Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
Peter Pazmany started working for his father’s landscaping company, Pazmany Bros. Landscaping, based in Los Altos, California, in high school and would help out throughout his college years.
He hadn’t considered joining the business full-time until the week he was graduating from college when his uncle, Joe Pazmany passed away. Pazmany’s father, Pete, had founded the company with Joe in 1981 and Joe was the one who worked in the field, while Pete managed the back office matters.
Pazmany’s father approached Peter about helping him for a month to wrap things up with the installation accounts to end things on a good note before selling the maintenance accounts.
15 years later, Pazmany is now president of the company and it is still going strong.
“I came in and noticed a few things,” Pazmany says. “I realized that this probably didn’t have to get shut down. We could do some tweaks, change some things and there’s probably a great opportunity.”
However, when Pazmany started to make some tweaks the four to five employees with the company at the time didn’t want to adjust so eventually it was just Pazmany and one other employee.
“That’s when I realized, I could do this in a different way,” Pazmany says. “I think I could rebuild. Let’s see what happens.”
His big dream at the time was to have a team of 10 employees. Despite making these major changes around the beginning of the recession as clients started to tighten their budgets, the company has thrived and now they are at 35 full-time employees.
“I am happy to say that one person I worked with 15 years ago is still here today and they’re a manager now,” Pazmany says.
Pazmany Bros. Landscaping mainly serves a residential customer base and offers landscaping, hardscaping and maintenance services. At first, they just handled residential maintenance which got them to half a million in revenue. Then to hit the next level, they had to start saying yes to a little bit of everything.
“Then all of a sudden it was too many yeses,” Pazmany says. “If you’re saying yes to everyone, you might not be in a good territory. You might be driving too far. You might be spread too thin. Or maybe you’re doing projects you’re just not that fast at.”
Since the start of the pandemic, demand for their work has increased. As Pazmany Bros. Landscaping has gotten very busy, they’ve narrowed in their core service area to about a 20-mile radius. Their annual revenue in 2021 was $4.8 million.
“We have to prioritize the people that fit our company better,” Pazmany says.
Pazmany says the sky is the limit for how big they want to grow, but he is focused on doing it sustainably. He doesn’t like staffing up to 60 employees during peak season just to lay off 25 during the slower months.
“I would rather grow and have my team be full-time,” Pazmany says. “It’s actually helped a lot with hiring because in the winter some landscape companies do shut down. I’ve had other people who have come looking for jobs.”
Pazmany says they currently have a two-year growth pattern where they’ll grow by 25 percent one year and then the next year they’ll stabilize and grow five to 10 percent, before growing around 25 percent again the following year.
Pazmany says when they do have a lot of growth, it’s hard to sustain unless they are growing their team at an incredible rate as well.
“I think as all these things happen you start to see, ‘Whoa, I want to get to that next level, but I need to rest on this plateau first because that’s a big jump,’” Pazmany says.
Adding more crews results in a need for more managers and more salespeople to sell more work.
“If you add that new role, are your sales going to grow by that factor?” Pazmany says. “You have to look ahead and go, ‘If I want to add that position, how do I make sure it’s sustainable?’ How do I make sure that I can make the numbers work and be conservative and plan for an okay to worst case, but be set up for a best-case scenario.”
Keys to Success
Pazmany credits his company’s success to their focus on their clients, their employees and putting their goals on paper.
At Pazmany Bros. Landscaping, they make sure what they do is done right and keep their promises to their customers. Similarly, they work hard to keep their employees happy, show them growth opportunities and listen to their opinions.
“It still has a family-operated feel,” Pazmany says. “We know everyone’s name. We know a lot about their families. People get together at different holiday parties or barbecues. I think trying to focus on our employees and making sure that they’re happy and that they want to keep growing because we want to grow them internally and promote from within.”
Pazmany says by putting their goals down on paper and looking back at the past helps them temper their wild dreams.
“The longer you’re in business, the more you can start to look at data,” Pazmany says. “If you only been in business a year, it’s tough, but when you’re doing it for a decade or more, you can start to look at trends and data, ups and downs, and things you did well.”
He says they now create a financial plan and yearly budget after attending Tony Bass’s profit builder seminar. Pazmany says without going line by line and budgeting for everything, you’ll always be guessing.
“As you get bigger you have to guess less and really get dialed in more,” Pazmany says.
Pazmany says he is constantly trying to learn and network with others through NALP and the California Landscape Contractors Association. (CLCA)
“As you build a network of people and peers around you, I think you have more support,” Pazmany says. “You don’t always know the answer, but you can learn a lot from people who are going through it or went through it. Maybe they tell you a story and that story sticks in the back of your head and helps influence one of your next decisions.”
Because there are always things pulling at his attention, Pazmany appreciates how NALP has resources that are available at any time so he can look at different certification processes on his own time.
“We can fast forward months right now and go to this resource that is here for us,” Pazmany says. “It doesn’t have to be, ‘Oh, I can’t do it during business hours.’”
Retaining a Family-Owned Feel
Because there is a lot of construction going on in their service area, getting labor is extra challenging. Also, the cost of living is extremely high, causing the majority of their employees to commute or live with multiple family members. Pazmany Bros. Landscaping works to recruit every day through a number of methods.
“Always be looking, even when you don’t need the person,” Pazmany says. “Just trying to build a bench is tough. You can’t necessarily say ‘Come back in four weeks, I might have a job.’ But then you also can’t wait until you need four people to start advertising.”
He says even when you can’t hire people right away and they take another job, check in with them a few months later and see how they’re doing. There’s a chance they were promised something and they didn’t receive it so they’re looking for a different opportunity.
“If you don’t do anything, you’re going to be in a reactive mode,” Pazmany says. “That’s going to be very stressful.”
He says being a second-generation family-owned business also helps show potential employees the company is not a flash in the pan. With their current employees, they show them there are growth opportunities. Pazmany created an employee evaluation system and ties their bonuses to this and the performance of the company as a whole.
Because communication is very important to ensure customer requests are not misinterpreted, the company emphasizes English fluency.
“We support and pay for people if they want to take classes for English as a second language,” Pazmany says. “We want our team members to grow not just for us but for their personal self.”
They also work to keep a small family feel to the company by knowing employees’ names and caring about their personal lives.
“I think if people know how much you care they’re more likely to talk with you about stuff,” Pazmany says. “Maybe it’s good stuff or maybe it’s bad stuff, but if they think you don’t care, you lose that personal touch.”
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