All team members wear similar uniforms but with different color schemes for different market segments.
Photos courtesy Massey Services.
How do you build a successful business that generates more than $160 million in revenues? For Massey Services, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, it's all about turning clients' problems into opportunities.
The company's business strategies have been so successful that it attracts visitors from other companies from around the United States and even abroad who want to find out what makes its operation tick.
The company's genesis dates to 1930, when Joseph P. Walker started Walker Chemical and Exterminating Company. Harvey L. Massey purchased the business in February 1985 and continues on as chairman and CEO.
Massey Services has 115 service centers located throughout the entire state of Florida, as well as in Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
"The types of services we provide, particularly fertilization, insect, weed disease management services, are highly commoditized in the commercial sector and oftentimes hidden within the overall landscaping budget and proposal for commercial landscaping contracts," he says. "It's very hard to compete on a level playing field."
Instead, the company focuses on what it does best and provides an extremely high level of service, says Jones.
"We're not a low-cost provider," he points out. "We don't just want to provide a service, we want to provide a valuable service."
Principals: CEO and Chairman Harvey L. Massey; President and COO Anthony L. Massey; Vice President Adam Jones
Founded: 1930 by the Walker family; purchased in 1985 by Harvey L. Massey
Headquarters: Orlando, Florida
Markets: Florida and select areas of Georgia, Louisiana and Texas
Services: Residential and commercial termite and pest control, landscape care
Only the best
To provide that "great" service, the company endeavors to hire "great" people, Jones says.
"It's not like we're formulating and selling pesticides. We're formulating and selling services to people," he says. "It's critical for us to hire great people to provide our customers with the very best in service. We want to have highly-trained professional technicians who service customers properly, not just applicators or landscape workers. We want professional agronomists who are professionally-trained from a technical sense as well as from a customer service sense."
The company has more than 1,400 team members. Jones says finding and retaining good team members is his company's primary focus. The company recruits from the outside but promotes from the inside.
"I often kid people when we you get hired at Massey, it's like an FBI background check. We look at everything," Jones says.
Massey Services strengthens its work force through ongoing training. Jones provides the organization's training and development, helping to develop collateral materials, initial training programs, ongoing training programs or certification programs.
A staff of doctoral-level agronomists and entomologists produce the company's curriculum and training materials.
"Every operational role in our company has an initial training program that allows a team member to become 'Massey Services' certified within the first month of employment," says Jones. After that, the company provides weekly training programs. A syllabus and a course curriculum are presented in a field operational setting in the service center.
Symposiums (the company calls them "rodeos") are presented twice a year. Each market segment has an all-day training event with a seasonal focus as to what technologies or protocols team members can expect to be rolled out in the subsequent three to six months.
Massey Services stands out in another way: its emphasis on image. Team members are well-dressed, wearing white long-sleeved shirts and a tie as well as an identification badge displaying name and title.
.All team members wear similar uniforms but with different color schemes for different market segments. Those working in commercial pest management services wear an Oxford button-down shirt with a Massey Services logo. Those in the residential pest and termites market wear a white shirt with blue pants, and those in the GreenUP Landscaping Services sector wear a white shirt with green pants.
"Image is important to us. We're looking for a clean-cut look," notes Jones.
The importance of water efficiency and quality arose from Jones' earlier experiences in the industry, during which he concluded landscape problems such as excessive weeds, dead spots and diseases have a direct correlation to improper watering.
"For years, we've been trying to figure out how to improve our customer experience," says Jones. "The level of dissatisfaction in Florida with landscaping services was almost always revolved around improper irrigation." Water restrictions imposed in Florida exasperated the problem.
"You can't maintain the landscape effectively with only twice-a-week watering in Florida during the summer unless it's raining every day and that's not always the case," says Jones.
The company began to look at how to control irrigation systems. Improperly designed irrigation systems were both "a problem but also an opportunity," notes Jones.
Massey Services recognized that offering irrigation services would be a challenge but also an opportunity.
To develop a professional irrigation service, the company sent team members to school to learn about techniques and technologies. Technicians learned about water auditing from the Irrigation Association.
