NALP member Bruce Allentuck says he was young and naive when he started mowing lawns as a kid. He had no idea there was a whole industry out there representing landscape maintenance. He just knew he enjoyed being outside and doing a good, honest day’s work.
NALP Member Spotlight
Bruce Allentuck, Allentuck Landscaping
Location: Clarksburg, Maryland
Clientele: 100% residential
Service Mix: 50% design/build and 50% maintenance
Having grown up with a father who had always been in business for himself, Allentuck knew the entrepreneurial spirit ran in his blood. It had always been his intention to start a business. When he realized that business could be landscaping, he says it was the perfect fit.
“I’ve always been an outdoorsy person,” Allentuck says. “I’ve always loved camping, hiking and just being outside. On top of that, I’ve always enjoyed building and creating things. So when we started the company, we started with design/build and grew it from there.”
Today, Allentuck’s business is an equal mix of maintenance and design/build work. He’s proud to see the company growing. NALP recently caught up with Allentuck to find out more.
What got you into the landscape business?
I got into the industry the way most of us got here. My best friend and I were too young to get jobs. As a result we started mowing lawns. We built a nice company out of it and sold it when we went to college. We’re still best friends—been that way since we were 5 years old. He pursued a career with computers, and I carried on within the green industry and got a landscaping degree.
What is your proudest moment in business?
I’m proud of our business for a lot of reasons. First, I’m proud of the 15-year average tenure of our company’s key employees. That speaks a lot about our company as a whole.
I’m also proud that we’ve done a lot of great pro bono work in our community. One that stands out is Hospice Cottage. We have donated a couple of projects there as well as ongoing maintenance. For our company’s 25th anniversary we built a really cool exploratory garden for kids visiting their sick family members. We had a big ceremony there and the mayor spoke. Many of my family members and friends were in attendance.
What is your biggest business challenge today?
My biggest challenge is probably the same as everyone else’s: finding enough good people to work at our company. While we have many long-term key employees, the crew member level is the level that turns over the most. But it’s also arguably the most vital. You can’t get the work done without crew members. Getting them into the door is hard enough, but making sure they come back for the fourth and fifth days is the real key. So, we’re working really hard on engagement and making people feel appreciated. We want this to be a place they want to stay. We’ve developed a whole engagement and onboarding plan that we’re tweaking to be most effective. The fact is, while we used to try out employees, now they’re trying out companies. The times have changed.
What motivates you on Monday mornings?
Mondays are cool. I’m not always there in the mornings at our company. I often work an hour or two at home beforehand, but I’m always there on Monday mornings. That’s when I look forward to high fiving the employees and getting the week off to a good start. Some employees I even have secret handshakes with—and I think they get a kick out of it. We also have our safety talk on Monday mornings. It’s the one day that everyone is gathered in one place. We count how many days we are accident free—we’re in the 200’s right now. We make announcements including birthday and anniversary wishes. It just makes it something to look forward to.
What business worry keeps you up most at night?
It’s not what keeps me up, but what keeps me from going back to sleep. I sleep well from about 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., but if I wake up and start thinking about things, I can’t turn it off. Of course, there are serious things like cash flow and people that worry most business owners. However, I’ll worry about the littlest details in those early morning hours.
I try to work out around 4:30 a.m., so I often just end up getting up. To quote a famous athlete, “If you can destroy your body first thing, it makes the rest of the day a lot easier.” For me, if I can spend an hour or two working out really hard, the rest of the day is easy. When you wait until the end of the day to work out, you’re tired and the excuses build up. As a result, it just doesn’t get done.
Who is your business mentor or idol?
I’m fortunate that I have a few. My dad has always been a business mentor since he was in business for himself and I’ve been able to learn a lot from him. I’m also fortunate we work for some really successful business people. I have four or five of them on my company board and can pick their brains a lot. We also work for an industry that has great leaders. Mike Bogan, for instance, has been a friend for 30-plus years and also happens to be one of the smartest industry people I know.
What is your favorite business book?
It’s a hard choice, but I think I like Scaling Up by Verne Harnish the best. It’s a real pragmatic guide to developing an engaged company. There are lots of other great books, but I’ve read that one three or four times.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
I’ve been in the industry for 30 years, and I’m still passionate about it. I love our company and our people. I feel fortunate to be in a business where I genuinely love coming to work every day. Our crew leaders have an average of over 15 years with our company, so they are like family to me. Many of them have become parents and their kids are part of the family, too.
What does it mean to you to be an NALP member?
I really do love this organization. I’m on the board now, and it means a lot to me that I can help be involved in its future. I haven’t been a member of other organizations but I can’t imagine there are others that are as energized and caring about their members as NALP. You can call on anyone there and they will help with whatever you need. I think that’s a rarity. We have such genuine people in this industry.
In five years, where do you see your business going?
We just went through strategic planning last month. We recognize we’re in a great market and feel we have a really good, compelling story to tell potential customers. As a result, we believe we can grow exponentially just as we are. I don’t think we have to look outside of our geographical area to grow. We are trying to grow people and improve our efficiencies. With that, I see us becoming a more dynamic company every year. We’re at an exciting point.
Our future will be more of the same with existing people growing into new roles within the company. There will probably be no new service offerings and no geographical expansion—just us plowing ahead with what we’re already doing. I think we can become a better company without having to reinvent ourselves.
In five years, where will you be as a business owner?
We’re growing RightPlantz in addition to growing Allentuck Landscaping. RightPlantz.com is a website I started with my daughter that brings landscape professionals and homeowners together to create a community of passionate gardeners. As that company grows, my role at Allentuck Landscaping could be changing a little bit as I take on a bigger role with RightPlantz and invest more of my time there. There are lots of great opportunities for both dynamic companies to move into the future.