Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
In 2019, Austin Ashmore acquired Sunrise Landscape, based in Tampa, Florida, along with some outside investors. He had contemplated starting his company from scratch when he missed the entrepreneurial environment of small business, but he says his skillset is better suited to taking an existing organization to the next level.
He considers it “writing another chapter in an already great book.”
Ashmore had grown up in a family construction business, and once it was sold, he went on to work in a corporate environment where he learned a lot.
Sunrise Landscape started in 1978 and is a full-service commercial landscape company. They serve all types of commercial customers, including builders, developers, general contractors, colleges, hospitals, commercial offices, HOAs, and more. The company is 65% maintenance and 35% install.
“We pride ourselves on integrity, accountability, professionalism, and proactivity,” Ashmore says. “Our goal is to be a true partner to our customers, and we know that requires a long-term approach.”
Ashmore says they don’t set arbitrary size goals.
“However, we believe that sustainable growth is essential, as it creates opportunities for our employees to grow with the business and allows us to serve our customers better,” he says.
Explosive Growth Rate
Ashmore says the company experienced slow and steady growth for a long time. It began growing rapidly after he acquired the business. The company currently has an annual revenue of $90 million.
“We spent most of the first year learning the business and the industry and learning what made the business ‘tick,’” he says. “We then began to make investments into the team and technology to ramp up the growth efforts.”
Over the past three years, the business has grown almost 300%.
“That rate of growth can be extremely rewarding for our team, as we get to cut our teeth on new challenges daily,” Ashmore says. “However, it can also be extremely stressful, as there aren’t always enough resources to go around. That being said, we’ve been able to accomplish it by continually adding great people to the team.”
He says they have a motto of “Never Stop Growing.” Ashmore says that growth is core to their ethos, both extrinsically (revenue) and intrinsically (interpersonal).
They are focused on growing all aspects of the business. Ashmore says while they’ve shifted their mix to be more maintenance-heavy, they love the install business and are continuing to invest in it as well.
Sunrise Landscape also has a nursery that they use to hold inventory. Ashmore says it is a competitive advantage that creates significant efficiencies and flexibility for our install business.
Keys to Success
Ashmore attributes his company’s success to great people, an entrepreneurial mindset, and investments in both organic and inorganic growth initiatives.
Sunrise Landscape has 900 employees during their peak season; approximately 200 are H-2B workers. Ashmore says they find their team members through a mixture of internal and external recruiters. He says they also rely on references from their key employees.
“We do our best to ensure that we’re bringing on folks who have an entrepreneurial mindset and high integrity,” Ashmore says.
He says they retain their team through their company culture.
“We still feel like we have a long way to go, but good people beget good people,” Ashmore says. “At the end of the day, the only thing we have that differentiates us from our competitors is the quality of our people. Our goal is to create an environment where growth-minded individuals can achieve their personal and professional goals without ever having to leave the company.”
He says they also work to ensure their leadership team is aligned with their vision and values, which permeates throughout the organization.
As an NALP member, Ashmore says they’ve been able to learn from others across the country encountering similar challenges. He says they’ve attended ELEVATE and Field Trips in the past and found both to be great learning experiences.
“Many times, there’s no need to re-write the playbook and we can learn through secondhand experiences rather than having to learn everything firsthand,” Ashmore says. “It’s been a huge help for us as we’ve scaled, and NALP has been a key lynchpin in connecting us with others in the industry.”
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