Exscape Designs is a full service design/build company headquartered in Novelty, Ohio.
Owner Bill Dysert says the company’s success comes from upholding and operating by three key core values: integrity, professionalism and accountability.
“Our mission is to design, build and maintain outdoor living spaces that enhance the property value and quality of life for our clients and the communities we serve,” he says.
Location: Novelty, Ohio
Year founded: 2004
Client mix: 90% residential
Service Mix: 65% design/build, 45% maintenance
Revenue: $7.1 million
Business motto: Our company’s core purpose is enhancing peoples’ lives through positive interactions.
Learn more about how Dysert stays ahead of growth, deals with the industry’s current labor challenges and how he sees each day as a new opportunity to reset.
What got you into the landscape business?
When I was 12, I worked four or five days a week all summer for an owner of a horse farm. I performed handiwork on the farm including landscaping tasks. On top of that, my dad was a carpenter and built decks and other projects, and I often worked with him. I went on to work for an excavation company and just found that I had a passion for creating things with land.
It was so rewarding to work through the challenges of a site and witness how grading changes and just moving dirt around could create a whole new space. I was fascinated by the idea and thought I would form my own excavation company but it ultimately grew into Exscape, which does so much more. We create entire spaces from start to finish. I think it’s fair to say I stair-stepped my way into this.
What is your proudest moment in business?
My proudest moment was in May 2016 when we moved into the new facility where we are now. It was a dream to have a commercial property with a business all in one spot. I remember being here on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, moving in and putting the final touches on the waterfall in our entranceway. I took a moment to stop and enjoy it—to take in what had been created after more than a decade of shaping Exscape’s growth. Prior to that, we were at two separate locations with sales in one location and operations at another. We could never come together as team. So the new facility meant more than just a centralized office—it felt like we were finally creating a truly cohesive culture. This is now the hub for the customers and the brand but also the hub for culture development and training.
What is your biggest business challenge today?
This is a people business, so the biggest challenges always come down to people. Specifically, for me, the biggest challenge has been outgrowing people who once fit the model but no longer do. As you grow, you sometimes find that you outgrow peoples’ abilities or skill sets. That gets really difficult to navigate when you care about people. But you have to make tough decisions when you’re in a business that is always changing.
Of course, I think about myself in that, too. I am constantly trying to sharpen the saw and grow myself to match the level of growth that we’re at. To stay ahead of the growth, I’m always trying to continue my education and further my knowledge. It’s not just a challenge for them—it’s for all of us.
What motivates you on Monday mornings?
Every day is a new opportunity to reset—not just Mondays—and that’s what motivates me. Realistically, yesterday is in the past and today we have a brand-new opportunity to make things better, change them or go after something different. I love that famous Steve Jobs quote: “,I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
What business worry keeps you up most at night?
The labor shortage. I think there is always going to be work for good, qualified professionals in the industry. But the future of this industry is dependent upon our ability to fill the pipeline with skilled workers who actually want to do the work. It’s a major issue that has been compounded by the fact that the economy has come back. There’s more work than ever but fewer workers.
For us, looking outside of the industry to find people who love the outdoors or who have a connection to the outdoors in some way, has been an answer. There are great people out there who want to be part of a fast-paced culture and a great place to work; someone who likes the idea of an outdoorsy job but doesn’t realize what the landscape industry has to offer. We’re not as worried about industry experience as we are about finding great people.
Who is your business mentor or idol?
It would be too difficult to pick one. I constantly surround myself with the right people, and there are many different people in my life and in business who I consider mentors. I’m always trying to learn from others. It might be a peer, it might be a friendly competitor, or it might be one of many professionals I’ve met and aligned myself with over the years in different industries. I’ve formed a number of relationships over the last 15 years that have been meaningful to me.
What is your favorite business book?
It’s hard to pick just one. I just finished “Shoe Dog“ by Phil Knight about Nike. I found it to be an easy and enjoyable read. In fact, I probably read it faster than I’ve read any other book. Nike seems like an overnight success to people, but when you peel those layers back and see what it took them to get there, you realize every business is the same. I read it and found it very relatable.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
I think there’s a difference between a landscape professional and a landscaper. And, for me, it always comes down to the business—that we run it as a profession, not a seasonal job. This is a livelihood that supports many people and their families. This is a group that gets up every day and works toward a common goal in a defined set of processes and systems. I’ve always felt like having the most professional organization possible gives us the ability to grow and attract talent and serve customers to the highest level of detail.
What does it mean to you to be a member of NALP?
I appreciate NALP for learning industry best practices. I’ve learned from peers and industry veterans who have been there and done that. They know what works and what doesn’t and are willing to share. They’re the ones who are on the leading edge of developing the industry and can advance it forward for all of us.
In five years, where do you see your business going? Where will you be?
We see a lot of opportunity. The team here will really help drive our business plan into the future years. We see multiple branches. There may also be a shift into offering a mix of businesses that help offset the seasonality in the model. We also see an opportunity to improve training and education platforms that allow us to stay on the cutting edge. For me personally, in five years I see myself transitioning more strictly into a founder and CEO role. This involves removing myself even more from the day-to-day sales operations and finances.
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