The Fockele Garden Company
Owners: Mark Fockele and Julie Evans
Year Founded: 1988
Business Breakdown: 65% design/build, 35% maintenance
Customer Breakdown: Mix of high-end residential and commercial accounts
Maintenance Equipment: Four Exmark Lazer Zs, three Scag mid-size walk mowers, two Toro mid-size walk mowers, six Honda walk mowers, RedMax handheld equipment, Ford F-450 trucks with 14-foot boxes
For 20 years, The Fockele Garden Company in Gainesville, GA, has been known as the company to contact when homeowners want the creative design, special installation and unique landscape.
Its properties boast natural-looking water features, sustainable landscapes and incredible attention to detail. With a reputation as a discriminating design/build company, the recent move to energize the maintenance side of the business posed a slight challenge.
“Our design/build division is the core of our business, and maintenance flows from there,” explains Julie Evans, company co-owner and vice president. “Over the years, we have developed a reputation for using a wide variety of plants in our designs, as well as using interesting and lush combinations of colors and textures in our gardens.
“I recently read a quote somewhere that a successful garden designer learns to use ‘uncommon plants in common ways and common plants in uncommon ways.’ I was thinking about this and decided it is a good way to describe how we design gardens; both the plantings and the hardscapes. Because many of our designs and installations are unique and complex, customers want us to maintain their properties, and we do. What we haven’t done until recently was pursue exclusive maintenance accounts.”
Eight years ago, company founder and president Mark Fockele hired Evans to increase the design and sales capability of the company. For the next five years, she and Fockele managed virtually all the administrative tasks within the company, along with doing the design work and overseeing production. “We wanted to expand our maintenance division, but just didn’t have the time to do it,” Evans relates. “It was the same old story of not being able or willing to delegate responsibilities, but we knew if we were going to grow and expand in different areas, we needed some help.”
The owners met the challenge by hiring Todd Brown, CLP, as general manager. Brown had managed maintenance divisions for large contracting companies in Texas and Pennsylvania, and welcomed the challenge to give his new company a higher maintenance profile. Brown says, “The biggest issue we faced was that customers knew us as a design/build company and had no idea we offered many other services, including maintenance.”
In less than three years, Brown and his staff grew the maintenance division from 1-½ to six crews and helped increase the company’s annual revenue by more than $800,000. He did it in part by streamlining communication with current customers, and letting them know that The Fockele Garden Company is more than a sophisticated design/build company. To increase maintenance contract work, he brought in two part-time salespeople, one with extensive knowledge of landscape maintenance and the other well-connected with area businesses.
As Brown relates, there is plenty of synergy between what he is doing now and what the company has been doing for years. “Part of my job is to seek out long-term maintenance contracts,” he explains. “Just like the design/build part of our company, these properties are high-tier, and presumably many of their owners and property managers will one day have a need for our design and installation services. When they do, we will be ready and waiting.”