A Timeline Of Accomplishments
Bailey Peer, Owner,
1. When, why, and how did you start Peer Landscaping?
I started this journey in 2016 and became full time in August 2017 when I was 19 years old and living at my mom’s house in Fort Myers, FL. I was attending community college and halfway through my second year of pre-req classes that had nothing to do with what I wanted in life. I’m a hands-on learner and like to get directly to the point. These classes were not cutting it for me. I realized if I worked as hard in business as I did in these classes, I could be successful. I was going to school full time and working part time at a local ice cream shop. I didn’t know what type of business I wanted to start, so when I left school, I started to work full time at the shop. I also did odd jobs on the side, while watching YouTube videos late at night on learning how to write a business plan, how to budget, and how to get started with the $315 I had in my checking account.
My mom was a full-time teacher and supportive of everything I did. She would get home from long days and help me with the backend of building a business—budgeting, bookkeeping, and more. As I got more work, she also helped with routing and scheduling jobs. It was a complete curveball from anything we knew how to do, but together we fumbled through and figured it out.
“Katie and I now spend most of our time marketing, building SOPs for the team, and designing. At this point, we have completed over 500 landscape design projects and each year have grown 100% in total revenue since officially opening in 2017.”
Then, one of my odd jobs was a moving job where I was paid in cash and a self-propelled lawn mower that the client no longer needed. After that, I bought a 3-in-1 kit from Sears that had a weed eater, edger, and blower attachment. I found an affordable, beat-up trailer at the pawn shop for $500. With previously saved money, I also bought my bright yellow Ford Ranger truck.
I began knocking on every neighbor’s door trying to get business. I door-knocked, spread the word, and got myself up to about 80 lawn accounts! At that time, I only offered lawn maintenance. But eventually, I got requests to install plants and do full-on install projects. Although I didn’t have much clue what I was doing, I You-Tubed it, asked my mentors, and figured it out. On my first real install project, I walked into the nursery to scope out plants I was going to purchase. You know that feeling when you’re in 5th grade and you get to go on a really cool field trip? That feeling of joy and excitement all over your body? That’s what I was feeling. The best part, though, was I was getting PAID. To be getting paid and having fun at the same time, a fire started growing.
I met Katie, my wife, at Church. She was a graphic designer and helped me update my company logo and doing little things here and there for branding. As I spent more time with her, I realized how artistic she was. One day after finishing a client meeting, I rushed to Katie and said, “Do you think you would be able to do a landscape design?! I know I can’t do it, but this could be a really great job and it relies on presenting a design.” Truthfully, she had no idea about plants, but she did research and promised she would give it her best shot. That night I went to her house, she started drawing things up, and we created a design plan together that got us the job!
As time went on, I realized she might really help me with the design portion of the business. When it came to installations, our clients wanted to see the vision before the plants hit the ground. As I watched over Katie’s shoulder working on designs, I got more and more excited. I thought it was very cool that the girl I was falling for could also be someone l would work with everyday.
After those first designs, we quickly became a very focused landscape design and install company. We had many, many nights when—after Katie came home from her full time job—we would work on new land-scape designs until well after midnight. It started with hand-drawn designs. Then when we got busier, we started photo-shopping things together. We just progressed from there and now we run a full 3-D landscape design service.
2. Describe your business now.
At this point, we have three designers, two in-field consultation managers, an operations manager, one full time install crew, and two people on the backend keeping everything running smoothly. Katie and I now spend most of our time marketing, building SOPs for the team, and designing. At this point, we have completed over 500 landscape design projects and each year have grown 100% in total revenue since officially opening in 2017.
We’ve also developed a totally separate company to offer maintenance services to our installation customers. This business is one year old and we decided to keep it totally separate because the vision, goals, and overall structure of both companies are so niche focused. With the maintenance company, we have 65 high end maintenance accounts and three full time techs that service the properties.
“What I love about this [story], though, is that it’s such a good picture of culture we have—and always want to cultivate in our team. We want people who are passionate about this industry and have fun together as a family.”
3. What is your educational background or skill set? Is there a degree, continuing education class, or skill you recommend for success?
