Jonathan Crandall, chief visionary of J.C. Grounds Management, currently maintains more than 5 million square feet of property and employs as many as 50 people. The landscape firm services commercial offices throughout the Boston region. It’s design/ build services are limited to 5- to 30-acre enhancement jobs for its maintenance sites.
Crandall began his landscaping career while in high school by signing up more than 100 homeowners in the Peabody neighborhood where he grew up. By his 13th year in business, he decided to phase out residential accounts altogether.
“We realize the high foot and car traffic, as well as vast green lawns, makes designing and maintaining well-landscaped retail properties difficult,” says Crandall. “The days of vast green lawns are coming to an end with clients looking to be more socially responsible or forced to be through water conservation initiatives. This brings about new types of xeriscaping installations.”
Crandall finds that design considerations are always changing. “I think in some ways it changes as an artsy side would, and adding to the cause would be the environment we are working in,” he says. “This includes wetter or drier seasons, colder or warmer winters and different threats of diseases on different plants.”
Crandall is also passionate about the art of entrepreneurship, as he demonstrated starting his business from nothing as a teenager. Still remaining an active member, he was president of the Entrepreneurs Organization’s Boston chapter from 2011 to 2012, a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 11,000 influential business owners with 155 chapters in 48 countries.
Year founded: 1996
2015 Revenue: $5.2 million
Client mix: 80 percent commercial office/retail/industrial, 20 percent large HOA retirement communities/ condominiums
Service mix: 25 percent design/install of mainly commercial enhancements, 70 percent maintenance, 5 percent irrigation
Business motto: “Sense of urgency second to none.”
Proudest moment in landscape business: My proudest moments come when our team wins. In our daily 808 morning management team meeting we share wins from the prior day. Those wins come from the management or field teams. Hearing the wins of others coming out of the business has been part of creating something larger than me.
Biggest business challenge: Hiring people. Scaling up during our ramp-up periods of spring and winter is very challenging. We begin searching for winter team members in June and spring team members in the fall. We are always hiring and looking to develop our team through education and field training and industry licensing and credentialing.
Best source of landscape design/build inspiration: General Manager Brad Chase. Together, we have more than 30 years in design/build experience working with many different plant varieties. Together, we have the ability to blend new installations into existing landscapes to make them as seamless as possible.
Favorite plant or plant combination: Because I appreciate contrast in color and soft textures against hardscapes, purples such as threadleaf and Japanese maples, golds such as cypress and light greens such as umbrella pine work well for me. Knockout roses, hydrangea and sedum varieties also add great contrasting colors. Every five to 10 years my opinion varies slightly on the planting mixes I tend to use.
Monday morning motivation: I love going into the office on Monday mornings because I love what I do. I get to decide who is on our team. When I say “team,” I am thinking employees and vendors, as well as clients. I believe if my teams have similar core values, then you can truly enjoy every day you go into work. I think about Monday on Friday and, although I look forward to free time with my friends and family, I can say 99 percent of the time I love what I do and do not consider it a job.
Business worry that keeps you up at night: Challenges always arise, and when they do they are difficult to shut off even after you leave for the day. If you have a plan, the worries and anxieties go away. In the past, it was money and how we were going to fund the ups and downs. Now, as we have matured, it could be a team problem we haven’t solved yet.
Landscape design mentor: I don’t have a specific idol but I look up to many local firms. Individual owners and designers have some good talent, and I take inspiring ideas from landscapes new and old.
Favorite business or landscape design book: “Traction” by Gino Wickman. The author is in a peer group of mine. The book explains how to run a business as an operating system. We are working to fully implement the system covered in the book within the coming year.
Landscape design project that makes you smile every time you drive past it: I have had many over the years but finally I was able to do my own yard. Although I spent more money than I would have liked, I enjoy seeing the landscape evolve as intended.
Describe your business in five years: I see us continuing to expand our service area throughout Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. We will continue to build our talent pool and expand our service offerings. I intend to enjoy working out of our main office and building our leadership team and continue enjoying life outside of the office with friends and family.