Working the land

November 7, 2014 -  By

Large property management provides a robust revenue stream for this New York contractor.

After graduating from Syracuse University with a background in natural resource management and forestry, Kyle Byrne wasn’t so sure what to do with the “rest of his life.” While he started out as an arborist, he quickly recognized a hole in the green industry for what he calls “full-fledged land management.” The result: He decided to fill it.

The service itself varies from site to site, says Byrne, president of Trec Management, based in the Catskill Mountains region of New York. It could be on the forestry side with jobs including harvesting, seedbed prep or planting. At press time, for instance, Byrne was working on an installation job of 150 white pine and red spruce trees to recreate a woodland environment. Or, the focus could be on encouraging native species. No matter the job description, Byrne says the service is all about looking at a large property as an entire ecosystem—as opposed to just looking at the turf. And it’s no small feat. Land management projects typically range from 20 acres to a few thousand acres. Byrne says most jobs are in the 100- to 250-acre range. Three-quarters of his jobs are residential in the form of large estates or second homes.

“Setting up the client with a long-term management plan that focuses on the property as a working ecosystem is a big part of what we do,” Byrne says. “These are structured plans that outline what should be done each year.”

Most of Byrne’s projects are in the five- to 10-year range, but one’s planned as far as 50 years into the future. Those clients are thinking about their grandchildren, as well as their property’s impact on the environment on a larger scale.

In terms of pricing these jobs, Byrne says it varies greatly. A low-end job might start at $50,000, while a large job could quickly go north of $2 million. The company is on retainer for some clients. Others are on a contract basis.

To service these jobs, Byrne has invested more than $3 million in equipment, including 35 pieces ranging from “small” units (i.e. compact track loaders) to massive excavators.

Beyond equipment, Byrne says the secret sauce to be successful in this service is knowledge. His background in natural resource management has been critical. Byrne says the philosophy behind land management is looking at the “big picture.” How do systems interact with everything from water to vegetation to man-made structures?

“All landscapers could benefit from paying more attention to how these things work together—even if they’re not going to get into full-fledged land management,” he adds.

Byrne says his seven-year-old business has grown rapidly by word of mouth—30 percent to 40 percent per year. He attributes this to “creating a market that wasn’t there.”

“There are some great landscape companies in my region, but nobody was focusing on ecosystems or land management,” he says. “Any time you can find a true need, you have the opportunity to create a new market and build business with pretty much zero competition.”

Business Breakdown

Company: Trec Management
Location: Tannersville, N.Y.
Service: Land management
Revenue: Not disclosed
Employees: 30 to 35
Why: To meet a need for a contractor who understands complete ecosystems
Biggest Challenge: “My age,” President Kyle Byrne says. “At 31, I’m young in the industry and need to be able to convince clients that I’m qualified and experienced.”
Best Tip: “I like the quote, ‘See the forest for the trees,’” Byrne says. “Looking at the big picture can help any landscape company do a better job.”

About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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