Turf Magazine - March, 2013
Big Move in the Lakes Region
N.H.'s Belknap Landscape Company streamlines operations, supercharges tree and landscape services for 2013
Belknap Landscape recently earned its Tree Care Industry Association accreditation, making it a one-stop landscape and lawn care service provider.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF BELKNAP LANDSCAPE COMPANY.
Belknap Landscape Company
Owner: Hayden McLaughlin
Headquarters: Gilford, N.H.
Market: Central New Hampshire
Services: Arboriculture, grounds management, irrigation, landscape design, waterfront permitting, landscape construction, lighting and waterfront permitting
Employees: 100 in peak season
Business development and accreditation are the means to the end of improving Belknap Landscape Company's relationship with its customers, according to Hayden McLaughlin, owner of the company in Gilford, N.H.
McLaughlin bought the original Belknap Nursery in Gilford in 1988, and changed it to Belknap Landscape Company. It's a family-owned, year-round land care company, specializing in residential, waterfront properties and commercial accounts in the Lakes Region.
Recently, Belknap Landscape received its Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) accreditation, and joined LandOpt to fine-tooth its internal business structure.
"With TCIA membership, as well as our new affiliation with LandOpt Group, we anticipate becoming better at doing business with newly refined internal systems that will improve our efficiencies and provide even better customer service than what we are known for," McLaughlin says, adding that that TCIA's accreditation will separate his company from the rest of the pack. He sees the accreditation as a major selling point as most of his competitors haven't earned the same credentials. Even so, he stresses the one-stop nature of his company to his client base. He can stay ahead of the game because clients will want all of those services done by one company.
Andrew Morse, Belknap's director of landscape management, says that Belknap's TCIA accreditation taught the crews tree care information that helps them work together to build trust with clients.
"The TCIA accreditation is a seal of approval and helps Lakes Region consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on industry standards for quality and safety," Morse says. "TCIA also insures accredited companies maintain properly trained staff and are dedicated to ethical business practices."
Belknap Landscape is located in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, which is a vacation hotspot with heavily wooded properties tucked around the lakes that give the region so much charm. Tree care is essential to satisfy the region's visitors. Belknap Landscape puts a priority on continuing education to keep its staff updated on the latest tree care as well as landscape practices, in general.
"As a full-service landscape company we bring more to the table than just a tree care company," McLaughlin says. "We provide one-stop shopping for all of the needs of your landscape, large or small, in the air or on the ground. We are prepared to handle whatever your challenges are with your landscape."
Tree care a must for Lakes Region
Belknap's certified arborists provide the following services for the Lakes Region and beyond:
- Complete tree health care packages;
- Waterfront tree surveys in compliance with the New Hampshire Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act;
- Cabling and/or bracing of weak limbs or crotches;
- Vista pruning;
- Large tree pruning; and
- Large tree removal by crane or with traditional hand-climbing skills.
Belknap Landscape has been offering these services for years, but they're now in the position to broadcast them to a wider audience in 2013.
"While we offer the full scope of tree care services, supported with our crane, rootzone cultivation has been a service we have been doing for a couple of years, but haven't marketed. Our plan is to market the expertise which we have internally and not be just a take-down company," McLaughlin explains.
Belknap Landscape Company provides high-quality property management services and landscape projects for the owners of lakefront properties in New Hampshire's Lakes Region. Note how nicely this feature blends into the wooded lot.
McLaughlin sees an uptick of 10 to 15 percent growth due to marketing the expanded tree care portion of his business. Some of these added tree care services will include large tree root cultivations via a compressed air space/knife, deep root feeding and direct injection of disease pest control services.
In December 2012, Belknap joined with the LandOpt Contractor Network, a landscape business network. Belknap Landscape was honored with exclusive rights within central New Hampshire.
"Despite the significant size of our company, select-refined business practices are still absent," McLaughlin says. "Within the LandOpt Network there are more than 20 other land care providers who are successfully using the LandOpt system. I wanted to be a part of that group and learn from their success."
McLaughlin believes that belonging to LandOpt will help better define the administrative side of his business, as well as make the company run more smoothly. In turn, he and his employees will be able to improve communications with clients and allow the company to expand into new markets using more efficient marketing tools.
The McLaughlins believe in giving back to the community. Here, Hayden McLaughlin instructs students in the local Gilford High School Environmental Club.
"The current size of our company and the reputation in our local markets has been achieved largely because of the dedication and loyalty of both our employees and customers. I believe the benefits of being a 'Powered by LandOpt Contractor' will extend to both audiences. We see this as an opportunity to make something good even better. We expect our customers will enjoy an elevated level of customer service and improved communication. And for our team, the enhanced structure, internally, will clearly define roles and responsibilities, eliminate guesswork and frustration," McLaughlin says.
McLaughlin doesn't hesitate to invest in smart tools if it will help his company work better and smarter. McLaughlin says the company's Safety Record Boards at each of the company's locations show 535 days since a three-day lost time injury and 336 days without a vehicle/equipment accident.
"Safety is paramount; our toolbox talks and training focus on job site attentiveness," McLaughlin notes. "In April 2012, BLC invested in Fleetmatics GPS units. Since installing the units into specific fleet vehicles, the company has seen some dramatic changes in the way associates handle company vehicles, saving the fuel expense by reducing vehicle idle time, virtually eliminating speeding, and allowing the company to hold associates accountable for job-to-job time management," McLaughlin explains.
Focus on marketing
Improved marketing practices are vital to Belknap Landscape's success in New Hampshire. McLaughlin invests in a full-time marketing professional to help create a desire by prospects to hire his company for their land care needs.
"Marketing is something that is or isn't important to you as a principle," McLaughlin explains. "Marketing and being a part of the community are very important to me and my wife. Presence in the local marketplace may not be all that important to others. For us, it is. That's why we have a full-time marketing position at Belknap Landscape. It adds structure to who we are as a company, as well as opens doors for us that otherwise would not be open."
McLaughlin says one of his biggest regrets was not hiring a full-time salesperson from the inception of his company. Sales fell to his managers who were more focused on operations. Selling didn't come naturally to them. He believes this hindered his long-term business goals.
"Full-time sales folks are usually involved in the marketing aspect of the company and their input is instrumental to a long-range growth plan," says McLaughlin.
He says that having a good HR person is almost equally vital to a company's success, especially in maintaining consistency within company policies. "It can come around to bite you if you're not careful in implementing your hiring standards," McLaughlin adds.
Cutting costs, while growing his market share, is McLaughlin's budgeting plan and goals for 2013. He wants to improve the internal systems at Belknap Landscape, which will help control costs. Customer service is a big part of that plan. Happy customers mean repeat customers. McLaughlin plans on making his customers happy by adding more tree care services for them.
"We're planning on giving unmatched customer relations and service, presenting and selling quality, specialty services to high-profile, waterfront property owners compared to our competition that offers more common land care services based on the very lowest price," McLaughlin says.
A member of the Garden Writers Association, Wendy Komancheck writes about the green industry from her home near Ephrata, Pa. Contact her at email@example.com.