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‘Burst’ of growth: Color Burst by the numbers

October 16, 2018 -  By
Hanging basket (Photo: Color Burst Landscapes)

Hanging around town Color Burst’s flower baskets sprinkle the streets of downtown Nashville. (Photo: Color Burst Landscapes)

Brian Edwards, partner at Color Burst Landscapes in Brentwood, Tenn., began his career at McDonald’s, starting out as a burger flipper and ascending to area field consultant by the end of his tenure.

With dreams of owning his own business, he bought Color Burst Landscapes in 2003 with his business partner, Frank Chalfont.

Armed with strong branding skills and a knack for fostering relationships, Edwards and Chalfont transformed Color Burst from a $1 million company with 20 employees to an organization employing more than 200 that projects an annual 2018 revenue between $13 million and $15 million.

Color Burst provides 54 percent landscape maintenance—including snow removal and irrigation services—13 percent floriculture and detail projects and 33 percent landscape installations and enhancements to a 75 percent commercial, 20 percent residential and 5 percent municipal clientele. The company currently operates out of five locations. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at a few facets of the company.

800 hanging baskets

Color Burst provides more than 800 hanging flower baskets throughout downtown Nashville. Dotting many of the city’s main tourist streets, the baskets hang from May to October. The company took over the service for the Nashville Downtown Partnership in 2010, when only 310 baskets lined the streets.

Color Burst dispatches a crew of about a dozen workers to tend to the baskets every night between midnight and 6 a.m. The crew members—who were hired specifically to care for the baskets—water, prune and spin the baskets and replace any containers that are not looking up to par. Color Burst keeps extra baskets at its nursery, ready to go if one needs to be switched out.

“The downtown partnership is a tough thing,” Edwards says. “A lot of companies aren’t set up to do it. We’re out there in the middle of the night working while everyone else is sleeping.”

In addition to the hanging baskets, the company services and maintains color displays in specialty gardens, on rooftops and in courtyards throughout the city.

Brain Edwards and Frank Chalfont (Photo: Color Burst Landscapes)

Dynamic duo Color Burst Partners Brian Edwards (left) and Frank Chalfont. (Photo: Color Burst Landscapes)

2 partners

Edwards and Chalfont bought the mowing and floral divisions of AAA Landscape Services in 2003 and began operations in 2004. Neither had ever owned a landscaping company before, although Chalfont, also a former McDonald’s employee, once relandscaped all the McDonald’s locations he oversaw. He also held part ownership of an irrigation-only company.

Over the next few years, the pair worked together to convert the company to Color Burst Landscapes and incorporated additional elements—such as irrigation and snow removal—to become a full-service landscape provider.

Since then, the partners have used their strengths to grow the company by $12 million—Edwards favoring the people side and Chalfont leaning toward the numbers side.

“I’m the busy guy who’s out there working on the brand and the people part of the business, whether that be the internal or external customer,” Edwards says. “Frank has always been the bean counter and more on the business side. We complement each other.”

Employee picnic (Photo: Color Burst Landscapes)

Path finder Color Burst aims to help employees chart their course at work and at home. (Photo: Color Burst Landscapes)

200 employees

With relationship building as a major pillar of Color Burst, it’s no wonder the company has managed to grow its employee base from 20 to more than 200.

“We’ve tried to develop within, so people have a path,” Edwards says, adding that someone who ran a mower last season may now be managing a team of up to eight people.

To help set the course for employees, Color Burst provides optional life skills classes for employees. Topics have included how to create a home budget, how to create a will, how to pass a driving exam and more. The classes are held after-hours for about an hour, and employees are invited to bring their spouses.

“It’s important to offer something that somebody might need but doesn’t know where to get,” Edwards says. “We’ve also tried to create unique benefits—things that are attractive to employees besides just the pay.”

These benefits include the use of a credit union, life insurance, regular crew picnics and barbecues, holiday parties and more. The company also ensures every operations manager carries a cooler in his truck, stocked with cold drinks.

“Even that extra step of carrying beverages for the folks when they’re hot and sweaty and working hard is appreciated,” Edwards says.

1,200% growth

To account for growing by $12 million in 14 years, Edwards once again credits Color Burst’s emphasis on relationships and branding.

For example, Color Burst has cultivated relationships with many local landscapers, who rely on the company to provide flowers on their accounts.

“They may want us to do it because of the brilliant displays that we’re known for,” Edwards says.

Of course, the company has not been without its challenges—particularly with labor and building systems. As the company quickly began to expand, it became clear that vital aspects were missing, such as an employee handbook.

Color Burst streamlined its systems by practicing open-book management—the company’s entire management staff sees the full profit-and-loss statement—and incorporating software, such as LMN. And, of course, by developing an employee handbook.

With these practices in place, the company continually strives to both grow and be an ideal place to work.

When asked about long-term growth goals, Edwards is hesitant to predict what the future holds.

“Nashville is booming right now, but I don’t think it can sustain that,” Edwards says. “I think we’ll still be in great shape, but things may slow down a bit. I err on the side of caution.”

He adds, “I think we make small plans, take it off in small bites and see where God takes us.”

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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