A high school summer spent working on the grounds crew at a local golf course set Krisjan Berzins on a path toward the green industry—he just didn’t know it yet. At the time, he says he was just trying to earn some summer income.
“One of the best perks was that we’d start really early and finish by 2:30 p.m. and get to golf for free Mondays through Thursdays,” Berzins recalls. “I knew I enjoyed working outside, but I never thought that it’d be my career one day.”
But during summers in between college, Berzins once again turned to what he knew to earn some income. Using his father’s mower, string trimmer and electric blower to start a simple business, Berzins worked hard—and started to realize just how much he enjoyed it.
That’s where Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape had what Berzins calls its “humble beginnings.”
“Every dollar I made went back into the business so in those early days I waited tables and took other side work to keep the business growing,” Berzins says. “It’s come a long way from there.”
Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape
Location: Alexandria, Virginia
Year founded: 1997
Client breakdown: 100% residential
Service breakdown: 60% maintenance, 40% design/build
Annual Revenue: $7.3 million
Business motto: Our core values are honesty, integrity and dedication
What is your proudest moment in business?
I’m so proud of the fantastic people who are part of our Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape team and have made a career in which they can make a good living and provide for their families. I’m not giving myself credit for all that—we’ve achieved it together—but it’s a source of pride to know we are all growing, succeeding and thriving together. I’ve watched the company grow from humble beginnings where it was just a job for people to a place where our current team has made it a career.
What is your biggest business challenge today?
I think a challenge for our industry as a whole is how it will adapt to rapid changes in technology. If you look at a standard commercial mower, for the most part, it looks the same as it did 30 years ago. We, as an industry, have been very slow to adapt to changes in technology and I think that’s problematic.
When you think of the labor challenge that so many of us face, technology could be part of it. How can we attract the 18-year-old who plays video games and embraces technology when, as an industry, we seem behind other industries in technology? If you’re not growing and adapting, you’re dying, and that’s a concern I think about for my business as well as the industry as a whole.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
While it can be a character flaw in my personal life to an extent, the fact that I’m never really satisfied—that the work could always be better—has been a motivation to keep improving. We just finished a fantastic year, our best ever, and yet we are not sitting on our laurels. We are using it to keep pushing forward and to continue to be better. That doesn’t just motivate me on Mondays but on every day.
What is your favorite business book?
What business worry keeps you up at night?
Like most business owners, labor is a worry. Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape is fortunate enough to have a plethora of fantastic team members but on the production side, there’s always a worry. It seems that in this day and age, there are fewer people interested in working in labor-intensive careers, which can be very rewarding. We’re helping the environment, building wonderful green spaces and improving peoples’ lives. But we’re challenged with helping young people see all that.
Who is your business mentor or idol?
My first boss at the country club is who comes to mind as a mentor. He was the superintendent. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that he was a really extraordinary boss. I just thought all bosses were like him. But looking back and understanding how he did business has been inspiring in my own career. I was the low man on the totem pole and performed the jobs nobody else wanted to do. Still, I felt as respected and appreciated as a laborer. As a leader today at Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape, I have really tried to emulate how he made me feel as a young high school kid. I’ve always made it a priority to treat my staff with a similar level of appreciation, respect and integrity.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
Being a steward of the environment is something that a lot of people throw around as a marketing term but actually living it is a different story. We need to continue to focus on being greener in our practices and the ways in which we operate our businesses, whether it’s what machines we run or our business practices. As professionals of the landscape industry, we must actually walk the walk, not just talk the talk. We’re really motivated to look for ways we can become better stewards of the environment, such as recycling our waste or choosing more energy-efficient machines.
What does it mean to you to be a member of NALP?
For me, I know my membership fees are going toward increasing the level of professionalism in our industry. The amount of content they provide from conferences to webinars to training materials online both in English and Spanish are all very valuable to me. I’ve been a member for 16 years and am not sure why you wouldn’t want to be one. It’s really a no-brainer to renew each year.