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Seth’s Cut: Embracing the intensity

March 5, 2020 -  By
Photo: Seth Jones

Photo: Seth Jones

It was a successful trip to Charlotte, N.C., to attend Marty Grunder’s Grow! 2020 and tour Loving, ranked in 2018 as the fastest-growing firm on the LM150 list of largest landscape companies.

Mike Haynes, president of the $35 million firm, opened the doors of his business to some 580 attendees of the event. Haynes has amassed a juggernaut of a company by keying in on the home building boom in Charlotte and has also expanded into sod farming as a way to control his own supply. The company essentially does no maintenance, but instead does quick installations of outdoor living areas — some projects started and finished on the same day.

The Loving way gave Mark DuBois, owner of Quality Landscape in Grafton, Wis., plenty to think about.

“They’re more of a manufacturer pumping out product,” DuBois said to me as we were outdoors looking at the event sponsor’s equipment. “The pace that they turn their installs is mind-blowing to me. It’s an interesting concept; it’s almost the opposite of what we do, but it works for them. There’s a lot of different ways to make money in the landscape industry … you have to pick your lane, be passionate about it and find the best way to do it.”

DuBois and I agreed that Loving had definitely found its lane. I was able to sit down with Haynes over a cold drink to discuss his concept.

“The outdoor living, plus the sod sale, plus the landscape installation, we bundle it all together. It’s super-focused but it’s a pretty simple transaction,” Haynes told me. “When you take the maintenance away? We really don’t need that many people.”

Loving employs just south of 200 people, and they know when they come to work each day, to come prepared. That’s because one of the company’s four key values is to “embrace intensity.”

I asked Haynes what inspired the “embrace intensity” value, because it didn’t seem to fit in with the company’s other core values: honesty and integrity; team-driven winning; and naturally, loving.

“Ultimately, our sod farm grew 105 percent last year. Our landscaping operations grew 41 or 42 percent. I mean, it’s hard!” Haynes told me. “You’ve got to be good at going at a really fast pace. It was the most challenging core value we had, for the words. At first it was ‘passion for intensity,’ then it became ‘embrace intensity.’ You don’t have to necessarily (say) this is what wakes me up … but you have to embrace it. You have to be able to handle the attitude.”

Kevin Endres, president/owner of SiteScape in Utica, Mich., said the tour of Loving impressed him because he was able to see up close the atmosphere that Haynes has created.

“It just seems like one big family, the culture,” he said. “They’re on the same page, and it’s all about the team and how they get to the finish line … everyone can win.”

And when Loving is winning, the team really is winning. For a long time Loving has donated 10 percent of its profits to charitable causes. In 2018, Haynes found purpose for another 10 percent of profits: as a chunk of money to be divided evenly among every employee at the annual company Christmas party.

“We were doing 10 percent for outreach, then we created this language, we call it ‘in-reach,’” Haynes said. “Let’s make sure not everything is going outwards. On days we gave $200,000 to this outreach partner? What about us? What about the guy that can’t pay his bills?”

The company has a lot of big ideas, many of them coming from Haynes — the guy who started out in high school with a clientele of 100 yards to mow.

“I dreamed big, and that was 10 crews. In my mind that would be ridiculous,” Haynes said. “I knew a guy who had a $3 million landscaping company, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be incredible?’ I think that’s the neat thing … we’re obsessed with numbers, but we don’t live for numbers. At the end of the day, we want it to be something we’re proud of. Somedays it kicks my ass at the end of the day, and some days it’s the most fulfilling thing you could ever think about doing.”

This article is tagged with , , and posted in 0320, Editor's Note
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 in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 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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