Doing Business the Right Way
Green Meadows relies upon quality and honesty to continue growing
Green Meadows, Inc.
President: Richard Goldstein
Headquarters: Oakland, N.J.
Markets: 45-mile radius in northern New Jersey and southern New York
Services: Commercial and residential landscape design and construction, commercial landscape maintenance and commercial snow removal
Richard Goldstein, president of Green Meadows, Inc., a full-service landscaping contractor business in Oakland, N.J., has adapted his business focus to meet changing economic conditions.
Goldstein, 48, started a lawn service company with a friend in 1982. When Goldstein graduated from high school he began running the company alone. He grew the company as the economy grew, offering new opportunities to his clients, including landscape maintenance, and very shortly thereafter, landscape installation. Operating within about a 45-mile radius of Oakland in northern New Jersey, Green Meadows services clients in both northern New Jersey and southern New York.
Redirecting the business mix of services along with providing high-quality service and assuring client satisfaction have been significant factors in the success of the company despite the recent downturned economy.
Green Meadows earned two New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association (NJLCA) landscape achievement awards in 2012, and was recognized in the commercial landscape maintenance category for its work at Prestige Land Rover/Jaguar and at Prestige Lexus auto dealership locations. "These were landscapes that we had installed and continued to maintain. The Land Rover/Jaguar business completed a multimillion-dollar building," Goldstein says.
Green Meadows earned the 2012 NJLCA award in commercial landscape maintenance for its work at this Land Rover/Jaguar dealership.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF GREEN MEADOWS, INC.
Managing in downturned economy
With today's stagnant economy, most landscapers have made adjustments in how they go about doing business. The company's revenue has traditionally been about 40 percent design/construction, 50 percent maintenance and 10 percent snow removal.
Initially the company served mostly residential clients, but now 90 percent of its revenues accrue from commercial accounts. Goldstein notes that lawn care and landscape maintenance is vital to commercial clients to help assure their continuing business.
"We began emphasizing maintenance in about 2010 when it became difficult to sell construction jobs. People might decide they don't really have to have that landscaped pool, but they still need to do landscape maintenance," says Goldstein, adding that competition, often from low bidders, continues to build. "I've been doing this for 30 years. And I've been in bad economies before. Whenever the economy is bad, competition increases," he says. This, of course, includes bidding jobs at a price that lands the job but still returns a profit acceptable to the bidding company. This seems to be an ever-bigger challenge for all landscape companies in a tightened economy.
"We can negotiate bids within reason," Goldstein says. In other words, unless the job (or project) can justify itself by returning what he considers an appropriate profit, he's willing to walk away.
"I've had people tell me they think we probably would do a better job for them, but they feel they have to go with the lower bids," he says obviously frustrated. Low bidding that doesn't allow the service provider to do a project correctly (or perhaps at a loss) is a huge problem in the industry in general, he adds.
Client satisfaction is extremely important, and following up with clients is essential to a successful relationship. Client referrals have contributed significantly to the firm's growth. "It's service, service, service," says Goldstein emphatically.
Goldstein says that one important element in client satisfaction is meeting clients' budgets. He notes that many people say they don't have a budget in mind, but they do have an idea of what they want to do. He believes it is important to discuss a budget based on clients' ideas of the work they want to have done, and suggesting a dollar amount is sometimes helpful. Landscape designs can then be developed around agreed-upon budgets without having to re-design when clients realize that it may be too expensive for them to do the desired work.
Looking at ways to keep costs under control has always been important to the landscaping business, but it becomes even more so in the tight economy. Using technology is one way that many landscapers employ to reduce labor costs, the biggest expense they have.
"We're in the process of switching to CAD in designing," Goldstein says. "We're using DynaSCAPE and our designers are learning it now. We can make changes with the touch of a button and re-estimate the jobs."
Increasing fuel costs affect Green Meadows as it does all companies that offer on-site services. The company's service area extends in a 45-mile radius from its headquarters. "We sometimes gofarther, but there's a point where it's not profitable, so it has to be really worthwhile for us," Goldstein adds.
Emerging trends and concerns
Goldstein notes that he sees increased interest in outdoor living spaces and property upgrades. "Outdoor fireplaces and kitchens are increasingly viewed as outdoor rooms extending the living areas of homes," he says.
Water features continue to be popular in landscapes, and while they're often installed to add aesthetic value, they can also be attractively incorporated into landscapes to solve drainage issues. "We do a lot of drainage work," Goldstein says, including installing bio-swales and rain gardens.
Richard Goldstein says that customer interest in outdoor living spaces and landscape upgrades and renovations continues to be the biggest trends he is seeing in the northern New Jersey market that his company serves.
In its lawn care programs, Green Meadows is increasing the use of organic products, which he feels will continue to grow as a trend because newly implemented state fertilizer regulations are challenging landscapers to give their clients nice lawns while using fewer or different products than they've used in the past. Unfortunately, not everybody is playing by the same rules.
"The problem is there's nobody enforcing these laws and regulations," says Goldstein. Unlicensed and uncertified outfits can charge lower prices and are taking business away from companies doing business the right way.
Goldstein serves on the NJLCA Board of Directors and has served as treasurer. He is also a member of the Professional Landcare Association (PLANET) and Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA). He says there are a number of benefits of belonging to professional organizations. "Networking is a major benefit," he says. He says there is a reluctance to share information individually, but most landscapers are willing to share solutions to industry-wide challenges in a professional organizational setting. He believes that educational opportunities and certifications available through professional organizations are important.
Goldstein expects to continue to grow his business in the coming years. "We expect to be bigger in the next three to five years," he says.
Nancy Riggs is a freelance writer from Mt. Zion, Ill., and has been covering the green industry for Turf for more than 20 years. You can contact her at NFRIGGS@aol.com.