Level Up: Inside Yardnique’s Steady Organic and M&A Growth - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Level Up: Inside Yardnique’s Steady Organic and M&A Growth

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

When Yardnique’s CEO Brian DuMont was considering where to go to college, all he wanted to do was play baseball. It was when his father asked, “What are you going to do with your life, son?” that he decided to study landscape horticulture at North Carolina State University.

While attending college, one summer he worked for another landscape company doing high-end residential work.

“That experience that summer was one of those you don’t wish upon anyone,” DuMont says.

DuMont returned to school deflated after dealing with a workplace that treated employees poorly. An older classmate suggested he start his own business.

“At that moment, my goal in life was to grow this thing into five employees someday,” DuMont says.

He started running his business during the day and took night classes to finish his degree. Now, DuMont’s company, based in Morrisville, North Carolina, employs 3,000 employees throughout the Southeast.

DuMont’s motto now is ‘Why not us?’

He never thought making Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list would be possible and now they’re at No. 22 on the list. The company finished last year at $125 million in annual revenue. This year their goal is $150 million.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” DuMont says. “I think the industry is ripe for some folks that just focus on people, focus on culture and horticulture.”

DuMont says he loves what he does and as long as he’s proud to wear Yardnique on his chest he’s going to keep going.

Growth Strategy

When he started the business in 1997, DuMont would do everything from cleaning out gutters to building fences.

“I did whatever I could to scrape some pennies,” DuMont says. “We’re 100% commercial now and we’re 93% reoccurring revenue maintenance.”

In 1999, he landed his first HOA client.

Photo: Yardnique

“I remember bidding that job, and the guy from the property management company said, ‘There’s no way you could do it for this. You’re less than half of the incumbent,’” DuMont says. “At the time I’m like, ‘Man, I’m actually physically on the job. I invoice it. I answer the phone. I got this.’”

He says it was in 2000 that he realized he was pulling his hair out on the construction side and the maintenance side was running itself.

“That light bulb went off, and I was like, wait a minute, let me see how I could scale it by developing people and systems,” DuMont says.

Yardnique’s customer base includes HOAs, multifamily properties and Class A offices. In 2010, they landed a large Del Webb community, for which they still have the contract today. They had found their niche.

“I said, ‘Hey, let’s go after a segment that other people don’t want because it’s very challenging,’” DuMont says. “We went after a segment that really focused on the customer service piece. We’re just not going out there to cut grass and trim the bushes. We’re really focusing on the customer service side of it with the clients.”

The company has always had steady growth. Even during the 2008 recession, DuMont says they were able to double down and see decent growth without having to lay anyone off.

In 2017, DuMont was trying to figure out what was next for him. He wasn’t sure if it was time to hang up the cleats or move forward and see what they could do in the industry. He ended up drafting a plan and they’re in the middle of executing it right now.

Photo: Yardnique

“It’s an all gas, no brakes model of just seeing what we could do in the industry,” DuMont says. “As quick as we’re growing, we’ve been blessed to do some M&A stuff. We have a philosophy where for every M&A deal we’re doing, we’re going to grow right alongside that so 50/50 M&A and organic growth.”

Yardnique currently has 29 branches. DuMont says they are very strategic about their acquisitions. He looks to partner with the best in the industry and many of the owners stay on with the company after the acquisition.

“The biggest challenge is to convince somebody that they need to trust you with their baby that they built for 30-plus years,” DuMont says. “That’s a heck of a challenge is to try to convince somebody that it’s a really good idea to partner with you and they should trust you.”

Yardnique is focused on commercial maintenance companies in Southeastern states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. This year they have added a location in Tennessee. He says they are in talks of taking the company to the Southwest or the Mid-Atlantic.

“I’ve realized we have the opportunity to really take this business model to other markets, but it’s very concentrated,” DuMont says. “The dots always connect. We don’t do a one-off location.”