For education, the first thing is: don’t underestimate the power of learning from mentors and coaches. We have spent countless hours talking with free mentors as well as highly trained, paid consultants. Learning and understanding others’ experiences has helped me gain the most ground in learning about the business, navigating business and client interactions, and performing simple job tasks. Additionally, the Florida Nursery & Landscape Industry (FNGLA) offers many training courses that we have taken part in and continue to attend. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) extension has offered additional training and resources to our company that we find really valuable. Ask and you shall receive. There is an amazing amount of wisdom from the landscapers who have gone before us, and they are happy to spread the knowledge.
4. What do you see as the main reasons why your business grew successfully?
We are niche focused and morally based. We are very focused on just landscape design and install. It’s what we specialize in and it’s all we do. We know we will be the best because we do it every single day and every day we are gaining valuable experience. We have a detailed outline about how every job should go before it starts. We are very focused on the clients’ specific outcomes and we make sure we hit the hammer on the nail each time to make the customer happy. Our customers are our best marketers. Doing the best job we can allows us to gain a new marketing agent for our company.
We run our business by the Book. The values and principles in the Bible clearly outline the way we are to treat others and lead. It helps us cut through all the opinions on what to do in tough situations. It even talks about paying our employees and how we should treat them. It covers a lot about how to conduct our lives as business owners. Sometimes in business, I veer away from the Book unintentionally, but when I do, myself and our employees can feel it. Our company culture is strong and graceful through mistakes, which in turn, gives us time to step back and remind ourselves of what the good Book tells us.
5. How did you set yourself apart from competition?
By being very niche focused we are able to concentrate on the one specific thing we offer and doing it well.
6. What was your best business decision?
Specializing in one field of business rather than be a “do it all landscaper” and take on any job that comes our way.
7. What was your worst business decision?
Trying to grow too quickly. We hired about nine people over one or two months and this didn’t work well for us. We didn’t have the capability to train everyone to the degree we require for our business. Unfortunately, we had to let some of them go because of a not-thought-out business decision on my shoulders.
8. What was your funniest business experience?
When one of our main guys, Cole, was new on the team, his desire for growth was really strong. He was very hungry to learn everything he could about landscaping. His wife came to me after Cole had been part of the team for a few months and said, “Bailey, he’s even dreaming about landscaping. He got up in the middle of the night and while sleepwalking said, “I needed to go water the bushes and the trees,” and then went back to sleep.” The next day we were shooting a marketing video and we told him about the sleep-walking story (which he didn’t know about) while on-camera. It was a great laugh. Cole is a great sport and was happy to have it on video. What I love about this, though, is that it’s such a good picture of the culture we have—and always want to cultivate in our team. We want people who are passionate about this industry and have fun together as a family. Though it’s a funny part of the business to hear stories like this, it’s also one of our favorite parts.
9. What is your favorite piece of equipment/landscaper tool?
The bed redefiner tool. This helps us take a natural edge where the grass meets the mulched bed and leave a very defined edge. It’s such a small and simple detail, but to the eye, it makes a huge difference. That is one of the final touches we love to make happen.
10. What is your advice to others?
I wish someone would have told me about technical schools, the things they have to offer, and not talked down about them. I wish people would stop talking about how college is the only way. Through hands-on learning and other forms of on-the-job training, so much can be learned. Never look down upon yourself or business because you get your hands dirty. The trades are valuable and an essential part of our community. The last thing I would share is do something that you are passion-ate about. It’s okay if it takes a few years of floundering around to different trades/jobs until you find your passion. Give yourself grace in “finding yourself ” in the transition years between school and the real world.
11. What is your plan for the future of your business?
We have started a podcast to be able to strengthen the Southwest Florida Landscape Community. For future and past clients, passionate gardeners, or even other contractors, we will be going over DIY tips, dos and don’ts in landscape, and generally talking about staying up-to-date in landscaping. I’m so grateful for all we’ve learned over the past five years and I love to educate others and spread the wisdom I’ve received. The deepest form of under-standing is teaching. I love this community and educating others is my next step as I continue to learn more alongside them.
Additionally, we will be developing, coaching, and training our staff. Right now, we are in the middle of creating a landscape university in our business to help deepen our team’s understanding of every part of the job. We will be diving deeper into the design portion of our business as we continue to develop and grow our wings. We plan to open a design center in the next three years.