Integrity Landscape Management
About Integrity Landscape Management: Founded in 2002, Integrity Landscape Management is a full service grounds maintenance & lawn care company.Their goal is to provide the highest level of service and value that the industry has to offer.
For Benjamin Bodnar, Owner of Integrity Landscape Management near Atlanta, his work is a labor of love. “I love being outside. Honest to God, I’m telling you I have the best job in the world. I tried the office job. I couldn’t stand it. A lot of my relatives do the office job thing, I say more power to ‘em, it’s not for me. “
After graduating from high school, Bodnar went to fire academy, hoping to become a firefighter. But he found that there was a huge applicant pool for firefighters, and they gave preference to those with a military background, which Bodnar lacked. So he turned to landscaping. In 2002, he decided to be his own boss and start Integrity. “I came to Atlanta on a promotion and said you know what, I want to do landscaping myself, so in 2002 I started Integrity Landscape Management, and the rest is history.”
For most of its history, Integrity Landscape Management has been a one-man operation. “For the most part I had been doing it myself. At the peak of the housing bubble, I did have two people working for me, but after that I went back down to a one man show and lately it’s just been hard to find help. They come on board and they don’t want to do the job. In this industry you can’t tap out just because it’s hot.“
Bodnar has overcome the lack of quality labor by investing in equipment that helps him do more in less time. “I really don’t have any trouble getting new work. So as far as me growing the business, I’m finding that I can still take on new clients every year to add to my client base, but I’m also having to invest in bigger equipment. So the bigger equipment or more productive equipment is serving as my employees. I’m doing mostly grounds care now, I got out of construction after the whole housing bubble burst. I do have a trailer with a compact utility loader and attachments. That’s like having a three-man crew. So I can go out on the days in between maintenance visits and knock out a seven or eight thousand dollar patio job in two days.”
As a one-man show, most of Bodnar’s time is spent in the field doing the work. “Usually I get up between 5:45 and 6 a.m. I will go hook up the trailer, get dressed, have breakfast, pack my lunch, fill up my cooler, I’m out the door. I take care of all of the people on my maintenance route. And on my way back, I fill up the gas tank. That’s pretty much the typical day.”
Bodnar uses a different mowing schedule to distance himself from the competition. “Most of my competition will mow every two weeks. The most infrequent I will mow is every 10 days or 3 times a month. I also have those I mow every five days.”
Bodnar’s five-year goal is to maintain tight routes and potentially get some help. “I’d like to have all my customers within a five mile radius. I’d like to have a few people on board. Another thing holding me back right now is not being able to get the help. If I wanted to go out and close on four apartment complexes within a month, I could do it. I cannot get the help to come in. I’m going to have to just make sure that I reduce my route density. In the past I’ve traded accounts; if there was a new account and it was a little far away and I wasn’t making that much on it, depending on the property, we might just end up trading accounts. It just might make sense if they have that customer close to them and I have theirs close to me. It’s more profitable that way.”
To grow in specific neighborhoods, Bodnar uses a mix of old school and new school marketing tools. “The main thing I’ve done, is put doorhangers on the homes of customers’ neighbors. It works really well. So I find that instead of paying for junk mail, I’ll just leave one there once or twice a year, and I get calls from that. I do all my own SEO-based marketing online. My website right now is due for a major reworking right now. There’s a language called Bootstrap, an architecture for websites that I’m doing my next one in. So when that one comes in, probably a few weeks, that should bring in a lot of calls. Other than that, there’s not a lot of marketing I do. I get a lot of referrals.”
In addition to loving what he does, Bodnar loves his customers. “My customers are awesome. I still have one customer from back in 2002. I have real good relationships with all of my clients. A lot of them, when I’m out say ‘Hey Ben, you’re working hard, you want a sandwich? You want water?’ It’s a little bit nicer than when you’re in an office everyday, you go in, do your job, come home. I actually have a relationship with my clients.”
He also thinks it’s the little things that make a big difference. “One thing I always stress with customers when I go out and do a bid is that I want to be a long term provider that you can grow with. I say I want to be here as your needs change for your property. That’s something that means a lot to them. Every year I send out Christmas cards to all my customers. They’ll say, ‘Hey Ben, thanks a whole lot. The companies making billions every year don’t even say thank you, and you’re making Christmas cards.’ I think it has a lot to do with how to treat people. It’s just good manners.”
A trend Bodnar sees that could impact his business is blower bans. “The blower bans are starting to hit the Atlanta area. Certain subdivisions, like HOA level, are starting to ban leaf blowers. Some of them are even banning power equipment. You have to go in with a manual reel mower to get everything done. Use a manual hand-edger to edge the sidewalk. Then you have to sweep the clippings. They don’t even want electrical stuff in there because of noise pollution. It’s about noise pollution. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard, when the neighbor next door has his 15 gallon shop vac vacuuming out his car.”
This profile appeared in the 2018 Green Industry Benchmark Report. Download it today to see how your business compares to that of your peers.