SOUTH FEATURES


Results Count

Georgia firm's lawn care recipes keep clients happy
By Debbie Clayton




Sonny Haywood hooked up with Alternative Environments Landscape Management, Inc. in 2000 and directs its successful seven-visit turf management operation.
Image courtesy FMC

When Sonny Haywood and Alternative Environments Landscape Management came together in 2000, it worked for both parties, but has been a bigger win for their customers in northwest Georgia.

Operating as a single-proprietor landscape company in western Georgia for many years, Haywood frequently subcontracted his fertilization and weed control services to Alternative Environments, based in Villa Rica, Ga. The company provided complete landscape maintenance services to commercial accounts, whereas Haywood served a mostly residential clientele.

"Once we got together, we began covering all the bases," says Haywood, now director of turf management for the company. "I kept all my customers, so it allowed me to continue what I started."

Alternative Environments Landscape Management

President and Co-Founder: Matt DuCharme

Director Tree & Shrub Division: Sonny Haywood

Founded: 1996

Headquarters: Villa Rica, Ga.

Markets: Carroll Co., Cobb Co., Douglas Co., Fulton Co, Paulding Co, Austell, Bremen, Carrollton, Dallas, Douglasville, Hiram, Lithia Springs, Marietta, Powder Springs, Tallapoosa, Temple, Villa Rica, Winston and other Metro Atlanta communities

Services: Landscape design, residential turf services, commercial landscape maintenance, fertilization & weed control, tree & shrub care, pest control, erosion control, decks, arbors, fences, irrigation, landscape lighting, patios, walkways, retaining walls, sod, trees and shrubs.

Website: http://www.alternativeenvironments.com

In addition to fertilization and weed control, Haywood manages the tree and shrub division, handles flea and tick control and runs a new tree preservation division. The company also offers pest control, erosion control and building services.

With three technicians and spray rigs, Haywood's team handles customers throughout northwestern Georgia, mostly on the western edge of Atlanta. Their seven-application program "starts in January and ends in December," he says. "We never seem to stop." Commercial customers include a large hospital chain with multiple locations, several industrial facilities and churches with soccer and baseball fields.

"My philosophy is to never promise anything you can't deliver," adds Haywood. "An educated customer is the best kind of customer. We are out on the properties seven times a year, whereas they are in their front yard every day. We teach them what to look for so they can provide valuable feedback."

Callbacks can kill you

That feedback helps Alternative Environments keep callbacks to a minimum. "I don't believe in callbacks," Haywood explains. "In this industry, callbacks can kill you. If you take time to do the job right the first time, you won't have to worry about callbacks. I use the best product available for the particular situation and the time of year."

Haywood visits all new accounts to measure and determine what products to use on the property. He develops a "recipe" of control measures tailored to each situation. Lately, his go-to postemergence product has been Solitare herbicide from FMC Professional Solutions.

"Solitare gets the job done right the first time," says Haywood. "It controls the whole gamut of weeds we find in our customers' bermudagrass and zoysiagrass turf, including crabgrass, sedges and broadleaf weeds like Virginia buttonweed."

Often, Haywood's newer accounts haven't received any attention for months or years. One new account sits on a big corner lot in a nice subdivision. "It was dandelion and crabgrass central," he adds. He decided to treat the property with urea, a preemergence treatment of Dimension and a postemergence application of Solitare.

"Within two weeks, the yard was green as a bean," Haywood relates. "No weeds at all and a color that knocked your eyeballs out. Nothing's worse than getting a brand-new customer and having them be unhappy because we didn't solve their problem."

Alternative Environments hired an outside sales person two years ago to concentrate on the commercial end of the business. His work has paid off with an increase of 20 percent in maintenance contracts, resulting in more work for the Turf Management division, as well. Haywood's accounts increased by 30 percent over last year and he added a new spray rig this year.

"I loved taking care of lawns, but I'm glad to be on this side of the business now," he notes. "When my sons decided not to go into lawn care, I told them I'm getting too old to be out dragging hoses. Combining our operations has worked out well for Alternative Environments and me - it's a win-win situation."

Debbie Clayton is an experienced writer and editor who lives and works in Philadelphia, and frequently writes about the lawn care industry.