Retain to gain

October 1, 2010 -  By
collinsworth

Photo: Ben Collinsworth

Ben Collinsworth, CEO of Native Land Design in Cedar Park, TX, says his key to success this year was simple — he didn’t try to reinvent the wheel.

“While many others in our market and industry are trying to add revenue in a bad economy, we have tried to get better operationally in our business and give our current customers more attention and better customer service,” Collinsworth says. “We want to spend our time trying to retain our current clients instead of hitting the streets trying to add a lot of new people to the mix.”

Focusing primarily inward on existing clients has lead to organic growth for the company. In fact, despite the down economy, Native Land Design is looking at bringing in a little more than $9.2 million this year in revenue. Last year, they brought in $7.6 million. And for the past three years, Native Land Design has made the Inc. magazine list of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in America with 108.5% growth from 2005 to 2008.

In Cedar Park, TX, people are starting to spend money again, Collinsworth says, and that’s allowed his company, which is driven by 90% commercial work, to grow without having to pick up a ton of new clientele. But Collinsworth did pick up a few big jobs this year, which also helped growth. The economy has actually created a unique situation in which Native Land Design has had the opportunity to get some work that was previously unavailable. “Jobs went up for bid that had been tied up with one landscape business for years,” he explains. “There were companies out there that had their budgets cut and they had to shop around for a lower price. That has allowed a business like ours to secure projects that previously weren’t even available for bid. So, in some ways, the economic situation has actually helped us.”

While the economy allowed Collinsworth to get some new work, it also led to his biggest challenge to overcome. As a relatively young company, Native Land Design found it difficult to find the funds they needed from local bankers. Collinsworth overcame this by looking for the right lending opportunities out of state. “We actually had to look nationally,” he says, “to make sure the funding was available to finance the equipment we needed for growth.”

Operationally, growth has also required more equipment and labor, Collinsworth points out. The latter is another area where the economic situation has actually helped. “Because the construction industry was so hard hit by the economy, there’s some good talent that’s readily available right now,” he says.

While the company has made some pretty big strides in growth, Collinsworth says he’s looking to be conservative in his plans for continued growth. In the past, the company grew too quickly — going from a $4 million business to a $10 million one in just two years — and that almost put them out of business. “We’re anticipating 7% to 10% growth for next year and think that’s a comfortable, conservative number,” he says. “There are a lot of clients who cut back services, and we’re hoping they’ll start spending even more next year and add some of those services back. So we’re looking at growing again without having to pick up a lot of new clients.”

LM Staff

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