During a UPS strike while Ben Carruthers was working there, he needed a way to make some additional money while attending college. He started mowing lawns and quickly found that he liked the outdoor work. In fact, he enjoyed it so much he decided to switch from a business major to horticulture. That ultimately led him to start his own business—Carruthers Landscape Management—and launch a decades-long career in the landscape industry.
Carruthers Landscape Management was born at a time when there were mostly only “mom and pop” type of companies and the opportunity was vast, says Carruthers. As a result, he built everything from the ground up. In fact, he admits he had never even seen a landscape bid before. But he found his way and built the company into the successful commercial landscaping company that it is today.
Carruthers Landscape Management
Headquarters: Dallas, Texas
Year founded: 1978
Client Mix: 100% commercial
Services Offered: 85% maintenance, 10% enhancements, 5% irrigation
Business Motto: To be the best landscapers we can be while taking care of our customers and our people.
What is your proudest moment in business?
For me, business has been made up of a series of good moments—not one single memory that sticks out as the best. Settling our first commercial account was a big deal. Early on, Carruthers Landscape Management did residential work, too. But we ultimately transitioned into only commercial. Signing our first customer that had multiple properties was also very exciting. Getting our warehouse and having our own building is another good memory.
What is your biggest business challenge and how do you deal with it?
The biggest challenge is definitely labor, and it’s because of all the unknowns. In the past, Carruthers Landscape Management utilized the H-2B program but the uncertainty with that program has made it challenging. We have jobs to sell but we don’t know how much to sell because we don’t know if we’ll have the labor. We’ve dealt with it by trying to improve our retention. When we hire great people, we want them to stay.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
I love Monday mornings because there is always so much to do at the beginning of the week—and I enjoy that. I love running out of the door with my hair on fire which is exactly why I’m in the landscape business. There’s never a dull moment. Even back in the earlier days when clients were very stable, there was always something to keep you busy.
Who is your business mentor or idol?
I admire a lot of the big names in the industry. Dick Brickman, though I never met him, is definitely one who I admire for everything he did for this industry. I met Bob Grover and also believe he’s a great leader in this industry. I’m proud that we have an industry that has so many leaders like this. I’m proud to be able to call myself part of an industry that is made up of so many good people.
What is your favorite business book?
I’m currently reading “Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service.” Additionally, I liked the “E-Myth” because it has a lot of good business principles.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
I think it means someone who is trained and educated in the field—or who built their career within this industry. It takes hard work and dedication. It’s about being more than just the guy-and-a-truck—even though, like many, that’s how I got my start. Above all, it’s about striving for more than that to become a true professional.
What does it mean to you to be an NALP member?
I’m a new NALP member and I’m really excited about it. When it was ALCA, I joined to be able to connect with other business owners. And that’s why I have rejoined today. You need to be able to have people who you can connect and share with—and it can’t be your employees. I’m excited to be able to connect with peers.
Where do you see your business in five years and where will you be?
I hope for Carruthers Landscape Management to be around $20 million in five years. We are in a period of growth right now. I still plan to be involved in the business, but I have a son who will ultimately take over. He is a finance major and brings a strong financial background to the business. We grew rapidly for a long time, but then I reached a point when I purposely wanted to slow growth. Now, with my son involved, we’re pushing for additional growth and it’s exciting. We’re in the process of redoing a lot of things and making an effort to keep up with this rapidly changing industry. I firmly believe if you don’t adapt and evolve, you’ll get left behind.