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dutchhook
01-07-2007, 04:57 PM
I'm actually following directions for once and I'm introducing myself as requested.
I've been in the industry since 1984 as an owner, built a 5 million dollar per year landscape mgmt contracting business, ran a 12 million dollar landscape contracting branch, sold my business and my non-compete ran out last year. Now, I'm looking to get back into the Green Industry somehow. I just really enjoy the quality of the individuals in this industry and I'm always willing to help others in any way possible.

Steve Hoogenakker

Steve
01-07-2007, 10:10 PM
Hi Steve,

First off, welcome to our forum!

Could you tell us how it felt from owning your business and selling it, to then running a company for another owner?

Why did you sell it?

Mow Right
01-08-2007, 08:15 PM
Quote[/b] (dutchhook @ Jan. 07 2007,5:57)]I'm actually following directions for once and I'm introducing myself as requested.
I've been in the industry since 1984 as an owner, built a 5 million dollar per year landscape mgmt contracting business, ran a 12 million dollar landscape contracting branch, sold my business and my non-compete ran out last year. Now, I'm looking to get back into the Green Industry somehow. I just really enjoy the quality of the individuals in this industry and I'm always willing to help others in any way possible.

Steve Hoogenakker
Out of curiosity, what would a $1m gross per/year lawn mateniece company's profit margin be?

I am wanting to go big in the next couple of years, but a lot of people say that the expences get so big that they make about the same amount of money as high end solo ops.

I refuse to cut grass for more than 3 more years, so I figure I better expand. I don't want a job, I want a business.

dutchhook
01-09-2007, 04:13 PM
In response to your question about how does it feel to sell your business. That's a big question, and important.
My thinking at the time was that I had missed watching my oldest son Paul grow up because I was building businesses. I was being offered millions. Lawn Mgmt outfits my size aren't very fluid. They are not easy to sell. I wasn't sure I'd get another offer like that again. The one thought I couldn't get out of my head was; "I have an opportunity to leave work at work and try to make up my time to my wife and children. Will I be able to forgive myself if I don't take this opportunity, and how wonderful could it be to spend that time?" I decided that I had to send the message to the family that they came first.
The other part of the equation, just as important, was my staff. I had the best staff anyone could hope for. I had a management - sales team of 11 people. THEY WERE THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED UP OR DOWN ON THE DEAL! They turned down LandCare and ServiceMaster 6 times. They kept sweetening the pot. The poor guy at LandCare was very frustrated, saying "I don't know who to deal with. The guy who is supposed to be making the decision isn't,(me) and a bunch of people I can't talk to, are making it. Finally, after getting them hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock options, and a host of other benefits, they voted to do the deal. (7 to 4)
The best part of this was that that management staff pretty much stayed on for 2 years. We had the largest maintenance branch in ServiceMaster, with sales of 12.8 million, and net profit of 1.7 million. That only happened because the staff made the decision and they bought in to the deal. Success wasn't because of anything I did. TruGreen ended up screwing up the company, but I take great pride knowing that most of my staff who were there then, are now successful managers, or owners of their own businesses. And yes, I believe that my family greatly appreciated the decision to try to spend more time with them. Work on succession planning early, and grow the company with an exit in mind and you'll be more successful.

Steve
01-09-2007, 04:21 PM
Steve that is an amazing story!

Are there any specific pieces of advise you would have for those lcos reading this that have had a difficult time trying to grow?

What would you say is the reason or reasons you were able to take your business so big while most other lcos never seem to get there?

dutchhook
01-10-2007, 09:06 AM
I'll answer the second question first. The answer for the first question will become obvious at the end.
The single biggest reason for my growth and success happened on August 1st, 1993. Up until that time, my focus was on equipment, technology, cutting edge production and solid marketing. In 1991, my brother and I had a falling out and he left to run another business and grew it to 2.5 million. We didn't speak for the next two years. Then, just before August 1, I got a call from him asking if he could use our trucks on weekends and evenings! The business he was running was close to bankruptcy and he couldn't insure his trucks. The bank was sweeping his account every night and he couldn't pay for truck liability insurance and GMAC was going to repo 11 vehicles any day. I gave this proposal to my staff and they were adamantly against helping our "nemesis".
I did go with my gut, and helped him. He was so glad that we were willing to help without charging him that he ended up filing a chapter 7 with that business and we picked up most of the accounts and any employees that wanted to come over.
So what happened on August 1? I decided that people, specifically helping people was more important than spreadsheets and spending my money on fancy machinery. I used to look at employees as a cost that once paid, the money went down the rat hole forever and that equipment payments added assets that I could re-sell at some time.
On August 1, to make this deal work for everyone, I decided that money spent on people (the right people) and taking care of them was the best investment I could make. The business took off.
Other things to make yourself successful. Learn, go to Planet conferences and go on tours of landscape facilities, get involved with your local associations and CONTRIBUTE your time. I can almost guarantee that if you are consistent in your commitment to your association that you will receive benefits back tenfold. Invest in your people.
I have literally 220 audio cd's in my truck on self improvement and business. An audio book that I'm going through right now is "Success Built to Last" by Jerry Porras. Tracks 2-8 on cd 1 will allow someone to rethink their entire business direction. The Magic of Thinking Big also helped me even though it is older, it still clarifies thought.
Well, I think I've overdone it and gone on too long. Hope this helps someone. Best of Luck everyone.

Steve

Steve
01-10-2007, 05:33 PM
What a great story. It makes you wonder if reaching your goals is more of a matter of trying to get one big thing right vs. getting a lot of little things right.

Maybe so often we look for the big homerun swing that we miss the smaller steps each and everyday that in the long run take us further.