Level Up: Allied Landscape Is Focused on Growing People and Partnerships - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Level Up: Allied Landscape Is Focused on Growing People and Partnerships

Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.

Loren McIrvin grew up in the industry, helping his parents run a small landscape company in the San Francisco Bay area, which built his appreciation for nature. It wasn’t until he turned 18 that he knew he wanted to start his own company.

“It took an inspirational teacher with an affinity towards the Ray Kroc story and the entrepreneurial spirit of American culture that opened my eyes to what I could accomplish as a business owner before even considering starting my own business,” McIrvin says.

Now the owner of Allied Landscape, based in Livermore, California, McIrvin’s main customer base is commercial properties and master planned developments. They provide services like landscape management, sustainability services, irrigation management and water conservation, design and installation and bioswale management.

Photo: Allied Landscape

The company is currently at $14 million in annual revenue and has 135 employees. McIrvin says their ideal company size is 325 employees.

“This is more about reaching the $40 million and the corresponding staff to support that number,” he says. “The goal for growth has everything to being of a scale that people get to specialize and be the best at something versus having to wear multiple hats like small/medium-sized companies. The larger company size also offers a certain level of protection against existential business threats and reaching economies of scale to overhead and indirect costs.”

Growing Pains

McIrvin says they believe growth enables them to grow careers and help their people reach their greatest potential. While the company is always trying to grow, McIrvin says that they experienced a period of sudden growth three to four years ago and it was painful for the company.

“Fast growth is difficult and can stretch all of your resources to a breaking point,” he says. “Our preference is to grow between 16-22 percent.”

Photo: Allied Landscape

He says the sudden growth was brought on by them not saying “no” and not adhering to a specific target market. They were able to halt the sudden growth around two years ago by reducing their service offerings.

“This is about us being able to be the best at something versus being good or ok at everything,” he says. “We operate in a very large market, and we have the opportunity to grow in a specialized fashion.”  

Allied Landscape is focused on being the best at full-service landscape management. McIrvin says one the main challenges to growing is finding the right people.

“As we move forward, we will be investing more and more in our team members from the very beginning to ensure we have the ‘right people in the right seats’ with the necessary training and coaching to help them move up through our career paths. We have shifted our focus from growing plants to growing people and partnerships.”    

Keys to Success

McIrvin credits the company’s growth to their great people, great partnerships and great performance.

They recruit new team members through employee referral programs and full-fledged recruiters. Meanwhile it is their culture, respect, appreciation, training, great pay and opportunities that help them retain their workforce.

“We want to grow the best people in the industry and we want to offer them a home and team they are proud of,” McIrvin says.

Photo: Allied Landscape

He says they are able to maintain their culture as they grow through frequent communication and training. McIrvin says they work to create an honest, open and transparent environment for employees to communicate as freely as possible.

He says they maintain great partnerships by being customer-centric and appreciating their vendor partners. As for their great performance, Allied Landscape gets things done, both fast and efficiently, thanks to their adoption of technology.  

“The remote nature of our work and profit margins we operate with require us to have efficient means of communicating and collecting expenses as fast as possible to fix problems in the moment to the best of our ability,” McIrvin says. “We utilize Aspire, Inova, Google Suite and empower all team members with an iPhone to be able to communicate effectively and access critical information and trainings.”

Allied Landscape has also benefited from being an NALP member. McIrivin says the company tours and exposure to great industry consultants have been invaluable to their success. He says they utilize the certification programs, the educational material and are excited to participate in the Latino Landscape Network moving forward.

A Focus on Sustainability

Photo: Allied Landscape

One aspect Allied Landscape highlights to their customers is their commitment to sustainable practices. This includes not using glyphosate on their properties. McIrvin says they stopped using this product in 2020. They use either organic or synthetic options instead, depending on the customer.

“We take a customized approach to each property and offer a range of options that help reduce negative impacts of the existing landscape or the act of managing the existing landscape on the property stakeholders and the local ecosystem,” McIrvin says. “We concentrate primarily on reducing water use, reducing synthetic chemical use, reducing carbon emissions and improving the health of the natural ecosystem.”  

He says they practice budget-based water management and regenerative landscape management practices to restore a space’s natural soil food web and having the right plant in the right place.

Click here to read more Level Up stories

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.