Maximum Service Landscaping Inc.
Owners: Kevin and Robin Burns
Year Founded: 1999
Business Breakdown: 10% maintenance, 90% construction which includes outdoor lighting, water features, hardscaping and decorative carpentry
95% residential, 5% commercial
Employees: Roughly 15 year-round
Fleet includes: Bobcat 763 skid steer, Bobcat 331 excavator, Wacker 36" drum roller, Wacker and Bomag vibratory plates, BOB-CAT 36-inch mower, Honda 21-inch mowers, Echo & Stihl blowers, Shindaiwa string trimmers, Ford F700, Ford F550, two Ford F250s, three Ford F150s
When running your own company, you can easily end up running yourself ragged. Kevin Burns is a landscaper who's been running for the past 28 years. It's his willingness, though, to run in many directions that's kept him going all these years. In an ever changing marketplace, innovation is key to success.
Today Maximum Service Landscaping in Burlingame, CA, is an award-winning, full-service landscape company that provides clients everything from basic landscaping and hardscaping to water features and decorative finish carpentry. It's a far cry from what the company looked like when Burns got his start during college in 1978. After many attempts at self-employment and years of working for other companies, he began picking up residential maintenance accounts on the side while working for another landscape contractor.
"My weekend work grew to a full-time business," Burns recalls. "I was burning the candle at both ends working 80-90 hours a week between the two jobs. By 1998 my maintenance clients were requesting more landscaping services, so I finally got my contractor's license and struck out on my own.
On January 1, 2000 we began operations as Maximum Service Landscaping Inc., starting out as residential maintenance gardeners. Today our company is 90-95 percent custom residential construction."
Oddly enough, Burns now plans to put more emphasis on maintenance again as he looks for ways to strengthen his company's value offering, cash flow and bottom line profits. Re-establishing his maintenance division is something Burns has wanted to do for some time.
"Our sales hit $360,000 with four employees our first year," Burns points out. "We added a crew and doubled sales the next year. We were just under $2 million our third year. The growth was crazy. We really benefited from the dot-com boom here in Silicon Valley."
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR INDUSTRY INVOLVEMENT
Sales have mellowed some since the boom. Perhaps that's been a blessing in disguise. Burns has kept plenty busy, though, serving on the executive board of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) for the past six years; last year as chapter president. CLCA participation has required a substantial time commitment—time Burns could have spent working on his business. But he wouldn't have done it any other way.
"The resultant exposure has proven to drive sales our way," Burns says. "Without a doubt, getting involved in my local trade association has been just about the best advice I've ever received.
"I started doing maintenance in 1994, worked my tail-end off and went nowhere for six years. The minute I got my contractor's license in 1999, I joined CLCA. I've since had the opportunity to meet fellow contractors and materials suppliers across the state.
"Established, successful contractors have always been more than willing to share information with me that has ultimately contributed to our success. I've learned how to work with legislators, properly estimate projects and train employees. The effort of getting involved is considerable, but the payoff is unbelievable.
"We're projecting that we will get back to the $2 million mark this year with our current workforce," Burns continues. "Maybe I'm an optimist, but we plan to reach $2.5 million in 2009 and $3 million in 2010.