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Inside the Owner’s Head: Mark Borst, Borst Landscape & Design

July 1, 2004 -  By

Mark Borst owns Borst Landscape & Design, a $3.8 million full-service landscape company located in Allendale, N.J. The company consists of three divisions: design/build, maintenance and lawn care. Design/build accounts for 65 percent of the company’s services. The 35-year-old Borst is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America and JP Horizons’ Owners’ Network.

LM: So how did you get started on this crazy journey to becoming a landscape business owner?

MB: In high school, I mowed neighbors’ lawns and worked for a local landscape company. When I went off to Rutgers University to pursue a degree in landscape architecture, I started my own company and worked on Saturdays. When I graduated in 1993, I went into landscaping full-time. In my last semester of college, I was booking work and studying for finals at the same time.

LM: Did you enlist any family members to help run your business?

MB: No, this was strictly something I started on my own. I don’t believe in involving family with business. My sister-in-law works for me, but that’s about it. My wife isn’t involved. I believe family and business life should be two separate things. If you work with your wife, then you’ll end up talking about work at the end of the day, and that’s the last thing I want to talk about. I’ve had opportunities to bring my brothers into the business, but I didn’t do it. My one brother installs irrigation and wanted to create a new division of my company. But I have a great relationship with him and I didn’t want to jeopardize it.

LM: Will you call on your children to take over some day?

MB: If any of my three children (two daughters, ages 8 and 7, one boy, 4) show any interest, that’s great. If not, that’s fine by me too. I’ve seen a lot of children take over their parents’ business and fail. I think they need to be involved from the ground up to have any chance of success. There’s also the selfish factor at work here: if I hand the business over to them, I won’t be able to sell it and make money.

LM: The most famous person you’ve met?

MB: Dave Zerfoss, CEO of Husqvarna.

LM: You have a unique way of getting people out of the yard in the morning, don’t you?

MB: We instituted a raffle system this year to get guys out of the yard on time. The maintenance guys have 10 minutes, and the installation guys have 15. If they get out within that time, they get raffle tickets. The grand prize is a camcorder or TV or something in the $200-$300 range. We’ll also raffle off shirts, hats and mugs.

LM: What other things do you do to incentivize employees?

MB: Every summer, we take a rafting trip. We close the doors for a full day, and the company pays for the trip and pays everyone for a full day. We also have a holiday party and a catered lunch followed by a company meeting to discuss the goals for the year and the bonus program.

LM: You’re really into the financials of the company, aren’t you?

MB: Yes, I’ve loved it since day one. I love running the P & Ls at the end of the month and seeing how profitable we are. We run a bonus program based off of gross profit, and I print out monthly reports to show how we’re doing for everyone, including the guys pushing mowers. I look at business like a game – the object is to win the race, to hit budget, and if we don’t, I feel like a failure.

LM: So what do you do to avoid feeling totally stressed out?

MB: I enjoy spending time with my family, hanging out by our pool. We also enjoy vacationing in Cape Cod. But I try to never sit still. My thinking is always business- oriented. I’ve always put a lot into my business and worked 60-hour weeks.

Borst Landscape & Design participates in JP Horizons’ People Solutions. To learn more visit
or call 877/574-5267.

LM Staff

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