"We focused on trying to come up with a recurring maintenance service that was effective but took an existing, poorly designed irrigation system and modified it initially for higher efficiency or had a plan to improve its efficiency with the customer investing in it over time," says Jones.
Jones points out that there is a significant emphasis on water quality and water quantity in Florida.
Some 50 percent of the water used at home is used outside, and of that, 30 to 50 percent of it is wasted because it's either applied at the wrong time or in the wrong way and has no benefit to the landscape, says Jones.
By redesigning an inefficient irrigation system, the company has been able to help reduce clients' water use in the landscape by as much as 30 to 50 percent. An additional benefit is derived through a healthier landscape with fewer pest problems.
As for quality, the coastal areas' shallow well systems are often subject to saltwater intrusion, impacting the landscapes, Jones says.
"Some metropolitan areas are on reclaimed water and that water is not available when it's needed," Jones says. "They'll turn the water main off, so the only time there is access to the water is in very narrow water windows, which is somewhat problematic.
"They'll also turn the pressure off the main and re-pressurize it. If it's not designed properly, we'll have valve maintenance problems, so customers are constantly calling us because they've got a stuck valve because of that improper restart of the irrigation main."
Protecting the environment
Massey Services endeavors to provide the most effective technical programs with the least environmentally impactful materials, says Jones.
"What we're providing consumers is a quality landscape and the image we're trying to create in those customers' minds is a healthy landscape, not necessarily the greenest landscape or the lushest landscape," says Jones.
The company doesn't over-fertilize because an overly lush landscape creates more need for water, he points out. Also, many pest species are more apt to be feeding in that type of landscape, with diseases being more of a problem, he adds.
"Running nutrient programs that provide the necessary nutrients to create a healthy, vigorous landscape but not overly vigorous is what we're looking to do," Jones says. "We want to reduce pesticide usage as much as possible. We do preventive treatments for certain problems, but the majority of our pesticide treatments are spot-treatments and IPM treatments."
Jones says the company is in the business of getting rid of weeds rather than spraying product on lawns. Oftentimes the better option for a small weed problem in a lawn is to reach down and pull out the weeds rather than head back to the service vehicle and pick up a sprayer with an herbicide in it.
Similarly, Jones says he's pruned more insects off of a shrub than he's ever sprayed.
Looking ahead, Massey Services is going to continue to penetrate its existing markets as well as opening new markets, Jones says. "We do that through an internal growth strategy I call the 'virus strategy'," he says. "We'll take an existing service center in a certain geographic footprint, grow it to a certain size and split it. When we split those service centers, we get a huge spike in organic growth around the physical footprint of that service center."
That strategy is based on the company's "small office" mentality. It increases route density by minimizing drive time and maximizing service time.
Massey Services sees environmentally sound landscape services as offering "unlimited" opportunities.
Acquisition is another strategy.
"We look to enter new markets where we currently don't have a geographic footprint in through acquisition," says Jones. "Some of it is dependent upon what opportunities there are for buying something in that marketplace, because not every business fits us."
Massey Services' business model has been the same since 1985.
"We say there's the Massey way and the Massey way and the Massey way and there is no other way," Jones says. "That doesn't mean that there isn't another way of doing business. It just means that it works for us."
Massey Services has been recognized in several ways for its success. It's been named by the Orlando Business Journal as one of the best places to work in central Florida and also one of the "Fast Track Five", which recognizes companies that have "the shared traits of keen business acumen, leadership and the ability to grow their companies despite the difficulties of these economic times."
Harvey L. Massey was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 in the services category by Ernst & Young in Florida.
The company's ongoing environmental efforts have earned awards for environmental stewardship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Council for Sustainable Florida.
Jones views the landscape maintenance industry as offering "unlimited" growth opportunities. During the recession, Massey Services performed no differently than in the previous years, he says.
"It's ripe for companies that are nimble and willing to diversify, specialize, expand their service offerings and provide great service. People are yearning for great service," he adds.
Carol Brzozowki is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and a frequent contributor to Turf magazine. Comment on this article or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.