Level Up: MSNW Group, LLC Thrives With a Culture of Caring - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Level Up: MSNW Group, LLC Thrives With a Culture of Caring

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

MSNW Group, LLC, based in Ferndale, Washington, started in 1995 as a small janitorial company. As their clients kept asking them to do more and more services, they ended up adding on landscaping services. Now as a full-service facility management company, they serve clients throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Terell Weg, president and CEO of MSNW Group, grew up working for her parents’ company for over 20 years. She has worked in almost every role, from cleaning banks over the summer in college to being the director of sales and marketing.

Photo: MSNW Group, LLC

Weg says she didn’t know she wanted to run the company until her mother put someone else in that role.

“I saw how they’re running it and just how they were changing it from what we were and I approached my mom and I was like, ‘This isn’t right. I should be running the company and we need to shift,’” Weg says.

After six months, the previous president put in their notice and Weg assumed the role in 2018.

MSNW Group provides janitorial, maintenance, landscape maintenance, construction services and winter services to commercial clients like government agencies, health care facilities, retail properties and financial institutions.

“I think the appeal for our business is the fact that we’re a one-call shop for all facility services,” Weg says. “People love it. We can combine the landscaping and janitorial services. It’s a real niche.”

She says typically, clients will come to them with one service in mind, and when they realize the MSNW Group can do multiple services, they get excited.

Currently, MSNW Group has an annual revenue of $28 million, and Weg says they have no limitations for growth. She does like their footprint in Washington, Oregon and Idaho and sees plenty of opportunity in that region.

“At this time, I think it just makes sense to stay where we are,” Weg says. “We want to be able to provide a really great service and be perceived as local. A Pacific Northwest company is a Pacific Northwest company, whether you’re in Washington, Oregon or Idaho, so that’s kind of our sweet spot.”

Keys to Success

Weg credits the company’s success to their ‘take care of it’ attitude they have with customers, having a culture of care for their people and the diversity of services they offer clients.

“We’re very responsive and also just great with preventative things,” Weg says. “We’re bringing things to clients. We see it as a complete facility property service versus just one service line so it gives us a little bit different perspective when our account managers are on site.”

Photo: MSNW Group, LLC

Weg says they have created numerous programs to support their staff, so it’s not just lip service when they say they care.

“One of my focuses is I want to be able to provide these people with a living wage and benefits so that they aren’t having to stress about their day-to-day,” Weg says. “I think that shows on the front line when you have people who are truly cared for.”

One of the lessons Weg has learned as they’ve grown is to say no to clients who are not a good fit for the company.

“I would say some very hard lessons have been learned with larger clients where they can just be really hard to work with and hard on the team,” Weg says. “We made the decision because it was going to be a big revenue boost, but overall, it wasn’t good for our culture.”

Weg says having to walk away from those clients is really hard. They have learned to be picky about who they will do business with and choose those who will be long-term partners who will treat them with mutual respect and support.

As an NALP member, Weg says she has developed friendships and connections by attending ELEVATE last year. Because landscaping is not her background she is excited to learn best practices from her new peers.

“It’s nice to have that resource and people in the business who are not your competitors who are willing to help you,” Weg says. “I just feel really lucky to be a part of this association and continue to develop relationships as we get more entrenched in the NALP world.”

A Culture of Caring

MSNW Group has around 350 employees on staff. While they have different service divisions, there isn’t a lot of employee crossover between jobs. Weg says everyone is trained to do their specific job. She says they have had cases where someone on the landscaping side might move into a portering job with a higher paid grade in certain regions of Washington. She says it’s not necessarily a promotion, but it is a pay bump.

Photo: MSNW Group, LLC

“I think those individuals who do landscaping love to be in nature and take pride in their job really beautifying spaces,” Weg says. “Janitorial can be a really dirty job and portering deals with trash. It takes a special kind of person to be okay with that job and be successful and so it’s definitely different people.”

They also have some on the janitorial side help out with snow shoveling during the winter months.

As for how they recruit their employees, Weg says they have a full-time recruiter who works out of Atlanta, Georgia. Since hiring their recruiter, they haven’t had any issues finding employees.

“We have our open jobs, from opening to closing the job opening, it’s a three-day cycle,” Weg says. “It’s super fast.”

Weg says having an excellent recruiter allows them to identify if someone will be a long-term team member or not. When hiring, they try to ensure the candidate lives within their core values. Their core values are continuous improvement, high standard of excellence, absolute integrity, mutual respect and support, positive with a “we’ll take care of you” attitude and servant-hearted stewardship, which spells the acronym CHAMPS.

Photo: MSNW Group, LLC

“It’s really important that we find the right people,” Weg says. “We’re not trying to just fill a seat. We want them to be a lifer of a team member.”

Weg says having their employees well-trained makes a huge difference in their retention rates. They started MSNW University, which they started in the early 2010s and it helps them provide their employees with more access to training.

“People feel confident in their job and know what’s expected of them,” she says. “So having a trainee training program in place that keeps people educated as things change as well. I think having caring supervisors makes a difference and people who are emulating our core values.”

The company has an employee recognition program through the platform Reward Gateway, which they branded as CHAMPS. With the system, anyone in the company can recognize a co-worker for a job well done.

“This is more instantaneous where you see somebody who’s doing a great job, and then you can press a button and it’ll shoot them a gift card and a thank you note,” Weg says.

Managers are given a budget for the gift cards with the expectation they spend that money, as Weg wants to be acknowledging their people regularly.

MSNW Group has strong benefits like affordable health care and a 401(k) plan. They also have the MSNW Care Fund, which was started during the recession after the wife of one of their maintenance techs lost her job and the technician wasn’t getting his full 40 hours a week. He mentioned to their general manager that he couldn’t afford Christmas presents for his kids.

“Our team really rallied around that, and they surprised our maintenance tech by showing up at his house with a Christmas tree, a turkey, gifts for the kids and everybody pitched in with that,” Weg says. “It was really impactful for our maintenance tech and for our whole team.”

Photo: MSNW Group, LLC

Weg’s mom suggested creating a fund where people could put a dollar or whatever amount from every paycheck into the fund, and then MSNW will match that dollar for dollar. A committee reviews the requests that come in. They have been able to help with various situations, whether it is helping pay for gas or putting up first and last month’s rent for an employee trying to escape a domestic violence situation.

In one case, an administrator for the company was battling cancer and the team held a golf tournament. All the proceeds raised went to help her pay her medical bills.

They haven’t tracked the exact number of employees they’ve been able to help because Weg says it’s not about the company; they just want to take care of their team and provide support when they need it.

Click here to read more Level Up stories.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.