Rob Reindl has tried his hand at the maintenance business. He's even done some landscape installations. But after spending countless hours evaluating the virtues of running a diversified landscape operation vs. a more focused one, Reindl has determined that residential lawn care presents the best opportunity for his company.
As founder and president of Oasis Turf & Tree in Cincinnati, OH, Reindl is impressed by the exceptional market the Cincinnati area holds for lawn care. "People keep moving into the area and building beautiful homes in nice neighborhoods," he says.
The slowdown in housing starts may have put a damper on that phenomenon, but Reindl isn't too stressed out about it. "To be honest, I don't pay much attention to all that," he relates. "Our local housing market has suffered, but not nearly as much as the East and West Coasts. Besides, our main focus is on tapping into the existing market for lawn care."
Founded in 1996 as a full-service lawn maintenance company, Oasis Turf & Tree made the decision to focus on residential lawn care in 2005. While the company continued to perform maintenance for some of its existing customers, it stopped looking for new accounts. Similarly, Oasis has completed a handful of smaller landscape installation projects for existing customers, but has never pursued that business aggressively either.
Today the Cincinnati-based company is solely focused on lawn care, providing fertilization, insect and weed control, seeding and aeration. Oasis also provides tree and shrub treatments, along with perimeter pest control.
"We've decided to narrow our service offering and focus on a niche," Reindl points out. "Residential lawn care has allowed us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We feel like there are just too many contractors cutting grass. They come and go, but there's always someone there to take their place.
"If we were in the commercial business, it might be different," Reindl continues. "Property managers often prefer to do business with one contractor if possible. But in residential, mowing and maintenance often come down to the lowest bidder, so we're going to stay away from that."
Directing every ounce of the company's time and energy to residential lawn care has paid off. Since 2005 Oasis Turf & Tree has more than tripled sales. Reindl says things are also shaping up well this year. "We reached $1.2 million in 2008, and expect to finish around $1.4 or $1.5 this year," he says.
That kind of growth during a recession is rather impressive, although Reindl is the first to acknowledge that it's not what he'd originally hoped for. "We really thought we'd experience 50% growth this year," he points out. "But that was before the economy turned sour on us. Still, we're really excited about our future. The market for lawn care around here holds a great deal of potential."
To be the best you need the best
Reindl has a staff of 20. Five of the employees are lawn care technicians, three of whom take a layoff after working 42 weeks. The other two technicians keep busy maintaining equipment during that 10-week off-season. Eight of Reindl's employees are sales reps. "We prefer to keep all of our sales reps fully employed all year long," Reindl explains. "That's the only way to get the best--and keep the best."
Reindl says he also likes to invest in making his team even better than it already is. All employees attend the Tri-State Green Industry Conference that takes place annually in Cincinnati, along with the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Regional Seminar. Furthermore, several technicians, and even sales reps and customer service reps, are state-licensed chemical applicators. Employees are rewarded with a substantial pay increase when achieving this.
While the transition from maintenance to lawn care back in 2005 could have been quite the challenge, Reindl used it to his advantage. "Because we came from the maintenance industry, we learned to be very resourceful," he explains. "In order to make a significant profit in maintenance, you have to be as efficient as possible. We applied that to lawn care and created a lot of unique systems."