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2022 LM150: How Sperber Landscape Co. went from zero to 60 in three short years

June 16, 2022 -  By
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Richard Sperber, founder of Sperber Landscape Co., says developing leaders is why he got back into the industry. (Photo: Sperber Landscape Co.)

Richard Sperber, founder of Sperber Landscape Co., says developing leaders is why
he got back into the industry. (Photo: Sperber Landscape Co.)

Marking its third anniversary this year, Sperber Landscape Co. has a lot to celebrate. A relative newcomer to the LM150 list, Sperber debuted on the list last year, coming in at No. 17 with $120 million in 2020 revenue and 253 percent growth from 2019. This year, Sperber comes in at No. 8, with $280 million in 2021 revenue and triple-digit growth of 133 percent.

“This is a pure startup,” says Richard Sperber, managing partner and founder of Sperber Landscape Co. “Three years ago, we had zero employees and zero sales. We went from zero to 60 pretty fast.”

While Sperber Landscape Co. might be a newer entry to the LM150 list, Richard Sperber is not. In 1949, Sperber’s father founded ValleyCrest Landscape Cos., a longtime member of the LM150 list. The family merged the company with The Brickman Group in 2014 to form BrightView. Following a five-year noncompete agreement, Richard Sperber founded Sperber Landscape Co. in 2019.

A return to the industry

Richard Sperber

Richard Sperber

He says his decision to return to the green industry came out of his passion for landscaping and gardening.

“I love landscaping and building gardens,” he says. “I actually believe it changes people’s lives and I certainly missed the camaraderie and all the great people that helped make ValleyCrest such a big success and the people I’ve worked with over the years.”

Sperber says in those five years, he also watched as the industry became flooded with private-equity money and how that changed the industry.

“I saw the industry really where it is today, which is almost all decisions are made on a financial statement and bottom line versus what’s right for the business, for the clients and for the employees,” he says.

Sperber says he saw a great opportunity to build another strong operation and “put the band back together” with many of his former colleagues.

“Let’s not say the right thing, let’s do the right thing,” he says. “That’s why I got back in this business to develop great people and leaders that will become the future of this industry.”

For Sperber Landscape Co. it’s about the people. Chris Kujawa, president of KEI; Todd Haslier, manager and training coordinator; Tom Jurasinski, director of operations and Judy Kujawa, office manager; recognize Haslier for 25 years with KEI. Sperber added KEI in 2019. (Photo: Sperber Landscape Co.)

For Sperber Landscape Co. it’s about the people. Chris Kujawa, president of KEI; Todd Haslier, manager and training coordinator; Tom Jurasinski, director of operations and Judy Kujawa, office manager; recognize Haslier for 25 years with KEI. Sperber added KEI in 2019. (Photo: Sperber Landscape Co.)

Growth mindset

In the past three years, Sperber has grown even more thanks to acquisitions with Top Cut Lawn Services, headquartered in Palm Beach County, Fla.; Greenscapes in Naples, Fla.; Conserve LandCare in Thousand Palms, Calif.; Kujawa Enterprises Inc. (KEI) in Milwaukee, and Crystal Greens Landscape in Clackamas, Ore.

In 2021, Sperber continued its growth streak through additions of Bemus Landscape in Orange County, Calif., and Cagwin & Dorward in Petaluma, Calif.

Sperber says these moves help solidify the company’s future.

“The Bemuses, the Cagwin & Dorwards, the KEIs and the Crystal Greens of the world, these are people that I’ve known and have been competitors and cohorts with for 40 or 50 years in the industry,” he says. “We’ve worked alongside them and respected them highly as great competitors and great leaders in the industry, and now I have the chance to work with them.”

He says each acquisition gives his operation a chance to learn a little bit from each entity and improve Sperber Landscape Co. collectively each time a new company joins.

“We’re always looking at our great competitors in the marketplace that have been there forever, and all the great things they also do, and say, ‘Wow, maybe we should be doing a little bit more of this,’” Sperber says. “Now we have the chance to work with a lot of these people and learn from them.”

Sperber says landscape business owners who aspire to make the LM150 list one day should first take a close look at their operation.

“One thing I’ve definitely learned in the last three years going around meeting all these people are there are great businesses out there doing great things. They’re just not $50 million or $100 million (businesses),” he says. 

Landscape business owners with aspirations to make this list should ask themselves: Do you love what you do? Are you doing great things? Are you happy with where you are? 

“I don’t want it to be a number-driven business,” he says, noting that he focuses on the answer to this question: “How do we run a successful business and get people that are passionate about what they do?”

Knowing the why

Sperber says that an eye to the future is a big focus of the operation. He says it’s critical for his operation to find and grow the next generation of leaders at Sperber Landscape Co.

“It’s about developing the people that have the passion and providing them the tools they need so we can have a great business that does the right thing,” he says. “I’m looking at someone’s passion and potential, rather than where they went to college or how many degrees they have. You can train most anyone to use a piece of equipment or software system, but you can’t train someone to have passion.”

Sperber says the “why” is a big component of all training — from teaching a new employee how to run a lawn mower to something more complex.

“Our goal is to share why we do what we do,” he says. “Why do we have to mow the lawn like this? What are the horticultural practices? The why is always the most important, so they understand the big picture and context. It makes people more excited about their job, and it teaches them why they’re doing something, rather than just how to do it.”

Caring for the team

Sperber says the exponential growth his company experienced during the last three years is designed with one thing in mind: looking after his team.

“It gives us the opportunity to develop more people and give people better lives; otherwise, we’d just stay small,” he says. “It’s making sure that we give as many people opportunities and great careers in this industry as possible. I always say without them, there’s no us.”

Read more:

To view the complete list, breakdowns and company profiles, check out a PDF version here.

Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University and has been in B2B publishing for seven years. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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