Aside from their owners, Elizabeth River and Evergreen Turf do share equipment once in a while, but that’s about it—everything else is separate. “When Elizabeth River has an account that requires lawn care services, whether it’s fertilization or aeration or whatever, we sub that out to Evergreen Turf,” Fawcett points out.
The primary reason the Fawcetts have decided to keep the companies separate is because some of Elizabeth River’s competitors feed them lawn care work. Showing up to those properties with an Elizabeth River Lawn & Landscape truck could open the door for the property owners to inquire about Elizabeth River’s maintenance and installation services—and that could damage relationships with the other contractors.
Pay as You Go Fawcett is adamant about the importance of relationships: with customers, colleagues, employees and suppliers. “We could not have grown the way we have without the support of John Deere Landscapes and Land & Coates (equipment dealer),” Fawcett says.
Another lesson his grand-dad had taught him is that you should never finance your business with your accounts. “My family’s concept has always been that you pay as you go, and take care of those who take care of you,” Fawcett shares. Fawcett’s mother’s side of the family has owned and operated Fink’s Auto & Body and Fink’s Towing for years. “My company tried doing open accounts with our vendors once, but it got real deep on us real quick,” Fawcett recalls. “We’ve since instituted a policy where we only allow accounts to go $1,500 to $2,000. On a very rare instance we might allow up to $6,000 or so. I just don’t feel comfortable being in a position where paying back debt could be difficult.”
Making this work comes down to one thing: communication. “We have weekly staff meetings, and we lay it all on the line with them,” Fawcett says. “We want to make sure that our managers understand what’s happening from a business perspective. We’re very vocal, and it’s understood that people are going to be held accountable for their actions. That said, there isn’t a manager who works for me that I wouldn’t trust with the keys to my house.”
Next Level vs. Comfort Level
“Trust” is the operative word as Fawcett plots the next three years. “As we look to expand and open additional offices, I’m going to need leadership and strong management right off the bat,” he says.
A second focal point is reputation. When you’ve built up a strong reputation in a given market, that needs to carry over to your new market—which is easier said than done. “Popping off another million in sales with a new branch can help you, but it can also hurt you,” Fawcett says. “Will we be able to provide the quality and service we need to in order to keep accounts? Are they historically high-turnover accounts in general, where the property manager is more concerned with price than quality service? Those are things we have to really think about.”
Elizabeth River Lawn & Landscape is also looking at growth through acquisition. “We have our eyes on a company or two,” Fawcett says. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, that’s OK, too. “We will always remain humble, yet hungry. Right now my organization is an oiled machine, but we need to make it a finely tuned, well-oiled machine—without losing sight of customer service.” At the end of the day, that’s what it all comes down to, regardless of how big your company has become.