This interview was conducted as part of the 2019 Green Industry Benchmark Report. To learn more about the report, visit https://info.hindsitesoftware.com/2019-green-industry-benchmark-report.
For Scott Huvler, Owner of TD Landscape in Fredericktown, Ohio, working in the green industry has been a lifelong pursuit. “I’ve been in the green industry for just over 30 years. I personally started in this industry back when Tru Green was known as Chem Lawn, working as a fertilizer and lawn care technician. Then in 1988 went to work for another lawn care company. All I’ve done my entire life is work in some aspect of the green industry. In 2011 I had the opportunity to purchase the company I was currently working at.”
“Today, the business earns revenues in excess of $1 million annually and has 25-30 employees. We are a lawn care and landscape company offering design and maintenance of properties. Predominately our customer base is made up of commercial businesses. We also do work for the United States Army Corp of Engineers maintaining dams and facilities. Snow removal makes up the bulk of our work in the winter months. We operate multiple trucks regionally and fill in the areas we don’t service with sub-contractors.”
Between his business and his small farm, Huvler has a very busy - and varied - day. “My day starts around 5:00 a.m. and I take care of the duties for our farm animals. I’m usually at work sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. Crews show up around 7:00 am I’m very lucky and blessed to have great people who work here. Our Operations Manager, Brian Tucker, handles all the crews and gets them out the door and down the road each day. He along with Hunter Huvler, our Sales Manager, handle all of the scheduling of work to be done. My average day is spent working in the office, appointments, keeping in contact with customers and selling new work. I try to be back in the office by 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. to help unloading trucks and getting crews home for the day. Currently I’m in a plow truck and have a route because one of our employees is on a cruise. I think that is pretty common with most owners - you wear what hat is needed for that day.”
“My favorite part is being able to give opportunities to other people. To give them jobs, good jobs, watch them make a living, raise families, hopefully living a good life.
Huvler doesn’t get beaten down by the long hours; instead, he relishes them. “I have a little different outlook on life. Every day is a fantastic day to me when I get up and my feet hit the floor it’s a bonus! I say that truly because in 1984 I was diagnosed with cancer. So I’ve had more than 30 years in remission! I have a wonderful wife, Terri Huvler, who has been through it all with me. Both of my kids are grown and married, my daughter Hope and her husband reside in Houston, Texas, with my son and his wife recently gave birth to our first grandchild Lane.
He also enjoys the opportunities he provides. “My favorite part is being able to give opportunities to other people. To give them jobs, good jobs, watch them make a living, raise families, hopefully living a good life. They don’t let me mow grass anymore because I can’t mow straight lines. I do get enjoyment being able to share the knowledge I have acquired over the years. They don’t like to hear ‘I remember when’ stories, so I do try to limit those. I truly enjoy every day. I really enjoy working in the green industry.”
Short-term, Huvler is looking to grow his business at an aggressive rate. “We’ve already discussed in our planning and budget meetings that we’d like to grow another 20%. This past year we were able to grow at about 24% We’ve already established that within our budget and everybody knows the goals that we’re working towards. This spring we are going to put a small greenhouse at our facility. We are hoping to get involved in some retail for the local community. A local outlet for people here in our community to purchase some of the lawn and landscape items they may need.
Huvler has also done some strategic planning to put together a long-term vision for his company. We are looking at succession planning with our son Hunter as he continues to work towards taking over the company. When we talk about long-term goals, it takes planning and vision. I am blessed to have great employees to help me establish the road we want to travel, my job is to come up with the plan to get there. We are concentrating on the growth of our business while also making sure we are diversified to handle any issues that may come up as we grow.”
Huvler uses a mix of old and new techniques to generate growth. “Social media seems to be working incredibly well. It depends on what market you are trying to attract. Working with a younger generation of consumers who tend to use all forms of social media. We also try to stay involved locally and regionally sponsoring athletic teams, FFA, 4-H and numerous community events. Our office staff headed by Joely Lepley sent different mailers with our billings as well as follow up emails, often customers are not aware of different services that we offer. We also do local print advertising in newspapers and magazines.”
