Level Up: Rebranding Aids Aphix, LLC’s Expansion in the Southeast - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Level Up: Rebranding Aids Aphix, LLC’s Expansion in the Southeast

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

From 2020 to 2022, Aphix, LLC, based in Frankfort, Kentucky, grew from a $9 million company to $18 million. They also experienced 80 percent growth from 2021 to 2022. Allen Sweeny, president and CEO of Aphix, says all of this growth was organic and it was driven by several factors.

Starting out, the company was known as Al’s Complete Lawn Care when Sweeny launched the business in high school. He opted to keep running his business instead of going to college.

“The unique thing is that there’s a lot of different career paths within the industry, from sales to production to mechanics to marketing,” Sweeny says. “It fascinates me because you can make a difference for so many different people within one industry. I’ve always had a passion as a kid of never really wanting to work for somebody.”

In 2011, after realizing that residential work comprised 80 percent of their customers but less than 20 percent of their revenue, Sweeny sold off the residential side and became focused on commercial maintenance work. In 2016, they acquired a company in Louisville, Kentucky, and got passionate about servicing equine farms.

Photo: Aphix, LLC

The company continued to grow until 2019 when Sweeny recognized that the company name did not represent the team, their vision or their mission. After a strategic planning meeting, they decided to rebrand to Aphix, an acronym for their values: accountability, professionalism, honesty, integrity and excellence.

Sweeny says their mission is to use the opportunities that God gives them in the business of professional grounds maintenance to impact the lives of their employees, clients and community.

“We’re diligent about employees being first and utilizing the workforce to grow,” Sweeny says. “For me, it’s probably a ministry, but at the same time, it’s a mission to create careers, lives that people can buy cars, they can send kids to college, they can buy houses.”

He says the name change also aligns with their desire to be a regional company in the Southeast.

“We want to start by growing in the regional market and then at some point, we want a national platform, but it’s about creating opportunities,” Sweeny says.

Keys to Success

Aphix ended 2022 with an annual revenue of $21 million and Sweeny expects they’ll finish this year somewhere around $27 to $30 million. He says they partnered with a private equity firm in October of 2022 to help fuel their growth by bringing in capital.

“They’re really a strategic partner for growth,” Sweeny says. “They’re an investor with us that helps us analyze companies, look into diligence, provide capital, but ultimately, it’s the Aphix team that leads the company. It’s me who leads the vision. If you really broke it down, they’re a strategic bank. They’re an investment bank to help us fund growth.”

Photo: Aphix, LLC

He says they’re trying to get to $60 million in the next two to three years and then the next target will be $100 in the next three to five years. However, Sweeny says it’s not necessarily a revenue number they’re trying to reach, but opportunities for their team members. Currently, they have office locations in Chattanooga, Louisville and Lexington. 

“We really like the secondary markets, things that don’t have as much regional and national pressure that we can go in and be a leading brand,” Sweeny says.

It is his people and the company culture that are the driving force behind Aphix’s growth. Sweeny explains that while their mission is faith based, this doesn’t mean that every employee is expected to be of a certain belief, but that they all operate under the Aphix values and culture.

“Regardless of where you stand, those are values that you need to follow,” Sweeny says. “That’s not just from a customer standpoint, but also from an employee standpoint. The way we lead our people, the way we talk to them goes back to those values.”

He says their company values have helped them create a destination company. Sweeny says the only way they can support growth is to have employees perform services; the happier they are, the better they will perform the services.

Photo: Aphix, LLC

Aside from changing their company name, Sweeny says they also fine-tuned their processes so everything is aligned. He says understanding their metrics, such as what their enhancement penetration should be for a maintenance contract has also helped so they can know when a salesperson could be selling more.

Sweeny says his NALP membership has also been beneficial as he has been able to connect with industry leaders such as Mike Bogan and Bob Grove at events like Leaders Forum. He says he also takes advantage of various NALP resources like the Compensation and Benefits Report.

Becoming a Destination Company

Aphix currently has 340 employees and also has been utilizing the H-2B program for the past 10 years. Sweeny says it’s a tough program because of the volatility, but they’re not dependent on it.

Sweeny says they use a variety of methods to recruit employees, including Indeed and direct marketing for management positions and employee word-of-mouth and Facebook ads for field positions. They also connect with the local high schools, second chance programs and veteran programs. He says they try to be creative with their incentive and onboarding programs.

Photo: Aphix, LLC

“There’s no one avenue that we can recruit and just say this works,” Sweeny says. “We constantly have to be thinking about new ways and new programs. We’re really trying hard to create a name that’s more of a destination place than people just applying randomly. How do we make people want to be attracted to come here and fight for positions versus us struggling to be staffed?”

Aphix provides their employees 401(k), health insurance, vacation and sick time, and other benefits a person could expect within an occupation. Sweeny says their work schedule of four 10-hour days is structured to be more appealing to their employees. He says it allows their employees to either be with family Friday, Saturday and Sunday or do other work on the weekends.

“They’re dedicated to us number one because we’re providing their career, but it gives them the flexibility to go do something else,” Sweeny says. “We’re not rigid to say hey, it has to be a five- or six-day work week and we’re not killing guys in OT.”

Sweeny says they’ve worked hard to get their pricing where it needs to be so they can provide a life-supporting income on a 40-hour week.

Photo: Aphix, LLC

He says their commitment to safety is another area they’ve worked to improve upon. In the past, they had safety on a banner, but it wasn’t a priority.

“Now I would say today our guys will tell you that they know that everybody wants him to go home,” Sweeny says. “That’s number one – you guys come into work. You’re going to go home the same way you came in to work. That’s important for us.”

As the company grows and adds branches, Sweeny says they hold strategic meetings to make sure they are maintaining the culture.

“We’re continually talking about the culture, the mission that drives what we want to be,” Sweeny says. “It’s a reminder at the front of every meeting and then throughout conversations. You have to live it. People know if it’s just on a banner or if you’re actually doing it and so I think the second piece, you just have to do it. You have to live it. You have to believe in it.”

Click here to read more Level Up stories.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.