Yardnqiue has been very successful in retaining the client base and employees from their acquired companies. DuMont says he’s watched how some companies strip away the brand and identity of the companies they acquire, resulting in the loss of customers and team members.

Photo: Yardnique

“I have a motto that says we have to earn the right and the respect of the employees and the customers is what I preach to the team,” DuMont says.

Instead, they rebrand acquired companies under the Yardnique family. All the trucks become orange, and the font and branding are like Yardnique’s. His goal is to not deviate from the word family.

“If I just kept them as individual companies without rebranding them, without remarketing them, they would feel like a stepchild and not part of the Yardnique family,” DuMont says.

DuMont says this approach has worked well for them. Often times their acquired customer base likes the new logo and look of the rebrand. DuMont says he always leads the dialogue with their new customers because he doesn’t want competitors out telling Yardnique’s story. He lets clients know the same crew is showing up on Monday and it’s the same company name. All that’s changed is they can offer more now.

Once they’ve earned that customer base’s trust, they can simply replace the name and nothing else changes because everything else is already branded the same.

Keys To Success

DuMont credits his company’s success to being people-focused. It all comes down to caring about people and having a team focused on growing together.

“Numbers come as a result of doing the right thing and doing the right thing for not only your customers but also for your employees,” DuMont says.

He says the company lives and dies by their core values. They bring on and let employees go based on their values.

Photo: Yardnique

“When I measure success in the business, what I love is seeing employees that were here from the beginning, now their kids work here,” DuMont says.

DuMont says some of the processes they put in place that helped them grow are measuring and analyzing their numbers so they can respond appropriately.

“Some people in the industry just say, ‘Hey, we’ll just give a 3% flat increase,’” DuMont says. “If you’re performing at a 65 gross margin, why do you need a 3%? You really don’t.”

He says he also shares his numbers with his team to let them know when they’re winning. He says not being open can be detrimental to your business because people may leave believing you’re making all this money and not sharing.

DuMont ensures that every branch operator has the skill set to understand a P&L like they’re owners. He says teaching his staff everything he knows means these employees could leave the company, but DuMont argues that those employees were going to leave regardless.

“We’ve had folks leave over the years and they’ve started businesses, but I never want to hold everything to our chest in hopes that hey, if I don’t tell them enough information, then they won’t go,” DuMont says.

As an NALP member, DuMont says it’s helped him connect with the industry. He says the networking events are fantastic. He admits, in the past, he’s tried to stay under the radar, but feels he owes it to the industry to get more engaged.

“Having organizations like NALP, the knowledge and the info is there, people are fools if they don’t take advantage of it,” DuMont says.

Recruiting and Retention

With a staff of 3,000 employees, Yardnique is using every tool available to recruit and retain their team members. They have an employee referral program, an in-house recruiting team as well as outside recruiters.

“We’re searching for employees on a constant basis,” DuMont says. “To me, when talent comes, I’d rather continue to strengthen our bench no matter what that timeframe is. I also love that aspect of just going out, meeting people and being like, ‘He or she is an absolute rockstar. We need to bring them on our team.’ We’re always growing, so there’s always positions that seem to be opening up.”

Photo: Yardnique

Yardnique also uses H-2B across their locations. DuMont estimates it makes up about 25% of their workforce and they are looking to reduce it to 20%.

DuMont says they are able to keep their team members by doing what they say they’re going to do and creating an environment where they feel like they’re a part of something. He says as they grow, they have to focus on their culture constantly to maintain it. They send out employee surveys in the spring and fall to see how they’re doing and compare it to previous years.

The company also hosts quarterly townhall meetings. Employees have the opportunity to ask DuMont anything.

He says the questions vary from whether they get more hours or a raise, but others ask what is his vision for the company and if he see himself leaving the company anytime soon. He says he’s also been able to shut down certain rumors like them being acquired by another company.

“It’s a style that shows we’re not trying to hide anything from you,” DuMont says. “We want to share with you all that we got going on.”

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Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.