here’s what got these pros through the recession.

While on the Landscaper of the Year cruise in the Bahamas, we asked the 2013 finalists and winners what helped their business survive and thrive this past year. Here’s what they had to say.

Rene West, Executive Landscaping, Pensacola, Florida: We merged two companies together. I bought a competitor of mine that had a heavy emphasis in maintenance, whereas we had a heavy emphasis in construction. Ours didn’t taper off bad only because we were fortunate enough to win jobs that projected out two and three years. We saw the writing on the wall, and we wanted to be more into the heavy-maintenance market. We were than able to grow the maintenance side by almost 20 percent this year.

Darin Brockelbank, Metro GreenScape, Charlotte, North Carolina: We doubled our advertising budget when things went down. We’ve seen the benefit of that in the past six months because as people have dropped off, there’s more market share. We’ve had a lot of good market penetration. The people who have money are spending money. They had to know who to go to, and they had to see it in different places.

David Barglof, Mid Atlantic Enterprise, Williamsburg, Virginia: We added highly crafted construction services. We did a lot more general construction work this year than we normally would do. We did remodel-type work because we have highly skilled construction craftsman on the payroll to keep all of our work in house. In a year that was not going the way that it normally goes, having those people on board really pushed us back over the edge and made it a profitable year for us.

David Adams, Landscape Associates, Aldie, Virginia: What made the difference for us was working with repeat clientele. We went back to our existing clients and added additional phases of work. Our fall is really what made us this year. When we see a downturn in the economy, which always takes a few years to recover, we see where we can go – whether it be going into more established neighborhoods, talking with existing clients more or working in a new neighborhood/construction.

Landscaper of the Year finalists, including Jason Cromley (shown here), listen to a variety of landscaping success stories.Landscaper of the Year finalists, including Jason Cromley (shown here), listen to a variety of landscaping success stories.

Jason Cromely, Hidden Creek Landscaping, Columbus, Ohio: What we discovered this year is really trying to let the clients know that they have hired us to manage the project, and we don’t need them to manage us. We brought in top designers and landscape architects who have been able to take our thinking to another level. Jobs that used to go for $100,000 now go for $200,000 because they’ve added expertise and elements.

Matt Seiler, Hidden Creek Landscaping, Columbus, Ohio: The biggest difference is the continued customer service, networking, talking and building trust with property managers. The managers love to rebid, so it’s important to blow them away, give them a fair price, bring things up, own it and move on.

Rod Pappas, Xeriscapes Unlimited, Phoenix, Arizona: The Phoenix area got hit pretty hard with the recession. Landscape companies were sprouting up left and right, taking 100 to 200 home contracts, and construction was just going nuts. We had to convince our clients we were the experts. We were able to team up with municipalities and some of the water divisions there and find ways to get them to possibly rebate their water usage.

Jared Latour, Total Turf, Wappingers Falls, New York: You don’t have to be the highest-paid person on the payroll, but every team member should give clients high-quality service. Some people hire maintenance companies that just mow and blow to save a dollar, and they get what they pay for.

Dsc 0209Nancy Marshall, Smalls Landscaping, Valparaiso, Indiana: We’ll do project management, and we’ll get the pool people and the electricians and whatever else needs to be done. I found I was doing that any way, but I wasn’t getting paid for it. I started charging for doing all of that. That was a huge eye opener, because I would always go on projects and tell the customers before I even had the job what they needed to do and then they would end up hiring someone else to do it.

David Katz, Elite Landscaping, Poughkeepsie, New York: I think the key to our increase in revenue and profit this year is that we sub out virtually nothing and have always charged for our services. It’s not about brain surgery. It’s about being lean. We expect our crews to do a lot since it’s a two- or three-man crew. Our prices have gone up annually since 2010 about 6 to 10 percent.

Michael Madarash, Kokobo Greenscapes, New York, New York: My outlook was just to hit singles for a few years. It was hard to hit the triples and grandslams. Our clients have to buy into our mentality and philosophy. For them to spend $500,000 to $700,000 on their rooftop terrace, they have obviously made very good decisions in life. We are big proponents of qualifying clients before they come to work with us.

To learn how to become a finalist in Total Landscape Care’s Landscaper of the Year program, click here.

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