Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
Bryan Rice, president of Rice’s Landscapes Redefined, grew up knowing he wanted to be part of the family business. The company had been founded in 1941 by his grandfather J.D. Rice.
Bryan Rice was around 14 years old when he and his brother, Kevin, started working with their father. Rice says although it was hard work, they both enjoyed it.
“I really enjoyed the camaraderie with the crews and, most importantly, with my dad,” Rice says. “Once I started my college career at The Ohio State University studying landscape horticulture – it really hit me that I had this wonderful opportunity to be a part of a thriving family landscape business.”
He says growth has been an interesting challenge over the past few years due to the labor shortage.
“We’ve taken those challenges as an opportunity to reevaluate where we are headed and why,” Rice says. “And we’ve developed a strategic plan that fits our needs now and will be adaptable as those needs change in the future, including narrowing our focus and clarifying our vision as a company, ensuring we’re all heading toward the same goals.”
Changes Over the Years
Over the 80 years of being in business, it has been natural for things to grow and change as the company works to stay at the front of the industry.
The company started out putting in yards, brush hogging fields and offering basic landscaping services. When J.D. Rice’s son, Tom Rice, became the owner he expanded their lawn services and added property maintenance.
When Rice and his brother took over as third-generation owners, they added landscape architects, designers, horticulturists, and landscape technicians.
In 1990, Rice’s opened a retail garden center. This space offered a variety of plants and gardening solutions and was open seasonally from March to June for retail customers.
In 2018, as Rice’s expanded their landscape production services, they decided to close the retail garden center. This space now serves as their new production facility. It has also provided them the room to effectively train and operate their installation and maintenance divisions.
“I needed to focus on our strategic plan and truly operate Rice’s as it was originally focused – on the landscaping and maintenance business, what my grandfather started,” Rice says. “While this was a very emotional decision and not taken lightly, it has turned out to be a very sound financial decision.”
Keys to Success
The company is strategically focused on design/build landscaping and full-service landscape maintenance, and often one leads to work with the other. Rice says their full-service landscape maintenance has taken the spotlight recently and has grown over the years. Rice’s customer base is mixed with 50 percent residential and 50 percent commercial work. Rice says their customer base focuses on partnerships with their clients.
“Our goal is to develop and foster these partnerships with individuals and businesses that see and appreciate the value we provide,” Rice says.
Rice credits their success to having the best people in the business being professionally trained, having strong partnerships with clients who value what they provide and having an energized and engaged leadership team.
“One of the keys to that success is to not only keep growing in revenue but in knowledge – keep sharpening your ax,” Rice says. “Another key is to adapt to the challenges that you face by not being afraid of trying new things (processes or equipment) or looking at things differently and the final key is to listen to our employees and partner clients. God gave us 2 ears for a reason, take time to listen.”
Employee Retention and H-2B Challenges
As the keeper of the company’s culture, Rice admits that it’s not always been easy as they’ve grown.
“But it is vital to keep working at it,” Rice says. “If you keep working at it, you end up in a good place. I really believe the personal engagement throughout the day not only helps but instills the right culture that makes Rice’s Landscapes Redefined who we are.”
Rice’s has a Training Lab where their staff focuses on plant ID, their planting process, irrigation installation and repair, low voltage lighting installation and repair. They can learn techniques hands-on before ever setting foot on a property. In their main office building, they have a Learning Lab for more academic training.
While the former garden center serves as a production center, it also serves as a hub for camaraderie as they have a ping pong table and a pool table where employees can have competitive games. They also host over 100 people for training and company celebrations.
“We are blessed with these facilities to really take our employees to the next level and celebrate along the way,” Rice says.
With labor being a constant issue, Rice’s has participated in the H-2B visa program for years. In the past two years, they have been closed out of receiving their seasonal visas. Rice says he’s been telling their story and lobbying with government officials about the labor issue.
“I have lobbied in both Columbus and Washington through the years, as well as participating in several NALP lobbying events over the years,” Rice says. “NALP has provided a platform to effectively communicate with my congress members and provide updates on what is happening in Washington. I have been engaging our politicians for years and will continue to do so, keeping our issues at the table.”
Rice says being engaged didn’t come naturally to him at first. He got his start by being on the board for the Ohio Nursery and Landscaping Association and then becoming president. Now, his congress members know who he is and what his concerns are.
“Each of us has a duty of making our voice heard, ensuring our legislative members have our best interest at heart as they navigate the bills that are in front of them,” Rice says.
Despite the current challenges, Rice says he’s proud to be leading his family business and sees a strong and growing company that will pivot as issues arise. His father, who passed away April this year, told Rice: “Nothing stays the same, either you are growing or dying,” and “Keep your head up and see the challenges ahead of you. Embrace it and grow from it, and most importantly, enjoy the ride.”
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