CENTRAL FEATURES


Checks & Balances

Grant & Power Landscaping makes the 'grade' with clients in suburban Chicago
By Carol Brzozowski




Grant & Power Landscaping, serving the Chicago market since 1978.
Photos courtesy of Grant & Power Landscaping.

The management at Grant & Power Landscaping in West Chicago, Ill., is so confident that its company stands out in the market that it invites potential clients to compare it to other companies using a 36-point checklist. That said, managers know they must continually try to improve upon that. That's why the list containing customers' comments will be examined and discussed during a focus group that Grant & Power Landscaping plans to convene sometime this year to develop business strategies on the company's strengths and weaknesses.

Although details about the survey group have not yet been finalized, Jan-Gerrit Bouwman, sales manager, says the company plans to utilize SurveyMonkey, an online customer survey portal. Additionally, the company will extend personal invitations to select customers for feedback meetings.

"As a company we like to evaluate our processes every year and see what is working well and what we can improve," notes Bouwman.

Part of those improvement efforts has entailed hiring a business development manager this year to pursue expansion, he adds. That ongoing improvement approach has been part and parcel of the company's mission since Gene R. Grant Jr. and Tom Power started Grant & Power Landscaping. That was in 1978 when the two were teenagers. In 1982, Power decided to pursue another career and Grant bought out his partner. Grant now serves as CEO of the company, having retained the regionally recognized name as well as the letters G and P and a tree on the logo.

Three partners - Bouwman, sales manager; Scott Hutchings, vice president of operations; and Sharon Zipse, CFO - make up the rest of the company's management team.

Bouwman, RLA, MLA, ASLA, started with the company in 1998. A native of The Netherlands, he received his master's degree in landscape architecture, plant ecology and vegetation science at the University of Wageningen in The Netherlands. He has served as a mentor and a Trailblazer for PLANET.

Grant & Power Landscaping

Owner/Management: Gene R. Grant Jr., CEO; Jan-Gerrit Bouwman, RLA, MLA, ASLA, sales manager; Scott Hutchings, vice president of operations; and Sharon Zipse, CFO

Founded: 1978

Headquarters: West Chicago, Ill.

Markets: Northwestern, western and southwestern suburbs of Chicago

Services: Maintenance, including edging, pruning, weed-eating and spring and fall clean-ups (the company does not provide mowing); design/build; and snow plowing

Employees: 100

Website: http://www.grantandpower.com

Taking care of business

Grant & Power employs 100 people, including two full-time mechanics who handle vehicle and equipment maintenance. While the company looks for employees who have qualifications and are team players, the most important trait is a positive attitude, says Bouwman.

The company offers a monthly five-step maintenance program. Clients are invited to create and customize their own programs. The five-step program includes a spring cleanup in April or May; early summer maintenance in June and July; late summer maintenance in August or September; fall care and winterizing in October or November, and winterizing and dormant pruning in November or December. The monthly estate maintenance program is recommended to clients who require a consistent professionally groomed appearance for their landscapes.

Responding to trends

Bouwman says more and more clients are requesting rain gardens, as almost every property has issues with drainage. Rain gardens, as well as permeable pavement and rain harvesting, play a role in addressing poor drainage, he says, adding that water management will become a more significant concern going forward.

As with most companies, the recent recession affected Grant & Power Landscaping. Bouwman says that many companies in the local market responded by slashing their prices, while others operated by paying cash to employees and avoiding workers' compensation costs.

"A lot of companies don't abide by the rules. That's always an issue," he says. "It's not very easy because it's so very competitive. Somebody comes in and does the job for half. You move on; there is nothing you can do."

To retain its customers, the company puts its focus on quick turnaround in service and quality control, Bouwman says.



The company actively encourages property owners' input in customizing their monthly five-step property maintenance programs for a professionally groomed appearance.

Diversifying to weather storms

The company's umbrella services, established prior to the onset of the 2008-2009 Recession, have helped sustain revenues. Each of its services - design/build, maintenance and snow plowing - brings in one-third of the company's revenues, with customer retention rates high. For example, maintenance and snow plowing services retain about 90 percent of the customers, and 65 to 70 percent of the design/build jobs are from referrals.

While the Recession also put a dent in the amount of community service in which the company is engaged, it still remains a priority. The company has participated in the PLANET Day of Service, GreenCare for Troops and the Kelly Hutchings Memorial Golf Outing to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The company is also a sponsor for the Illinois fundraising efforts of Operation Support Our Troops-America (OSOT America), a nonprofit group established to assemble care packages to send to U.S. troops serving overseas.

Awards help get exposure

Grant & Power Landscaping has earned many landscape awards. Bouwman attributes that to the company's ability to attract and retain high-end customers.



Striking during the day and the night, this design shows why the firm wins awards.

"When you move up to higher end customers, you get more unique jobs and when you get more unique jobs, you can turn those into awards," he points out.

Equipment upgrades are conducted with an eye to leveraging the best technology for increased ergonomic comfort, enhanced safety and minimal maintenance needs.

The company points out on its website that the green industry has one of the highest OHSA-identified hazard rates in the U.S. and that it endeavors to focus on improving the industry's safety standard. Grant & Power Landscaping adheres to PLANET's Safety Training Achieves Remarkable Success (STARS) safe company program to help reduce hazards and injuries. It has been honored by PLANET for its safety efforts.

Project managers are committed to safety excellence and employee training. The company tracks job-related incidents, meets OHSA postings and regulatory requirements, enters the STARS program annually, hosts ongoing discussions about safety with employees, shares best safety practices with fellow PLANET members and encourages other companies to join.



The company participates in PLANET's Safety Training Achieves Remarkable Success (STARS) program and has an enviable safety record.

Going forward, in addition to establishing focus groups, Bouwman says Grant & Power Landscaping plans to build upon its success by expanding services to its existing residential and commercial customer base, such as burying gas lines for grills and fireplaces, coordinating tree removals and tree pruning, and providing irrigation systems, trellises and arbors.

"We are still brainstorming for more ideas," says Bouwman. "In the future we will be expanding geographically, but that is a few years away."

The award-winning company boasts staff members who answer calls from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, an interactive website, 35 years of experience, financing options, references, clean and well-equipped vehicles, professional and bilingual staff, quality control, a comprehensive maintenance program, a snow-tracking system for real-time information, professional membership, community involvement, and licensed and insured employees.



Grant & Power Landscaping pays attention to detail in pleasing discerning property owners in the Chicago suburbs.

While acknowledging that other companies in the market provide similar service, they do not comprise the majority, claims Bouwman.

"We have a very strong brand so when a customer calls us, they know we are going to take care of them," he says.

So much so that the company updated its mission statement to reflect that approach: "At Grant & Power Landscaping we work to share our professional experience and expertise to help our customers' visions come alive. We build long lasting relationships with our customers, employees and community through ethical business practices, exceptional customer service and innovative ideas. Our goal is to always surpass expectations."

Carol Brzozowski, Coral Springs, Fla., is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and a frequent contributor to Turf magazine. Contact her at brzozowski.carol@gmail.com.