Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
Maldonado Nursery & Landscaping, Inc. is one of the largest privately-owned Hispanic businesses in the United States. But this San Antonio, Texas, company wasn’t always so large.
The business was founded to provide Rogelio Maldonado and his three sons, Jerry, Roy and Oscar an opportunity to be successful despite their education or experience.
“That continues to be our company ‘why’ to this day,” says Jerry Maldonado, owner and vice president of the company. “If you have a great work ethic, passion for what you are doing and the ability to make intelligent thought out decisions, you can go very far in our organization. Of course, we don’t frown upon college degrees, we have many degreed professionals in our company. We just believe that you can achieve great things even without a college degree, if given the opportunity.”
From Humblest of Beginnings
Maldonado was just 19 years old when his father approached him and his brothers about starting a family business. They had been mowing lawns and working with their dad since they were kids.
The going was rough starting out as Maldonado’s father had invested $20,000 for the raw land where the company was originally located.
“We lived on the property for several years without any of the basic services and really struggled,” Maldonado says. “Several times we just didn’t want to continue but my father insisted we not give up. My dad always taught us the value of hard work, perseverance, working for yourself and good old-fashioned Judeo-Christian values.”
They all worked second jobs to pay off the land, and eventually, they built a small office and kept working hard on growing their business. Maldonado says in the early years it wasn’t unusual for them to double in size. Currently, they focus on having 15 percent yearly growth.
Maldonado Nursery has also expanded with branches in Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, and the Rio Grande Valley. Maldonado says they selected these locations based on the proximity to San Antonio, market share availability, their existing customer base and the need for their services.
Now the company has around 450 employees on staff and is set to earn $45 to $46 million in revenue this year. Down from the expected $50 million budgeted for 2021, due to lack of labor and some severe weather events.
“We are on track for a $6 million dollar growth this year as compared to last year,” Maldonado says.
Their current goal is to reach $100 million before Maldonado and his brother Oscar retire. He says working with his brother has helped keep them grounded.
“Oscar is the hardest working person I know,” Maldonado says. “He has great business sense. We both have a sincere love for the company and a desire to make it as successful as possible. Our modest beginnings, 35 years of working together, and a hope of leaving a legacy, keep us grounded and focused.”
Keys to Success
Maldonado Nursery’s most popular service is landscape construction. They are currently working to get a better balance between their two largest divisions, construction and maintenance.
The company primarily works with general contractors on the construction side, doing everything from private work to schools, retail, industrial, universities, churches and sports fields. For maintenance, they care for a mixture of HOAs, apartment complexes, churches, cemeteries, retail, industrial, city, and federal customers.
Maldonado credits not fearing any challenge, always striving to improve their services, expanding their service offerings, and moving into new markets, as the main keys to their growth.
“Hard work, common sense and a little bit of luck have been the formula to our success,” he says.
While they started as a landscape construction company, they have since added on irrigation installation, commercial maintenance, janitorial services and have just recently completed their first pool installation with two other pool projects already on the books. The janitorial services were added 8 years ago.
“We thought there was a good synergy between doing the landscape construction and doing final clean and janitorial,” Maldonado says. “Our thought was that we could leverage our general contractor customer base for the final clean portion and then have an upper leg on the janitorial and lawn maintenance yearly contract.”
He says that building their systems and upgrading their technology has been a challenge as they’ve grown. Recently they’ve moved to new systems that have helped streamline their accounting, equipment management, time capture, and business management.
“The use of technology has been a game-changer for us in the last few years and has put us in a position to be able to scale at a different level,” Maldonado says.
Keeping to Core Values
Maldonado says they recruit their many employees through a number of different avenues.
“We employ all the commonly used online services, job fairs, signing bonuses, referral bonuses, recruiting firms, competitive pay, 100 percent match 401(k) program, KPI driven year-end performance bonuses, uniforms, advertising in local publications, radio ads, signage at our offices, truck signage, etc.,” he says. “We believe our most effective recruiting tool is telling our story, what we’re about, why we’re here, how we got here, and how they can be an important part of the evolving legacy we are all building together.”
They also have been using the H-2B program for the last 20 years. Typically, they bring in 115 to 150 H-2B workers. Maldonado says they have traveled to the nation’s capital with NALP to lobby for the H-2B program, as well as contributing to several lobbying groups yearly.
As for retention, Maldonado says they retain their employees through training and partnering with their people on licenses and certifications, as well as employee recognition events, and adherence to their core values. Several of Maldonado’s employees are certified through NALP and they also take some employees to the LANDSCAPES show in Kentucky.
“The learning, classes, literature, certification programs and associations with other NALP members over the years has been instrumental in our growth,” Maldonado says.
The company also hosts several employee appreciation events throughout the year and encourages everyone to do their best to live their core values every day. Maldonado outlines their core values as:
- Work Hard – give it your all, never give up, work smart.
- Do the Right Thing – be honest, be fair, be trustworthy.
- Inspire by Example – be courteous, be positive, be genuine, be respectful.
- Continually Improve – always evolve to better meet the needs of those we serve.
- Be Excellent – hold yourself accountable, hold others accountable, always act with purpose.
He says they’ve maintained their company culture by focusing on their people and doing their best to hire those who are a fit for their core values. They have shifted to a more employee-centric company within the last few years.
“We constantly practice and affirm our core values,” he says. “We hire, promote, recognize, reprimand, give raises, give bonuses, and terminate, based on our core values.”
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