Level Up: Ziehler Lawn Care Is Focused on Enhancing Their Customers’ and Employees’ Lives - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Level Up: Ziehler Lawn Care Is Focused on Enhancing Their Customers’ and Employees’ Lives

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

Make 20,150 lives more enjoyable by 2030 is Ziehler Lawn Care’s current Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). This includes growing to over 20,000 active customers and building a team of 150 employees.

Andrew Ziehler, owner and CEO of the Centerville, Ohio-based company says they are on track with this goal and plan to set another once they reach this milestone. He adds that creating opportunities for team members and having a great reputation in their community is his definition of success.

“It’s always been that we’re building an organization that people want to be a part of, that we’re doing the right things by our team members,” Ziehler says. “We have a great reputation in our community that we service and in within the industry.”

Company History

Like many other entrepreneurs in this industry, Ziehler first got into landscaping in high school as he sought to make extra money after football practice. After working for a local property management company for a season, he decided to start laying mulch for friends, family and referrals.

Photo: Ziehler Lawn Care

“During my junior and senior year of high school, while working in a hockey pro shop, one of my customers noticed the spring mulch flyers I was making and asked if I thought about mowing grass in addition to mulching,” Ziehler says. “He proceeded to offer to sell me two mowers and then sub me the work to keep them busy! It sounded like a great opportunity to pay for college and save for a down payment on a house; Ziehler Landscaping was born.”

He knew he wanted to start his own company after experiencing the first season of mulching.

“The process of getting a lead, selling the project, creating a beautiful landscape you could be proud of when you were finished and then making money after, it was all over was very motivational!” Ziehler says.

Ziehler originally started on the landscaping side in 1999, but his business made a 180 in focus in 2015. He says after networking and learning about different parts of the industry at association and software events, he wanted the future of the company to be in lawn care.

“The lawn care business model seemed much easier to scale through marketing and could allow us to hire the best people and take care of those people at a higher level while giving us the greatest chance at achieving our long-term goals,” he says.

Photo: Ziehler Lawn Care

By 2016, they had sold off their landscape maintenance business and became solely focused on lawn care and pest prevention. Ziehler Lawn Care’s customer base is residential homeowners and their lawn fertilization and weed control program is their most popular service.

The company has grown steadily since transitioning to lawn care, as they are always looking for more ways to take calculated risks and press the gas. However, Ziehler says over the last two years their growth as a percentage slowed.

“When you have great market demand, it masks some of the things that are going on in your organization,” Ziehler says. “We made sure that we got those things all fixed last summer and fall. We’ve been working through that. We’re back on the growth train where we want to be. We’re ahead of plan right this moment and very excited about that.”

Keys to Success

Ziehler says having a clear company vision, a strong team and connecting to networks have all benefited the business and their growth.

He explains that their BHAG was formulated in 2015 when they were transitioning to lawn care. He knew they needed a foundation that clearly articulated what the business is going to do and where they wanted to end up. Having this focus helps the team know what direction to go and who they are as a company that they can rally around.

Photo: Ziehler Lawn Care

Ziehler says it is also their team that makes growth possible and fuels opportunity for everyone on staff.

“The key to success is getting the right people around you,” Ziehler says. “It’s not about how great you are as a person or what skills you have. It’s about creating, recruiting and putting together a team that is motivated and can go out and do things way better than you can on your own.”

He has also learned from others by participating in association programs, conferences and volunteering opportunities. Ziehler says these individuals have generously shared their knowledge and experiences, pushing Ziehler Lawn Care to always get better and never settle for average.

“NALP has been instrumental in our company’s success and will continue to be,” Ziehler says. “The opportunities it has afforded our team to grow professionally are unmatched through their educational resources, conferences, networking and leadership growth opportunities.”

He says they’ve taken advantage of NALP’s conference education, government affairs legislative support and Trailblazers with the NAVIGATE program. Ziehler says he’s also grown as a leader by volunteering with NALP.

Recruiting and Retention  

During the peak season, Ziehler Lawn Care has 49 to 53 team members on staff.

Photo: Ziehler Lawn Care

“The biggest challenge has been attracting, retaining and growing the best people,” Ziehler says. “As the business matures and grows, the needs change even within a particular position. Different and more specialized skill sets are needed to make sure we are prepared for the next phase of growth.”

Ziehler says they use a number of recruiting methods including Indeed, ZipRecruiter, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn and internal employee referrals.

Ziehler stresses that retaining their workforce comes down to hiring the right employees first. They will benchmark the role with hiring managers to determine key job duties and requirements. Then during a phone interview, they screen for those requirements and explain the value of that position and the company. They also host panel interviews at the specific branch location using interview guides that help the team ask behavioral and situational questions.

“Consistency and thorough/prompt communication through each step of the hiring process is key!” Ziehler says. “Determine who is the recruiting process owner/communicator to the candidate and to the team.”   

Ziehler Lawn Care has also developed a robust set of processes to help with the onboarding and retention of their team members.

Photo: Ziehler Lawn Care

“We were growing great, but we had some serious turnover, like many, many other companies in ‘21 and ’22,” Ziehler says. “We’ve constantly been taking a stab at it over the last couple of years of figuring out what we can do differently to make sure that we get the right people in the first place and then grow them and retain them. Our retention rates have drastically improved over the past couple of years here.”

Their onboarding programs run from day one to day 14 to ensure new hires feel welcomed and excited. They assign mentors to new hires for a two-week minimum and evaluate their performance in training. Supervisors also conduct one-on-one check ins.  

One of the newer features they’ve added to their retention efforts is the Power Hour, where within 30 to 60 days of hiring, new team members are invited to the company headquarters to meet with other departments, engage with leadership and learn more about company goals.

Ziehler says they also host branch and company-wide events like summer half time, their family member event and the Christmas party. Team members also have access to career progression plans and leadership development training sessions.

Company Culture

Ziehler admits that early on in the business, he was the main individual driving their company culture. This meant talking about it at every meeting, hosting whacky events and recognizing every example of the culture coming to life.

However, he acknowledges that culture is a team sport and it takes different shapes at different times in the company’s life cycle.

Photo: Ziehler Lawn Care

“Today, the culture is healthier than it ever has been and I contribute that to a big change in how we share our culture with our teams,” Ziehler says. “I still talk about it at big events but the magic of why our culture is so much stronger and better today comes from how our leaders live out the culture authentically and organically. They bring the culture to life in more meaningful ways each day that connect with our team members.”  

Ziehler says it comes down to empowering his employees and getting out of the way a little bit to make sure their leaders are driving the culture.

“Managers now are the ones that are driving that culture,” Ziehler says. “They are creating the events that that people want to be at, not made to go to, which is really important.”

Click here to read more Level Up stories.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.