Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Ground Works Land Design has the short-term goal of reaching $10 million in revenue, but owner Tony Nasrallah’s long-term goal is to get to the Top 100. He thinks they’ll reach it in less than 10 years.
Another one of Nasrallah’s goals is to fix the image that people have of landscapers.
“I want people to look at us and treat us like professionals,” Nasrallah says. “I want to bring class to the industry. While we’re changing the image of landscaping, I want more people to join the industry as well.”
Ground Works Land Design is a full-service landscaping company. Currently, 55 percent of their work is design/build and 45 percent is maintenance. Nasrallah’s goal is to split the work 50/50 and that both service types will feed work into the other.
Their client base is 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial. Nasrallah says the commercial business comes from their residential clients who own businesses as well.
“They’re all very high-end, very detailed-oriented people that want and expect high-end work and high-end service,” Nasrallah says.
How It Started
Like most landscape professionals, Nasrallah first got in the business with a push mower and blower while living with his parents and going to college.
“It was strictly just for paying the bills,” Nasrallah says. “Both my parents are immigrants and they taught me how to work and create my own money at a very young age.”
He began to take the business more seriously after he printed out $200 worth of flyers and received a number of calls. Nasrallah says it was in 2009 when he visited vendors and saw the hardscape catalogs that he found out how much people would spend on their backyards. He was intrigued and wanted to tap into the market.
He dropped out of college and decided to pursue the landscape industry instead.
While he was studying business at the time, Nasrallah says his business sense has come to him naturally and from watching his parents run their different businesses as he grew up. His father has owned a number of businesses in retail and service.
Keys to Growth
Nasrallah credits his company’s growth to years of building a good reputation, their core values and their employees. He says reputation is their most precious asset as their number one lead source right now is through referrals.
He says they achieved their reputation by building relationships, serving the community and being willing to lose money on jobs to keep their word.
“Our reputation is very strong in our community,” Nasrallah says. “That’s why people call us.”
The company’s core values are relationships, excellence, integrity and reputation.
“I’m always a genuine person,” Nasrallah says. “I like to meet a bunch of people. I feel like relationships are very important and I like to build long-term relationships.”
Nasrallah says he isn’t just talking about relationships with clients, but also relationships with vendors, contractors and their community.
He says he pursues excellence in everything he does and encourages his employees to do the same in their work.
“I’m not going to cut corners,” Nasrallah says. “I’m going to do it right.”
Similarly, Nasrallah says integrity is following through with your promises. The company offers a number of warranties for their different types of work demonstrating their commitment to integrity.
“We’re going to do what we say we’re going to do, and this applies to our employees and our clients,” Nasrallah says.
At Ground Works Land Design, Nasrallah says employees are number one and clients are number two. They currently have a little over 40 employees of staff currently and many have been with the company since the beginning.
“This industry requires long hours and hard work,” Nasrallah says. “I’ve hired people to help me in areas that I’m weak. I try to surround myself with people that will make me better.”
Currently, Nasrallah handles all the hiring, onboarding and a lot of the sales. He says they don’t have as much of a revolving door because of his selective hiring.
“When I do the hiring, I do a pretty good job,” Nasrallah says. “I feel like that I can get a good understanding of their character and ensure they’re a good fit for our firm. We’re not just going to hire people to hire them. I want to hire people here that want to grow with us and create a career with us, not just a paycheck.”
He says eventually when the company gets larger, he’ll have to let someone else handle the hiring and onboarding.
To maintain their company culture as they grow, Nasrallah says they have weekly meetings that focus on their culture. He also provides employees one-on-ones and makes sure they’re aware of the potential jobs available on their org chart.
He says he also schedules out their company parties so people can look forward to events.
A major element of Ground Works Land Design’s culture is professionalism and Nasrallah provides his crews with luxury apparel because he believes if you look good, you act good.
“First impressions are very important,” Nasrallah says. “That’s for everything. I don’t care how the saying goes, the reality is that people do judge a book by its cover.”
Another aspect of the company’s culture is giving back. Ground Works Land Design has given over $200,000 to different charities over the past five years for causes like Alzheimer’s, St. Jude, training service dogs, helping wounded soldiers, and more.
“We are in a position to do it and we feel like this is the best way to give back to the community and that’s just the kind of person I am,” Nasrallah says.
In 2019, the company hosted their first golf outing and raised over $24,000 for the fight against Alzheimer’s as Nasrallah’s mother has Alzheimer’s.
“I want to be involved in trying to make a change,” Nasrallah says. “I feel like this is my mission that I know I’m able to help do something. They may not have a cure in my lifetime, but I did my part helping out. I’ve witnessed firsthand how difficult it is.”
Nasrallah is always looking for ways to become more efficient at his company. He says the NALP articles and webinars have been helpful for him to see how other companies are operating.
“It’s nice to see what other people are doing and what other ideas they have,” Nasrallah says. “Sometimes I get those ideas and I tweak it to fit our vision and how to make it work for us.”
Growth has been steady for the company but last year they did have 19 percent growth and are forecasting 22 percent growth for this year.
“COVID definitely helped for sure,” Nasrallah says. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to produce all the works that we wanted to. But we did okay and completed all our pre-sold contracts from the year prior.”
Nasrallah says their software has helped them maintain steady growth. The company has CRM software, time tracking software, estimating software, hiring and onboarding software and communication software.
“It sounds crazy, but they all link together,” Nasrallah says. “We’re constantly working and changing it. We have client portals and we incorporate a lot of technology to speed up the process for everything that we do.”
The company hired a director of technology to manage all their software, keeping it up to date and training people to use it. Nasrallah admits the overhead for all the different software and their director of technology is high.
“He’s making sure everyone’s trained on it, everyone’s using it and everyone’s efficient with it,” Nasrallah says. “He may incorporate new things or maybe removing some things. The growth that we’re dealing with right now, there is constant change, new systems are coming in place, new jobs are being created so we needed someone to manage all the technology.”
Nasrallah says because of their constant growth the biggest challenge they face right now is making sure the employees are adjusting to the ever-changing roles, systems, processes and software.
As for the future, Nasrallah says he has many plans in the works but currently they are building a new headquarters as they have run out of space in their current building. He says he’s also looking to do some business acquisitions.
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