Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
On Brilar’s website, they say there isn’t a job they say ‘no’ to. This Detroit, Michigan-based company grew 32 percent from 2018 to 2019, bringing in a revenue of $18.2 million in 2019.
Mike Voories, chief operating officer for the company, says they’re just getting started with their growth period. Over the last six years, Brilar has more than doubled their revenue.
“I want to be the largest in the country, and I think that’s very possible,” Voories says.
Keys to Growth
Voories says they became serious about big growth six years ago, going from one location to six and doubling their employees from 100 to 200 people.
“You have to be deliberate and intentional to consistently reach very aggressive growth goals,” Voories says.
He credits recruiting and building a strong team, looking beyond their original market in Detroit geographically, and being committed to aggressive growth as to how they achieved their expansion.
“We can’t recruit and retain the best people if we aren’t growing, and we can’t grow aggressively without the right people,” Voories says.
In the case of the 32 percent growth from 2018 to 2019, Voories says they achieved this by increasing the size of their sales team. Voories says they have plans to continue to spread beyond the current states they are in and it will absolutely happen.
Started in 1977 as B&L Landscaping, Voories says founder Brian Yaffa got into the landscape industry out of necessity. Yaffa began stripping and laying sod and plowing snow in high school.
Since then, Brilar has diversified their services and says there isn’t a portfolio that is too big for them to handle.
“Our branches work primarily with large commercial clients, including class-A offices, retail centers, industrial complexes, manufacturing plants, and medical buildings,” Voories says. “Our National Division works with clients who have large portfolios of sites of all sizes.”
Brilar focuses on working with a specific type of client on specific types of sites.
“We help make our client’s lives easier,” Voories says. “That’s what we sell and that’s what we do. We stopped trying to sell lawn mowing, landscaping, and snow removal. There’s a lot of people out there who do a good job at all that. We want to make our client’s lives easier; that’s what we do.”
Brilar touts having a national presence but a local feel and achieves this by assigning a dedicated account manager to each client. Voories says they work hard to not have a rigid, corporate feel.
The company uses in-house crews along with a large service partner network to meet their customers’ needs. They offer a spectrum of maintenance services including grounds maintenance, landscape enhancement, snow and ice management and municipal services.
Building a Team
Voories says they are committed to building the best team imaginable and they cannot achieve their aggressive goals without this team. He says they developed a vision, mission and set of core values they’ve used to guide their decision making.
“We didn’t create these as marketing pieces, so they’re true to who we are and who we want to become,” he says.
Brilar wants to be a premier and sought-after employer so Voories says they offer great compensation, an awesome benefits package, training, a safe work environment and the opportunity for advancement.
“Every company says the sky is the limit when they’re recruiting, but because we’re so committed to big growth, we can actually prove it,” Voories says. “People come to us because we really can take away the ceiling.”
One of the ways Brilar is maintaining their company culture as they grow is with Brilar Academy, which they launched formally in spring 2020. Brilar Academy includes classroom and field training and four groups train once a month for seven hours. The four groups are operations, account managers, sales and administration.
“The opts group is mostly branch managers and operations managers – so with that group, we’re training the trainers,” Voories says. “They then have to train their people over the next month, and we test their people for proficiency. There’s also quite a bit of other training that happens outside the classroom that’s not on a fixed reoccurring schedule.”
One example of this is their current training of a class of bed care technicians. Voories says safety training is also always ongoing.
“We’ve come a long way in the last year and it’s only going to get better!” he says.
Additionally, Brilar is also taking advantage of NALP educational tools like the OSHA 10-hour course and the Landscape Industry Certification. Voories says the plan is to become a certified company and have a lot of their employees get certified. Voories says because they decided to grow so quickly they’ve experienced some growing pains, but it has been challenging and fun.
“We’ve had to add some management layers, which can be challenging balancing cost vs necessity,” he says. “Recruiting has been, and will, remain a big challenge. When you’re growing quickly, you need to do a lot of recruiting. But we don’t just want bodies. We want talented people who want to grow to be even better.”
Click here to read more Level Up stories.