Chris Draaistra, Owner, The Grounds Guys of Abbotsford, British Columbia
Green Industry Pros: How did you get into the landscaping industry?
Chris Draaistra: My wife Juanita I were both working for her family’s business in the nursery industry. We were part of the management team and enjoyed working with plants but decided we wanted to start something new. So, we started to look around. Neighborly and The Grounds Guys franchise just seemed to make sense. We loved the culture that Neighborly was generating, and really, that’s what sealed the deal for us: the business opportunity with a culture that assimilates who we are as people. That was in January of 2012.
Green Industry Pros: Tell me a little bit more about your company and your successes as a business.
Draaistra: We’ve been growing every year since then. Being part of a franchise, we have a real support network around us; whether it’s our business coach or fellow franchisees, there’s always somebody that’s willing to listen. We started from nothing and currently employ 20 full-time people and six or eight part-time people. We do lawn maintenance, fertilizing, weed control, irrigation, maintenance, garden maintenance and pruning. We do work for homeowners’ associations and higher-end residential properties.
Green Industry Pros: What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered during your years in business?
Draaistra: We’ve had so many opportunities but not enough employees. Our goal would be to always have more people. We’ve had to make the difficult decision of turning away work. Sometimes it’s work that doesn’t fit what we do, and other times we don’t have the labor. Plus, wages and supply costs have gone up.
Green Industry Pros: Is there anything unique about your company that you’d like to share?
Draaistra: Quite a few years ago, we started hiring people with diverse abilities. There was a point where we were really struggling for staff, so we reached out to several nonprofit organizations in town and started the conversation.
They have people who can help us with cleanups and parking lots, people who need experience in the workforce.
The thing about hiring people with diverse abilities—it gives them a purpose, that reason to get up in the morning. It’s the mentality of ‘I have to do this because it was my responsibility,’ and there’s some personal reward in that.
One of the major benefits for our team is that it creates a new level of grace for each other. When our staff see that we’re willing to employ people with diverse abilities, there’s a level of patience that comes with that. And, this is who we are as a company: We want to give everybody an opportunity.
Green Industry Pros: What’s your favorite part of being in the green industry?
Draaistra: Seeing people grow and change and improve. I’m on a number of boards within the industry, and the forthcomingness of people that would normally compete with each other—they’re really willing to work together. Some other industries don’t get beyond the competitiveness.
Green Industry Pros: What kinds of things do you like to do outside of work?
Draaistra: We’ve got a large family of five kids, so it’s getting out and doing things like hiking, camping and boating. We’ve also enjoyed working in our own yard.