LM150: Making money in Music City

July 1, 2019 -  By
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Country Music Hall of Fame (Photo: The Greathouse Co.)

The Greathouse Co. picked up a contract with the Country Music Hall of Fame about four years ago. (Photo: The Greathouse Co.)

Don Evans jokes that he is a former corporate attorney but is now “fully recovered.” The president of Pittsburgh-based LandOpt says he can tell lawyer jokes all day. How well the former Virginia farm kid can tell a lawyer joke is open for debate, but one thing is certain: Evans knows how to use a good analogy to describe how he hopes to help landscape businesses grow.

LandOpt partners with landscape contractors who want to grow their businesses under a licensing agreement that provides them business tools and processes.

“Our mission is to raise business performance,” Evans says. “In the popular business book, ‘The E Myth’ (by Michael E. Gerber), the author writes about talented bakers … our industry is full of talented bakers who can bake a great pie. Our role is to help grow the bakery in a profitable and sustainable way.”

The LandOpt mission has been successful, which shows in its rise in the LM150 rankings — from a $73 million company in 2018 (No. 21 on the list) to an $83 million company in 2019 (No. 18 on the list).

Beyond lawyer jokes and baking analogies, Evans also can tell a good fish story. Like the way he warns his clients to be wary of doing too much to land that big-fish client.

“We coach our members to catch the right fish,” Evans says. “We want to know our market niche so we are fishing in the right pond, we want to play to our market strengths by using the right bait and we want to proactively sell to the market by casting the line in the right way. When we ‘set the hook’ with a good agreement, then our operations side of the house needs to get the fish in the boat so we can enjoy the meal. I like the ‘big fish’ analogy, but I prefer a couple tasty trout to a big carp.”

Don Evans (Photo: LandOpt)

Don Evans (Photo: LandOpt)

Nashville, Tenn.-based The Greathouse Co. is a LandOpt partner. The company primarily does commercial projects and commercial maintenance and is growing in the residential projects and residential maintenance segments. Will Greathouse is the president of the company (his father Lee is the founder and CEO), and he says
LandOpt has helped the business by implementing a better culture for the company.

“Human resources is a big part. (LandOpt) stresses to put people in the right place, to focus on their strengths,” Greathouse says. “LandOpt has given us the confidence as we’ve grown. It’s no longer, ‘what do we do now?’ They keep you focused on financial planning, they keep you focused on the budget. There are key indicators, and you can talk to 30 other companies to see what they’re doing, and we’re all talking the same language.”

Greathouse believes there is opportunity for real growth in the Nashville market. He says the company could arguably be twice as big as what it currently is in the residential maintenance market — from almost $2 million to $4 million — but it has been cautious about growing too quickly.

“We’ve built our maintenance base somewhat slowly, and we do feel we could be twice as big if we wanted to get real down and dirty, but we’re selective with our sales process to really qualify who we want to work with,” he says. “We like to build relationships first by getting to know people.”

Nashville is known as Music City, USA, so it’s appropriate the company
has the Country Music Hall of Fame as one of its high-profile clients. Greathouse has been working with the Hall of Fame for four years and recently constructed a raised garden for its restaurants. “We do a lot of work in downtown Nashville, the high rises and the amenity level — there are some really cool properties there,” Greathouse says.

Visitors to the Country Music Hall of Fame will notice the recently constructed raised “hillbilly garden” the Greathouse Co. built. (Photo: The Greathouse Co.)

Visitors to the Country Music Hall of Fame will notice the recently constructed raised “hillbilly garden” the Greathouse Co. built. (Photo: The Greathouse Co.)

The Country Music Hall of Fame has been an outstanding client and a good fit for the company, Greathouse says. He agrees with Evans that high-profile clients need to be a good fit.

“A lot of people want to get that big fish, but the big-fish property has been beat down,” Greathouse says. “You go in there and try to show them what you offer, but they know they have a big property and everyone wants to be in there. They get that attitude that this is the set price, and while they aren’t really happy with what they’ve been getting … that is the set price. We come in and show them what we can do. It’s difficult to get that property manager off that budget/price — it’s a difficult sale! We fight that daily. But once we get it, we have a really great retention rate.”

Greathouse reports that over the last five years, the company has grown bigger than ever, from a $2 million commercial company to $6 million in commercial and almost $2 million in residential maintenance. He’s also excited to work for a business that he says is family oriented and a good place to work.

Evans is thrilled to hear of the success of one of the LandOpt member companies. The industry is full of people who are hardworking, honest and good stewards of the natural world, he says. Helping a company like Greathouse succeed is part of the reason he loves what he does.

“While there are some in our industry who confuse ‘busyness’ with good business, we focus on those companies that are good and striving to be great,” Evans says. “I think our focus on financial planning and execution — getting things done — is critical. So many in our industry are lost in the whirlwind and don’t know how to take their business to the next level. Some think nothing of buying a new truck or a piece of equipment but agonize over engaging other business-focused resources like LandOpt. The successful owners are humble enough to know when they need an assist and surround themselves with good people. We enjoy being a part of that success.”

Read more:

To view the complete list, breakdowns and company profiles, check out a PDF version here.

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist of 2014 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 18 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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