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Hire slow, grow fast

October 1, 2010 -  By
Larry Ryan

Photo: Larry Ryan

Larry Ryan, president of Ryan Lawn & Tree in Overland, KS, believes the quality of his company’s growth has come from the quality of the people he hires — and that’s an area where the economy has actually helped his business. “A lot of the people who would normally go into the golf course industry are coming to us,” he says. “That industry is overbuilt and currently depressed. We also get a lot of top quality people straight out of the local universities who are anxious for a job.”

Ryan looks at 20 resumes for every one person he hires, and his focus on seeking out the best people is what has grown the company, despite these tough times. He’s expecting between 10% and 14% growth.

Irrigation (which accounts for about 10% of services offered) has been one of the company’s strongest growth areas considering the region is coming off of two very wet years where there was little demand. “A dry season will market our service,” he says. “In 2011, we again expect irrigation to be one of our strongest growth areas.” The company also does 55% turf work and 35% forestry, and services mostly (80%) residential customers.

In terms of marketing, Ryan says it’s the top-notch employees that best market his company. Word-of-mouth is still the company’s No. 1 way of corralling new business, and Ryan says having hard-working, uniformed employees out in the field everyday has also helped rope in new jobs. In addition, he also recently redesigned his website and is looking to generate more of a web presence for the business. “We’ve almost completely done away with the Yellow Pages,” says Ryan. “We find them very limiting.”

In addition to quality employees and a growing web presence, Ryan says his company’s focus on the customer is probably what aided growth the most. The company is in regular communication with all of its customers. “It’s important to have a staff that will take the initiative to call people — and not just the top people but all of the customers,” he emphasizes. “We just had a scenario where someone cancelled our pruning services to go with someone that was $200 cheaper. The employee called them up and left a message thanking them for their business and just putting it out there how important pruning is and how critical it is that they are using a reputable company that will do it right. Within an hour the customer called back and said they’d rather have us do the job right than save a little money.”

Ryan makes a special effort to really focus on the tough customers too, and that’s ultimately helped with customer retention. In this economy every customer counts. “It’s too easy to walk away from that really tough or nasty client, but hanging in longer teaches us to take better care of all our customers,” he adds. “Our customer service is the number one reason we grew this year. We don’t easily give up on any customer.”

LM Staff

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