Incentive to grow

October 22, 2014 -  By
Standfuss

Headshot: Drew Standfuss

Barely out of high school, Drew Standfuss pounded the pavement with a John Deere riding mower looking for work. At 19, Standfuss decided his father’s concrete business was not his calling. Now 25, he has a 4-year-old commercial mowing and landscape maintenance business called GreenScape Lawns, located in Whitehall, Mich., with 2014 revenue projected at $210,000.

With encouragement from his father and uncle, who both own construction-related companies, Standfuss has grown the company through old-fashion methods. He expects the business to thrive as he focuses on hard work, recurring revenue and a new employee incentive program.

Persistence pays

In some ways, Standfuss is a throwback to previous generations. He prefers face-to-face communication over email and he built his client base through cold calling.

“My business grew from $39,000 in the first year (2010) to $108,000 in 2011,” Standfuss says. “A lot of that has to do with cold calling.”

The other key, he says, has been building a professional image for his company. All his trucks display a logo and are well maintained, which sets his business apart from other companies in his region, Standfuss says.

In his first year, he secured four commercial accounts. He pursued commercial clients because he believes they pose fewer barriers to entry than residential customers.

“Your main contact point with a commercial client is not spending their own hard-earned money, so they’re more likely to take a chance than a homeowner,” he says.

To ensure crews meet landscape maintenance standards, GreenScape Lawns implemented a $25 cash bonus each week for flawless work.

To ensure crews meet landscape maintenance standards, GreenScape Lawns implemented a $25 cash bonus
each week for flawless work.

The winter after his first year Standfuss decided he needed to ramp up the business. He concluded that cold calling would be the best way to market his company because it was the fastest and least expensive way to acquire more customers.

When Standfuss called, one out of every 10 companies he contacted would listen to his pitch, he says.

“It was a struggle for a while, but I was persistent,” he says. “I kept calling the ones who didn’t answer the phone.”

Managing growth

GreenScape Lawns grew quickly, and Standfuss hired his first employee in his second year. As the company expanded, he needed credit to purchase equipment—not an easy feat for a young entrepreneur. A friend referred him to a local equipment-leasing company, which approved a loan of approximately $15,000. He used the money to buy a trailer and a high-powered blower. “That made my company grow 10 times over—just being able to have that line of credit and the right equipment,” Standfuss says.

Standfuss now has four employees and two crews that handle 53 accounts. He plans to add a third crew in 2015. Most of his accounts are midsize commercial properties, including some pizza shops, gas stations, banks and a school. Overall, 90 percent of his business is commercial or government/municipal accounts and 10 percent is residential.

His primary service is mowing/landscape maintenance (70 percent). The remaining 30 percent of his business are miscellaneous services, including snow removal. He also offers custom concrete services, which accounts for 2 percent to 3 percent of his company’s revenue. Standfuss plans to continue focusing on mowing/maintenance because it provides a more stable income compared to installation work such as irrigation or design/build services.

Pushing perfection

lawn2For Standfuss, the days of cold calling are winding down. Most of his business now comes from customer referrals, which he attributes to increased brand recognition. “People notice our uniforms and trucks as a brand now, and that helps draw in business calls,” he says.

But he hasn’t allowed complacency to set in. As GreenScape Lawns has expanded, Standfuss realizes he needs systems to maintain high standards. This year, he implemented a bonus program to keep his crew focused on quality. He noticed quality could slip when his employees became distracted by personal problems or had a long day.

Now, he spot checks properties each week to verify the team has met the quality criteria. If the properties pass inspection, each employee receives a $25 cash bonus at the end of the week. GreenScape Lawns employees already are paid well, Standfuss says, so the bonus is “icing on the cake” for them. Employees have been receptive to the bonus program because they’re receiving extra money for routine tasks, he adds.

Standfuss evaluates the crew on edging, mowing lines, trimming and cleanup. For instance, all fence lines and areas around trees must be consistently trimmed. In addition, there must be zero customer complaints for the bonus to kick in.

So far, the ploy has yielded positive results. Standfuss says he’s noticed employees are more careful about “little things,” such as trimmers causing damage to trees. When Standfuss conducts his checks, he rarely has to withhold a bonus because employees are more focused on quality.

“They receive their bonus about 90 percent to 95 percent of the time,” Standfuss says. “I’m open to giving higher amounts as needed as long as this program keeps working.”

Photos: GreenScape Lawns

Katz is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

 

About the Author:

Katz is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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