Turf Magazine - March, 2012
Commitment to Success
Team Lewis acquired the discipline it needed to grow by joining the LandOpt Network
Team Lewis Landscaping
Seth Lewis Founded:
Grantville, Pa. Markets:
Hershey and Harrisburg, Pa., region, extending toward LancasterServices:
Landscape design, maintenance and snow and ice managementEmployees:
Up to 20 during peak seasonWebsite: www.teamlewislandscaping.com
Seth Lewis set out to make money as soon as he got his driver's license. At 16 he borrowed the equipment he needed to maintain lawns. Taking care of lawns became his passion and, after graduating from high school, he studied landscape architecture at Philadelphia University and landscape contracting at Penn State University.
Even as a student at Penn State, he actively ran his business. He regularly commuted 99.6 miles to Grantville, Pa., to keep Team Lewis Landscaping rolling along. Grantville, a two-hour drive from State College, Pa., is just northeast of Harrisburg, the state capital. His company, which he founded in 2003, provides landscape design, maintenance, lawn care (mostly organic), and snow and ice management services to residential and commercial customers in and around Hershey and Harrisburg, and east to Lancaster, Pa.
Service with a game plan
Functionality is what Team Lewis Landscaping offers to its clients, says Lewis.
Maintaining exceptional exterior environments
PHOTOS COURTESY OF TEAM LEWIS LANDSCAPING.
"How does this person intend to use their landscape? Long term, what are the benefits if we select this plant versus that? When coming through the design phase, what is low maintenance?" asks Lewis rhetorically. "A lot of people say 'low maintenance,' but what does that mean? And how do you deliver it? Lowest maintenance is having a professional service provider maintain it who is maintaining it on a consistent basis over a period of time."
Property maintenance is done through contractual arrangements. "We're very transparent in the way we do business," says Lewis. "We like to lay everything out. They (prospects) should know exactly what it's going to cost them, where it's taking them over the next handful of years, what is the game plan."
Employees make the cut
Team Lewis Landscaping has 10 to 20 employees, depending on the time of the year and the company's needs. Lewis says he looks for "coachability" in an employee. "I'm looking for someone who's willing to and wants to take it to the next level," he says. "As a company, it's our goal and vision to have multiple locations, and now we have a system in place and a road map where we can take it to the next level for someone who is looking a career and not a job. Somebody who is committed to the company and the community. Someone who wants to grow."
Lewis says it's exciting to him as a company owner to see people in his company get "on board" with its direction and become the ones who "light the fire under the other people to keep it going."
Opting for LandOpt
About two years ago Lewis learned about LandOpt through the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association, and recently signed on with the company as part of its contractor network.
LandOpt licenses the use of its business systems to landscape contractors, giving them access to information in four key areas to help them improve their growth, profitability and productivity: sales and marketing; human resources; operations; and business management. Management modules are supported by success coaching, professional development and best-in-class technology.
"There are a lot of people in the industry and we wanted to know what to do to take it to the next level," says Lewis. "How do we make our company sustainable not only for the company itself, but for our team members and our community? All of these things tie together, because if we can be a solid company, we can contribute to our community. Not only can we do that, but we can contribute to our families and the people we support with the company and provide a good work environment."
(l. to r.) David Silliman, head of territory development, Seth Lewis, general manager, and Daniel Danner, account manager/head of maintenance.
Lewis credits LandOpt for "fueling our success and growth. It has brought so much to the table as far as sales and marketing, operating management, business management and human resources. It lays out that blueprint for us as a landscape contractor to follow."
Spectacular color for all seasons is provided by Team Lewis Landscaping.
Licensing the LandOpt system is like having a personal trainer at the gym, Lewis says. "You go to the gym and run on the treadmill and lift weights. If you go by yourself, there's nobody to push you and make sure you're doing that. If you hire a personal trainer, they're going to be kicking your butt and making sure you're doing the things you need to do.
"There are things you are doing already, but you're having somebody help you be accountable in those areas. What LandOpt helps do is they're a coach we hire to keep us accountable and make sure we're doing the things we want to do as a company."
"We focus on trying to establish long-term relationships with our clients, making sure we can bring more to the table than just putting in some flowers or mowing grass," says Lewis. "Anybody can go out and mow grass and lay some mulch."
One of the ways in which Lewis endeavors to set his company apart from others is to convey a professional image, including uniformed employees. "The guy doesn't have to come in jeans and smelling like gas anymore," says Lewis. "Those days in our industry are going to be over soon. It blows my mind why clients have accepted the lack of professionalism in the landscape industry. They don't expect to get calls back.
"It also blows my mind as to why has the industry settled for that. A lot of time companies have these Requests For Proposals that tell us what to do. The reason the industry got that way was because there have been a lot of people who have not been educated or certified or don't know what they're doing, so the client feels the obligation to tell the contractor what needs to be done."
Lewis built his company to provide "a team of experts" who are educated in the landscape industry and are going to do what's best for the clients in the long run. He says as his company continues on its path of success, its challenge is to be properly prepared for that by ensuring the foundation is solid. That includes not only having the right employees, but the best equipment as well and understanding the company's capacity, he adds. That takes a great deal of planning.
"We're not a company that gets comfortable," he says. "We're always looking to take it to next level. We like challenges."
Lewis likes to get the same level of service from vendors that he insists on giving to his clients.
"A lot of times, the product is similar, so it's the service that's important," he says. "Mulch is the same and flowers are the same, but how is the service? If we're going to get a particular brand of equipment, how is the service? Do they have the parts on-hand?"
Lewis seeks to continue to build his company through marketing methods, including social media.
"We don't wait for the phone to ring," he says. "We target our market or who we feel is our ideal client. Proactive sales are huge and that's really what helps drive our company versus sitting at your desk saying, 'Well, the phone didn't ring today'."
The company's sales representatives go out to meet people and network, Lewis says. "Whatever it takes to establish who's a fit with our organization, because not everyone is a fit," he says.
Lewis is looking to open a second location within the next three to five years. "LandOpt will help do the demographics to find out where there is a solid market for that," he says. "It doesn't necessarily have to be close. Our location could be anywhere else in the country that makes sense. A couple of years after that, we'll establish a third location and keep going."
Maintaining landscapes to perfection is a specialty of the company.
Lewis says the landscape maintenance industry is changing to where it is demanding a "higher level of service and a better level of professionalism from all of our contractors. I don't see that the industry is going to continue to accept the unprofessionalism we were accepting for so many years.
"At the end of the day, mulch is mulch and flowers are flowers, so how are we positioning ourselves to provide professional service?"
Carol Brzozowski, Coral Springs, Fla., is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and a frequent contributor to Turf magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.