Land Care, Inc.
Rob Diaz, president and CEO, and wife Joy Diaz, executive vice president and CMOFounded:
Las Vegas, Nev.Market:
Las Vegas, southern NevadaServices:
Planning, design, installation, remodel, maintenance, irrigation, arbor care, consultationEmployees:
How do you stay in business in what just about everyone agrees is one of the toughest economies in the United States? If you're Rob Diaz and his wife Joyanna "Joy", you work a little harder, and definitely think outside the box.
The owners of Land Care, Inc. (LCI) have based the business on teamwork, faith and a marketing program that's integrated into literally everything they do.
A Florida native, Diaz came to love the West while serving in the Air Force. In 1996, when his time in the Air Force was complete, he remained in Las Vegas and started a business.
"I wanted to run my own company, control my own destiny, and I loved being outdoors," he says. "I also liked what the green industry had to offer me."
Landing more than a client
Before too long, one of the things it offered was a wife. Joy explains that she was planning to renovate the landscape of the home she owned. When the contractor she'd originally called couldn't take the job, he recommended Diaz. "He knew Rob did great work and was a great guy," Joy says.
Husband and wife, Rob and Joy Diaz, below right, divide the duties within 16-year-old Land Care, Inc. Rob handles many of its technical responsibilities, while Joy is mostly responsible for sales.
PHOTOS COURTESY LAND CARE, INC.
Today, the couple is a team, with Diaz serving as president and CEO of LCI, and Joy filling the roles of executive vice president and CMO.
"I think the key to our success is that my strong points are his weak points and my weak points are his strong points," says Joy. "And, I know which of our clients is able to understand Rob's approach and which clients do better with my approach."
For instance, she says she makes more of the sales calls because she loves meeting people and thrives on the business relationships that have been built over the past two decades.
On the other hand, she says Diaz is great at explaining the technical intricacies of a job; he excels at thinking outside the box and derives great satisfaction from a job well done.
The other thing they've maintained over almost 15 years of working together: respect for each other. Joy says she's seen more than one family business torn apart by a loss of respect and trust.
"Rob is smart, he's aggressive and I have the utmost respect for him because he walks the walk," she says.
However, the LCI team is much more than just the two of them. Employing upwards of 60 people based on demand, Joy says all of them are working toward the same ends.
"We believe in empowering each person within our company," she says. "Everybody is moving in the same direction. We provide the vision for the organization, but they believe in that vision and we're all fighting for it and in this economy that can only be accomplished through teamwork."
Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in LCI's marketing, which begins with every truck being clean and washed and with a readable logo on its sides and every crew member in a clean uniform and builds from there.
Posting and communicating
As the head of Land Care's marketing effort, Joy is particularly excited by the company's electronic presence. The current website was finished last year, and LCI is embracing social media in the forms of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
"Our budget is limited because we'd rather put our money towards keeping people employed," she says. "But the team is out there taking pictures and posting, and we're more than a year out as far as some of the posts we have scheduled."
Still, she says it can't replace honesty, integrity and good customer service. In a tight market, Diaz says those are the reasons his client base picks LCI over the competition.
"We think they choose us because they recognize ethics, honesty, good character, local roots and my military background," he says. "And, they value our longevity and participation in the community."
His reputation for honesty has helped close many sales over the years, she says, admitting that he's skeptical about the idea of upselling.
"We don't feel we need to upsell because the sale is the upsell already," he says.
Joy elaborates by explaining that when LCI makes a proposal to a would-be client, it's already the best option for that job.
"Sure, people can choose between a large tree and a 15-gallon tree," she says. "But we're listening to our client, surveying the area and making recommendations based on their needs, wants, wishes and budget."
Joy adds the goal of LCI's team is to help the owner create a vision and see that vision to completion, whether it's a commercial client needing to reduce water consumption or a residential client wanting to design and install an expansion of their living space.
"We are full service," she says. "We've been working here a lot of years and have a lot of connections to people. We love to create the entire experience the client wants."
While Land Care Inc. is recognized as knowlegeable and skilled in designing, installing and maintaining desert landscapes, there's room for turfgrass, too, believes Rob Diaz, who discribes it as a "quality of life" issue.
Working with nature
When Joy uses the term "full service," she means it. LCI has won awards for its maintenance program. The company also likes to be involved in the early design stages of commercial projects. It's not unusual for Diaz to be called in to work hand-in-hand with project architects due to his knowledge of plants and what care they'll need to thrive in the Mojave Desert.
Not surprisingly, because of its desert location, water and sustainability are big issues for LCI. The company is involved in both the U.S. EPA's WaterSense program and the Southern Nevada Water Authority's (SNWA) Water Smart Contractors program.
"We first became involved with SNWA in 2003 during their drought project," says Joy. "At that time the perception was we had to rip out all the grass in the valley. It really affected our industry. We believe you can conserve and you need to conserve, but there are also quality of life issues that have to be considered."
However, Diaz says along with the SNWA, other regulators offer their own challenges.
"It seems that small business is an easy target to squeeze from by raising taxes, raising fees, the cost of fuel, cost of insurance, cost of employees; the list is endless," he says. "My costs are climbing while my profits are plummeting. It takes character, fortitude and faith to grow through these times and see them as an opportunity to become more efficient."
Still, he says, in business he takes a great deal of satisfaction from finishing a job on time and on budget and seeing how perfect it looks when it's done.
"I also take a lot of satisfaction from knowing we didn't cut any corners to squeeze more money out of a job," Diaz says. "We finish with a clear conscience."
And, on the personal side, he loves that his business gives him the freedom to be with his family whenever he needs to be.
Come what may, Rob and Joy Diaz are looking forward to the future and the changes it may bring.
"If things aren't changing, then they're standing still or going backwards, and those are two places I won't go," says Diaz. "Whatever the changes are, we are ready for them."
K. Schipper is a writer and editor specializing in B2B publishing. She is a partner in Word Mechanics, based in Palm Springs, Calif. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.