Bland Landscaping is latest to get private equity backing

January 4, 2018 -  By
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Logo: Bland Landscaping

Apex, N.C.-based Bland Landscaping Co. formed a financial partnership with Prospect Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm.

Brothers and second-generation owners Kurt Bland, CEO, and Matt Bland, CFO and COO, will continue to lead the company. They retain “significant ownership” in the firm, which is expected to serve as a platform for growth and acquisitions. Specific terms of the recapitalization were not disclosed.

“We’re really excited about it and what it means for our future,” said Kurt Bland. “Matt and I feel really lucky to have found a company that thinks like Prospect does and comes in as a partner.”

The goal is to grow into a regional commercial landscape player through organic growth and acquisitions. Kurt Bland said the company expects to first “saturate the Carolinas” and then move into surrounding areas, potentially Atlanta.

Bland Landscaping, founded by 1976 by Kurt and Matt’s father, Tom Bland, ranks No. 97 on the 2017 LM150 list of largest landscape companies with $19.3 million in 2016 revenue. The company is expected to do $25 million this year.

Headquartered near Raleigh, N.C., Bland Landscaping operates in the state’s Triangle, Triad and Charlotte markets. It recently opened a new branch in Wilmington, N.C.

CCG Advisors, an Atlanta-based mergers and acquisitions firm, represented Bland Landscaping in the transaction. Freeport Financial Partners provided financing for the recapitalization.

Why now

The Bland brothers began looking into financial options in 2017, although “doing something”—whether it was a merger, becoming employee-owned or another option—has been in the back of their minds since they rejoined the family business more than a decade ago after graduating college and working elsewhere.

In college, the brothers and roommates would half dream, half joke about their “50/50/50 plan,” which was for Bland Landscaping to be a $50 million company by the time the business turns 50, which is the same year Kurt Bland turns 50.

“We always had plans to see the business reach a level beyond what traditional business ownership would let us do,” Kurt Bland said, referring to the risk associated with being a pass-through entity and the capital requirements that come with rapid growth. “We knew one day we’d have to do something that gave us some extra ability and edge. But we never knew what it was. To me, where we ended up is the most attractive of the options: getting the equity partner to back us and give us access to capital.”

More so than meeting a financial goal, Kurt Bland said making a move like this is about ensuring the company can provide a career path to its current and future team members.

“At some point you have no choice but to grow,” he said. “We want this to create long-term opportunities for the people that lead the business.”

Acquisitions are part of the strategy moving forward. Kurt Bland said the team is “actively looking” and plans to initiate one in 2018. The company has not acquired companies before, although it considered it many times. Bland is targeting commercial maintenance companies in the $5 million range. Kurt Bland expects there to be opportunity among retirement-aged owners without successors or young companies with growth potential that lack access to capital.

“We want to find companies we can add on to our platform,” he said, adding the company has been successful scaling its systems regionally with the integration of its software and its human resources program.

Meanwhile, the company has been growing at about 15 percent to 20 percent a year on its own.

“Acquisitions are important because we think there’s good opportunity out there, but organic growth has gotten us to where we are,” Kurt Bland said. “We have really strong sales momentum and we’re in markets that are growing really fast. Raleigh is on fire and Charlotte is really strong—we’re up to our seventh crew down there. So we’re not going to let the acquisition interest take over organic growth.”

With the company’s new partner, Kurt Bland sees the company hitting his and his brother’s 50/50/50 dream ahead of schedule.

“I’d like to be able to say that in five years from now we’re a $50 million a year business,” he said. “That’s a reasonable goal with what we’re doing.”

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

2 Comments on "Bland Landscaping is latest to get private equity backing"

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  1. Tim Depp says:

    I’m a business owner in the same region as Bland. We as a company have watched them grow over the past 18 years. We are a smaller player in town but certainly look up to this market leader. Kurt has always been a class act and leads a very highly respected company.

    Congratulations on the partnership. I look forward to seeing you grow the company to your goal!

  2. Congrats to the Bland Team! Bland is one of the best landscape co. in our area. I got my first taste of professional landscaping experience working for Tom there while in high school. Early hours, tough & dirty work, (early did I say early?), knowledgeable staff and jobs done right. Really gave me a beacon to achieve towards when I started my co and to this day.