Many small businesses start the same way — usually with a forward-thinking entrepreneurial person or group passionate about the opportunity to make a living doing something they love.
Caretaker Landscape is no different. Twenty-five years ago, Susan Stephenson Harris, a retired banker from Oklahoma, moved to Arizona to relax and play golf. Six months later, in 1988, she started Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management as a hobby.
However, during the next 15 years, she grew the company to such a size that she was right back to working full time. She decided to find a successor and in 1997, she brought Matt White to the team.
The company had 12 employees, 12 clients and 2 crews. White recognized there were great opportunities in the industry. He also recognized there was a lot of work to do with Caretaker Landscape to get it to the top. He knew he needed to focus on two key areas; people and purpose.
Like many company executives, he realized early on that the results of his company were directly driven by the efforts of its team members. When White first arrived at Caretaker Landscape, turnover was high, morale was low and performance was average.
He understood that client retention was directly correlated to employee retention, so he and his executive team focused on corporate culture to attract and retain great people. However, along with his team, White struggled on how to build passion in a business such as landscaping, where the work can be grueling (outdoor labor in four of the hottest months on populated Earth), often thankless, with very high competition and lower wages.
They debated, “How do we keep our people passionate, loyal and dedicated?” They believed knowledge and education were the pathway to passion.
“The more you know, the more you want to share that knowledge and that breeds passion, which in turn leads to pride.” They were on a mission to hire the best people they could find, foster and empower their talents, train and educate them and get them certified.
With the right people on board, Caretaker Landscape had to redefine its purpose. White’s mentor always preached, “Purpose over profits.”
Provide great service and profits will come, he had always been taught. Caretaker Landscape endeavored to be the very best landscape service provider in the marketplace. Each decision that was made had to pass one key question:
“How will this proposed change improve our service deliverable?”
Executive Vice President Todd Schneider, and Caretaker Landscape’s executive team, meet weekly with one focus — to find ways of improving what they do both for internal and external clients.
Now, 25 years after Harris started the business, Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management is one of the largest, most well-respected local Arizona landscape companies, with almost 200 employees, more than 30 crews and more than 150 clients.
Harris sold the business to White several years ago, but its employees know she would be extremely excited and proud.