Back to basics

October 1, 2010 -  By
Chris Angelo

Headshot: Chris Angelo

Operating from the garage of their home in the San Fernando Valley, Richard and Charlene Angelo launched Stay Green, Inc. in 1970 with a truck, a handful of residential customers and a vision.

Richard’s sense of professionalism drove customer satisfaction, and the business grew quickly through referrals. Today, the company  has more than 200 employees working in three divisions — landscape maintenance, plant health care and tree care.

In tough times, sticking to the basics of where one started really counts, says Chris Angelo, president of the Santa Clarita, CA-based business and son of Richard and Charlene. That’s what’s helped Stay Green grow the business despite a challenging economy. “It’s why we got into the business in the first place — or, for me, why my father founded it — and that’s to provide exceptional customer service,” he says.

In trying times, Chris Angelo believes it’s more important than ever to be connected to the client. “We do not lose sight of the clients and what they need,” he says. “We achieve that with things like monthly walk-throughs and working with them to find solutions that will help them stick to their budgets. These include water retrofits, water efficiency savings or changing annual color beds to perennials.”

These types of efforts, have kept client retention above 95% this year, despite the economy, Chris Angelo says. He’s also been empathetic toward his clients who are struggling, and that effort has been appreciated. “We recognize most landlords who own commercial properties, whether office or retail, have conceded rent rates as much as 30%,” he says of his all-commercial base. “That means we’ve had to be flexible enough to provide them with a price that fits their budget this year. That flexibility and willingness to work with them has allowed us to keep high retention rates.”

Stay Green focuses largely on landscape maintenance and grew that division by 9% this year, which Angelo sees as a great success during the recession. Overall revenue is tracking to grow slightly, but any growth in this market is also a success.

In addition to a focus on customer relations, Angelo says growth was also achieved with smart planning. “The secret to success is aligning our estimating with our current productivity,” he says. “That means working on productivity efficiencies in operations and building specifications that work for the different client market segments.”

Of course, Angelo also recognizes he can’t do any of this without good employees, and he’s turned some of the focus on them as well. In fact, he says helping them through these difficult times has been one of his biggest challenges. “The most difficult thing is morale in today’s economy,” he says. “People we work side-by-side with are having financial challenges of their own, and it’s tough to keep their spirits up in these darker days. We have employees who have spouses who lost jobs and no longer have a dual income. That’s a reality for many.”

Angelo says he has made a real effort to boost morale this year. “We are offering more company appreciation programs, including a picnic that will have around 400 or 500 people in attendance,” he says. “We’re doing what we can to keep our employees motivated.”

LM Staff

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