Paul Barbour’s grandmother always told him, “Use what you’ve got to get what you need.” So when his job as an electronic engineer was outsourced to Mexico, he used what he had to start building a new career.
What Paul had was the love and support of his family, some lawn equipment and an old pickup truck. What he now needed were a few customers, a little luck and a lot of patience. “We survived those early years through perseverance, flexibility and God’s grace,” Paul says.
That was 1995. Today, The Yard Barbours in Elizabethtown, IN, has blossomed into a full-service landscape company that cares for both residential and commercial properties throughout southern Indiana and beyond. Sales have grown 90% this year to $1.9 million. “Growth in 2009 was even greater than that,” Paul remarks. In fact, back in 2006, sales were just $200,000.
Paul and his family remain a tight-knit group, each with their own area of expertise and responsibility, and each owning a percentage of the company. They’ve successfully grown the business by focusing on three prerequisites to sustainable growth: a balanced portfolio of clients, consistent customer retention and new lead-generation programs, and an overwhelming sense of pride and passion that filters down through each employee. “These days,” Paul says, “people want to do business with stable companies.”
Small Commercial to Big Commercial
The Yard Barbours provides maintenance, lawn care, installation, irrigation and snow removal services to a pretty even mix of commercial and residential clients, although revenue is skewing more toward commercial accounts every year. Paul says offering new services has helped spark sales growth.
Much of the recent growth can be attributed to an expansion into larger commercial markets. “Our hometown is small, so we’ve had to look at other avenues,” Paul points out. “Now we’re looking at working on a statewide basis. We feel comfortable that we could run an operation like this out of our current 2,500-square-foot facility in Elizabethtown, but we’re also looking at securing a second facility that’s a little closer to the bulk of our commercial maintenance work.”
The Yard Barbours started out by maintaining smaller commercial properties such as banks and funeral homes. Then, through word of mouth, they began picking up residential work. There are few jobs the company will automatically turn away. “We’ve always been willing to go where the market takes us,” says Paul’s daughter Andrea Barbour.
A few years ago, the market began taking The Yard Barbours toward industrial complex maintenance. When those types of inquiries started coming in, Paul and wife Nancy sat down with son Matt to determine if this was something he really wanted to do as a career. He said it was.
Taking care of these bigger commercial properties was going to take a whole new level of commitment. “Getting to the next level always entails money,” Paul says. “One February we sat down as a family to figure out how we could afford to invest in some newer, bigger equipment. We decided to offer a pay-in-advance discount to certain clients, and used some of that money to buy the equipment we needed to take on the new accounts.”
Keys to Customer Retention
A pivotal moment in the company’s history happened when a bank The Yard Barbours had been servicing decided that it no longer wanted to use several smaller maintenance contractors; they wanted one contractor that would service all of its locations. “We had to go with them to different cities we weren’t operating in,” Nancy tells. “It was a risk, but helped us grow our sales a lot.”
A willingness to take risks and go the extra mile are why The Yard Barbours enjoys a high customer retention rate. In fact, 90% of all customers have been with the company for at least four years, while 75% have stuck with the company for at least nine years.