For Huvler, communication is the key to a great customer experience. “We have a really great sales team made up of Hunter and another salesman, Tim Smith. They work great together not only generating leads but also in the follow-up and closure! We work hard to figure out the customer’s expectations. My experience has been that’s where you can get into trouble; you either set the expectations too high and couldn’t reach them or just simply didn’t take time to know your customer. We try to maintain good communication by reaching out to our accounts and asking how we are doing I believe our customers appreciate that.”
Huvler’s been in the green industry for more than 30 years and has seen a lot change. The one he finds most significant is the knowledge customers now have. “There’s just so much more information for them, I believe this has helped us. Customers do a little homework and already know the products you’re using, they also have a pretty good idea on the cost. I’ve found that it allows us to be very transparent in our selling process. Sure there’s been great equipment developed but I like to say that at the end of the day when you’re planting a tree you’re still using a shovel.”
In the future, Huvler sees that changing weather patterns may have an impact on business. “I believe we are going to consider new normal with the weather. Here in Central Ohio we are seeing changing weather patterns. The seasons are lasting longer which are changing the way we schedule our work and labor force.”
“The number one thing that we talk about in every meeting I attend is a labor shortage. This is going to be a challenge not going away, especially in an industry where you still need a shovel in hand to plant a tree. I feel that this is one thing that will inhibit your growth. That’s why as we move forward we see acquisitions as a way to grow because you’re not going to get the labor, you’re going to have to buy the labor pool.”
Technology will also play a larger role in the future. “With the amount of technology and information that’s out there, I find that you’re not being responsible if you don’t utilize what’s available. The technology is out there to tell you what type of mower is best for the right situation and what type of fuel and how long will it run. You know, those are changes in the efficiency of our industry. It goes back to the amount of software, the amount of things that you can utilize within your business. The technology is there and people just have to start to use it and embrace it.“
But above all else, a shortage of labor could have the biggest impact on the green industry. “The number one thing that we talk about in every meeting I attend is a labor shortage. This is going to be a challenge not going away, especially in an industry where you still need a shovel in hand to plant a tree. I feel that this is one thing that will inhibit your growth. That’s why as we move forward we see acquisitions as a way to grow because you’re not going to get the labor, you’re going to have to buy the labor pool.”
Huvler has been able to overcome some of the labor shortage by focusing on the positive, not the negative. “We’ve had a pretty good flow of people coming through. We are about 50 miles north of Columbus so we’re in a rural community. We still have a pretty good labor pool and people still come in on a regular basis looking for a job/career. The truth is I just don’t like to complain about labor because that is what everybody is doing. By focusing on the positive we have been able to overcome these challenges. We’ve been very blessed that we worked well with local schools and we’re able to do some co-oping young teenagers looking for a career. We are also working with a number of retired individuals to fill in the gaps on our crews. We’ve been very fortunate.”
He also leverages unique training opportunities to help his employees grow and improve. “Internally here we try to do some really cool training events. We bring speakers and hold events to help our employees grow with their job but also personally.”
“Internally here we try to do some really cool training events. We bring speakers and hold events to help our employees grow with their job but also personally.”
Though he’s been at it more than three decades, every year brings a new learning experience. “Last year was definitely a year of learning and adapting due to the wet spring. We had the greatest plans in the world and had to throw them out, we were playing catch up the entire year. This winter we have spent a lot of time in staff meetings where we’re talking about scheduling and trying to figure out a way for this not to happen again. When we get behind in the landscape industry the only way you get caught up is to get more people and add equipment. There are still only so many hours in a day that you can get the work done.”
The landscape industry definitely has its ups and downs. By focusing on the ups and positives Huvler has been able to work in an industry that has provided for him as well as many others.