Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
Arcadia Gardens, LLC, based in Bridgman, Michigan, was started in 1990 by Dot Hollerbach. Her son, Todd, joined her a year or so after. Hollerbach was an avid gardener and she had been encouraged to start designing for friends in the area.
What started out as a few projects each year has grown to a company that brings in $2.8 to $3 million in annual revenue. Arcadia Gardens specializes in landscape design, installation and maintenance with their designs focusing on hardy plants that are low-maintenance and incorporating flagstone and brick patios.
Anna Brooks, one of the owners of Arcadia Gardens now, says she married into the company as she started working for the business in 1999 offering horticultural care for their clients. She married Todd in 2000 and they bought the company from Hollerbach in 2008.
Brooks says that Hollerbach had started the business more as a hobby and wanted to keep things small and personal while she and Todd wanted to grow the business. She says they have a goal to increase by 20 percent a year and have tried to keep slow measured growth.
“We’ve always had slow and steady growth, with a few notable jumps,” Brooks says. “We were flexible enough with staff and equipment to rebound very quickly after the 2008-10 recession hit and had a big growth period at that time, and then again this year and last, as we were able to again refocus our efforts to serve people staying at home.”
Keys to Success
Arcadia Gardens is still going through a period of sudden growth as the economy is rebounding from 2020. Their main customer base is residential clients who are retired or second homeowners.
Their landscape management services account for almost one-third of their gross revenue, while the other two-thirds are design/build work. The company has always offered custom landscapes that are a true reflection of their customers.
“Whatever our client is asking for we are willing to consider,” Brooks says.
Their clients choose Arcadia Gardens for the personal service, communication, quality of work and their crews. Brooks credits their company’s success to employee retention, company culture and a good reputation.
“We strongly believe our company’s success is built on 5 pillars: Community, Team, Clients, Industry, and Partnerships,” Brooks says. “We aim to strengthen these pillars in our daily work, and actively seek ways to make them even stronger. This is a concept that we have great team buy-in on, and it shows in the attitude of our crews and leaders each day. We have very little trouble with turnover or absenteeism.”
The company’s mission statement is “We strive to consistently design, build, maintain custom outdoor spaces of the highest quality workmanship throughout our community with professional, efficient and hassle-free service.”
They put an emphasis on continuing education and training. Brooks says the Safety Program and OSHA training from NALP has been fantastic and they’ve started delving into more of NALP’s offerings.
“We’ve been a member of our state MNLA for over 25 years, but didn’t really see a need for a national-level organization,” Brooks says. “As our staff is looking for ways to expand knowledge and revise our systems, NALP has been a fantastic resource and well worth the investment!”
Recruiting and Retaining Employees
Unlike most landscaping companies with labor being the biggest issue right now, Brooks says their two biggest challenges while growing has been time management and scheduling.
The company currently has a staff of 39 employees. They have five office staff, two design interns, three part-time high school students for shop grounds maintenance and plant care, one shop mechanic and 28 crew members in the field. Brooks’ daughter runs a third of the business with the landscape management teams while their son is the shop mechanic. Brooks says they have an internal referral program and contact local universities for interns.
When it comes to retention, they offer competitive pay, bonuses, winters off, flexible scheduling and prioritize family. Brooks says it isn’t a challenge to get their workers to return after the winter as they consider it a perk of the job. Many have family in Mexico that they go visit and a handful work in the local orchards trimming apples and grapes. She says they enjoy the slower pace winter brings.
As for how they prioritize family, Arcadia Gardens shows this in a number of ways.
“We allow for flexible schedules for childcare arrangements, or important events, and time off if needed to care for ailing family members without danger of losing your job,” Brooks says. “We offer a scholarship program for continuing education for family members of our employees, and throw a huge company picnic for our employees and their families each year.”
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