The Yardstick: Q&A With Chuy Medrano, CoCal Landscape

Self-made entrepreneur Jesus "Chuy" Medrano, CEO & President of CoCal Landscape in Denver, CO shows how far a keen business sense can take you.


The Yardstick: CoCal Landscape

A Timeline Of Accomplishments

CoCal Landscape

Jesus “Chuy” Medrano, CEO & President, CoCal Landscape


By Christine Menapace
From the February 2023 Issue

If you want a real success story, look no further than Chuy Medrano. Though he came from humble beginnings, today he owns a large, full service landscape company. He is also a family man, ranch owner, horse-rider, dog lover, mentor, steward of environmental awareness, advocate for minority rights, and was the first president of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance. Here’s more from Medrano in his own words:

1. When, why, and how did you start your business?

The idea to start the company began in 1991. Tom Fochtman and I came together with the idea of starting our own landscape company. Tom was a colleague of mine. We both worked for Environmental Care Inc. (ECI). Tom worked out of the California branch and I was in Colorado, hence the name CoCal.

Tom and I spent 1992 doing the market and equipment research. We developed a business plan and in December of 1992 we incorporated as a small landscape company in Denver, CO. I was 38 years old at the time. We sent four business plans to four different banks and three of those plans were rejected. Only one bank responded and interviewed us. This bank was interested in helping us out, but they needed more collateral from us. Tom’s sister lent us $60k of her portfolio as collateral and we paid her back in interest for that investment.

That bank, whose name I can’t recall, is now Wells Fargo and we are still with this same institution 30 years later. We had 0 clients at the time we started, but by the first year we ended up with three or four customers with lots of properties. We started the company offering maintenance contracting and snow services. We also did lots of irrigation and renovation work. We ended the 1993 year with about $636,000 in revenue.

2. Please describe your business now.

Currently, we are a full-service commercial landscape company offering lawn care; commercial landscaping design and installation; irrigation and water management; tree care services; hardscaping and outdoor living spaces; asphalt repair; holiday décor and light installation; and snow and ice removal. A commitment to environmental sustainability is at the heart of our business. Our client base is about 275 customers. We have over 300 employees, including seasonal employees. We have one corporate office and run six satellite locations that serve our customers throughout the entire front range of Colorado.

“I believe my company has grown because of consistency and the quality of work performed. It means doing things right the first time, and not having to return to fix work.”

CoCal Landscape
CoCal employees and customers at the company’s first golf outing in 2017.

3. What is your educational background or skill set? Is there a degree/continuing education class/skill you would recommend for success?

I only finished primary school in the small town in Chihuahua, Mexico where I grew up. I had to quit school since in order to continue studying, I would have had to leave my town and move to a city that offered middle school. My family just couldn’t afford it, so I had to begin working at a young age to help my family out. I never stopped working and never returned to any kind of schooling after that.

I’m a self-made entrepreneur with a keen business sense. I began working in landscape as a laborer and quickly moved up the ranks. Through that time, I also learned English and was able to communicate between my superiors and my fellow co-workers. When I was promoted to Landscape Superintendent, I was also recruited to help train and motivate other Latino workers in various branches of ECI. This is where I realized that I enjoyed training others and I feel I was quite good at it.

Regarding industry certifications, I was able to obtain my Certified Landscape Technician (CLT) and a Chemical Applications Qualified Supervisor license with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

4. What do you see as the main reasons why your business grew successfully?

I believe my company has grown because of consistency and the quality of work performed. It means doing things right the first time, and not having to return to fix work. Other reasons for our success include:

  • Good public relations and standing by our reputation.
  • A strong commitment to our community.
  • Developing strong work relationship with customers and developers.
  • Loyalty from my employees and vice versa to my employees.
  • Establishing good relationships with other owners and/or competitors both local and nationwide to network and collaborate on new strategies and technologies.
  • A good partnership with Tom, we both had lots of knowledge about the industry. We always had a clear vision of where we wanted to go and how we were going to get there.
CoCal employees surround Medrano — as well as his cartoon character!

5. How did you set yourself apart from competition?

We set ourselves apart from the competition because we deliver quality, consistency, and good customer service. Right at the beginning, we had a good sales partner who had a great sales strategy. We had a clear understanding of the market in our area. WE were hungry, and we went for it.

Chuy Medrano
Medrano with CoCal Office Manager Glenda Markham at a company event.

6. What was your best business decision?

My best business decision was picking the right partner.

7. What was your worst business decision?

My worst business decision was joining a captive self-insured program. (Captive insurance is a plan where a business owner forms his/her own insurance company to fund losses.) It was the most expensive decision in our company’s history and haunted us for 20 years.

8. What was your funniest business experience?

Going deep sea fishing after drinking all night with our net working group. I really paid hard for that one.

9. What’s your favorite piece of equipment/landscaper tool?

My favorite tools are channel locks [or slip-joint pliers] and a basic screwdriver! I use those tools to fix just about everything.

Multiple generations: Medrano family members and CoCal employees.

10. What is your advice to others? What do you wish you had known?

Get good insurance, attain a good lawyer, and be properly represented by both. Get good business counseling. Make sure you are always protected. Also look for good financing and establish a good relationship with a financial institution to have access to capital to help finance your equipment and company needs. Don’t use your cash, always use someone else’s money.

11. What is your plan for the future of your business?

Continue to enjoy running CoCal until it’s time to pass it on to my children. Run your business successfully until it’s not fun anymore and then you can look for other avenues to either sell, acquire to grow, or pass it down to the next generation. After I officially retire, I plan to travel some with my wife. I would like to spend time here in Colorado playing golf and raising my horses as well as time in Chihuahua at my ranch in my apple orchards. I have been a big contributor financially to an orphanage deep in the Chihuahua mountains, Casa Hogar Miscericordia. I would like to spend time helping build more rooms for the children and just generally being a bigger help than I have been able to in the past.

For more on Medrano, read the write-up on the CoCal website.

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