Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
Lee Greathouse, LIC, knew when he graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974 with a B.S. in ornamental horticulture that he wanted to start his own company.
However, he knew he needed some experience first. He was first hired as an assistant garden center manager and then moved over to design and sales for the company’s landscape department. He quickly learned he liked landscape design and sales much more. Greathouse moved back to Nashville and worked for a landscape contractor for 3 years before starting his own company in 1981.
The Greathouse Company, based in Nashville, Tennessee, is now celebrating their 40th year of business. They serve a mix of customers, with 70 percent being commercial and 30 percent residential, doing both design/build projects and landscape maintenance.
Greathouse says they don’t have an ideal company size they’re trying to reach but are focused on creating a fun, satisfying place for everyone to work.
“We try to create a good balance with our work/family relationship for all employees,” Greathouse says. “Our bottom line profit is critical so we can provide all employees a good workplace so they feel secure and want to come to work each day!”
Starting Over From Scratch
The Greathouse Company is currently in a rapid growth period that started in 2014. This is when Greathouse split from his previous business partner of 33 years.
“We took all of the commercial project work only, not any residential or maintenance,” Greathouse says. “Timing may have been good also because Nashville was on the front end of a big growth period that is still going strong today.”
Greathouse says while they have always tried to grow at a 5 to 10 percent rate, they have had to put on the brakes a bit to make their current growth more manageable.
With his previous partner, The Greathouse Company grew to $7 million in revenue and was at $5 million at the split. In 2014 after the split, The Greathouse Company’s revenue was already at $2.5 million.
While Greathouse had to regrow the business with just him and his son at first, they now have a staff of 80 employees. They eventually added residential design/build, maintenance and irrigation as they built the newly formed business from the ground up.
As the business grew, Greathouse relocated from a 1.5-acre location to one with 17 acres and a new state-of-the-art facility. The Greathouse Company also opened a second location in Franklin, Tennessee, in 2019.
Keys to Success
Greathouse credits his company’s success to a positive workplace environment, being located in a healthy growing community and hiring motivated employees who like what they’re doing.
One of the company’s main challenges while growing has been finding good experienced workers, but Greathouse says by finding like-minded employees who buy into their way of doing things has helped them maintain their culture.
“We look at recruiting the same as sales, it never stops,” Greathouse says. “If we find what we think will be a good match we will hire and find a place for that person. We have a very good record of keeping employees once they see our culture and they buy into what we are trying to do.”
Greathouse says their NALP membership has helped them along the way with the plentiful information available, helping them not have to reinvent the wheel.
If he had to start the business all over again, Greathouse says he’s happy with where he’s at.
“You can always improve, and we constantly are tweaking things,” he says. “Improvement is constant.”
As for their plans for the future, Greathouse says his exit plan is for his son to take over. This plan is already underway as Will Greathouse is the president and in full control.
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