Ryan PateraOwner, Patera Landscaping, Omaha, Neb.
Green Industry Pros: Tell me about your company.
Ryan Patera: It’s my brother Jeff and me, and then our other brother was in there as well, who is now a doctor. In 1996, my brother started mowing grass. He’s seven years older than me, so we started just mowing neighborhood yards, but 2005 is when it turned into a mature landscaping company. My brother and I had been mowing lawns long before that. We started with one crew of two to three employees and us. When I joined on, we were really focused on getting rid of all mowing. In the last three to four years, we’ve opened that back up so that we have more of a commercial presence. We primarily do residential custom design and installation. That would account for 80 percent of what we do during the season. About 20 percent of it is commercial, mowing, maintenance and landscaping. We do snow removal for commercial. As far as number of employees goes, we probably keep on 20 during the winter, and we grow up to 75 to 80 during the season.
Green Industry Pros: Did you always know that you wanted to be part of the green industry?
Patera: Even when I was younger, I was helping where I could with mowing and picking up leaves around the neighborhood. And then, for a little bit, my brother and I were both mowing on our own accounts, and that was kind of goofy, so we teamed up. That’s all I’ve ever done. That’s all he’s ever done. So, we both knew we wanted to be doing landscaping for a career.
Green Industry Pros: What have been some of the successes your company has encountered over the years?
Patera: We’ve had the success year over year trying to grow, and we’ve done a pretty good job of that. In the last seven to 10 years, we've seen more growth than the first seven to 10 years. That’s in part because we’ve gotten more systems in place. When you’re young, and you’re showing it off, you’re doing it with your buddies or whoever can help out for a day or two. And when we could take that leap of having designated foremen and supervisors and office staff, that’s when things can actually grow, and we could perform better service for our customers because we got a lot more talented people that are doing it for a living compared to a little summer gig.
Green Industry Pros: On the flipside, what have been some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
Patera: You hear a lot finding staff, but I don't know that that's necessarily the case. I could fill a staff position really quickly, but finding talented staff and finding people that want to grow in a company is more difficult. We tried to combat that with having good training. We’ve had success stories where a guy was No. 3 on a crew, and he worked his way up, year after year, learning what to do, and we put him in charge of a crew and he’s been with us for almost eight years. We put a lot of trust into our staff training, finding people that are willing to work and people that are willing to learn as they go.
Green Industry Pros: What’s your favorite tool to get the job done?
Patera: We’ve been able to benefit greatly because of the SingleOps software that has helped us streamline our estimating, tracking crews, their numbers, all that kind of stuff. That would have been something that we could have probably done a little bit sooner and gotten great benefit out of it.
Green Industry Pros: Building on that, what advice would you give to other landscape pros just starting out?
Patera: For somebody that’s looking to grow, rather than taking over everything from answering the phone to installing on the walls, take that hat off, hand it to a guy and say, ‘Hey, you're in charge of this.’ Have trust in other people, and they might make mistakes because that’s what happens. I know a lot of people feel like they can’t have somebody else do something because they might not do it as well as they can, but you can end up being a lot more productive and get a lot more done in your day if you put the right people in place to do half the stuff for you.
Green Industry Pros: What’s your favorite part about being in the green industry:
Patera: The easy answer is to see the finished product, but truthfully, it's working with the guys being able to give them a career, being able to have guys come back year after year excited and learning the new things that we can do. It’s developing people where day one, they might only know how to put down mulch, but three or four years later, they're building beautiful patios and hardscapes and things like that. So to me, it's being able to train somebody, being able to see them progress, being able to see what they look like when they first came in versus now and the pride they take in their work.
Green Industry Pros: And finally, what kind of things do you like to do outside of work?
Patera: I’ve got two kids and a wife, so anything I could do with them. If I can take them fishing or hunting with me, that's going to be my No. 1 choice.