Whiplash recovery

October 1, 2010 -  By
Bouwman

Photo: Jan-Gerrit Bouwman

Grant & Power Landscaping has been through some major whiplash, but has come out better on the other side of things.

In 2008, the company had its best year by far. In 2009, it had its worst. “That catches you off guard,” says Jan-Gerrit Bouwman, RLA, MLA, ASLA, senior landscape architect and partner of the West Chicago, IL-based company. Now, for 2010, things have stabilized and the company is even tracking 5% to 10% growth over last year. With the economy still somewhat shaky, they’re thrilled with that success.

This year, all departments grew over 2009 and estate maintenance is currently ahead of where it was in 2008 — the company’s best year. Grant & Power has also seen huge growth in snow removal, due not only to a large snow fall, but to an increase in new customers as well as a 90%-plus retention rate.

One reason for this year’s growth, says Bouwman, is clients are loosening their grip on their purse strings. The company has a customer breakdown of 60% residential/ 40% commercial. “In 2009, customers were angry, anxious and not spending at all,” he says. “In 2010, people are more relaxed, more secure and more value-conscious again. We are known for high quality and excellent service. Customers know we will be around, even with a bad economy, and that is now paying off.”

But Bouwman says a lot of factors went into their success this year, including the fact that with three partners, the company operates as a “triangle.” “That’s one of the strongest structures,” he says. “Each partner works on their own areas of strength. Also, the owner works on the business — not so much in it. That makes a big difference.”

Owner Gene Grant Jr. manages the company from his home office more than 2,000 mi. away.
The company also increased marketing efforts in 2009 and 2010 to try and keep their name out there, even when times were rough. “We do a lot of branding and want to convey ourselves as being the experts,” says Bouwman, adding that in 2009 the company spent 2.4 times what it spent on marketing in 2008, shifting away from Yellow Pages advertising toward Internet pay-per-click advertising via the company’s own website. “We try to be No. 1 in quality and service — not necessarily the biggest company out there.”

Grant & Power Landscaping is also heavily promoting sustainability, forming a “Green Team” of several employees who meet and discuss ways to continue improving. The company offers native plants, rain barrels and rain gardens, permeable pavers and organic lawn care fertilization as greener options for customers. The company also reduces, reuses and recycles 95% of its green waste and started e-invoicing this January.

One of the hardest areas the company has had to overcome was the need for layoffs when things got really rough in 2009. They needed to lay off 20% last summer and Bouwman says it was important that the company do it as fairly as possible, while showing employees they really did care about them. The employees were obviously upset but understood the company had no other options. When things improved this year, all but one employee was hired back.

In the end, Bouwman says, it’s those employees who have made the biggest difference in growth. He says it’s the people behind the company that keep it strong. And to show their appreciation, employees were given an increase this year. “Our employees all push in the same direction and are truly caring when it comes to the company,” he says. “And they are unbelievably hard working. Without them, we are nothing.”

LM Staff

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