In high school, Mark Borst, owner, Borst Landscape & Design, mowed lawns and worked for a local landscaper to earn an income. And for a long time, he was content with being a one-man-and-a-truck type of business. But when he started college, he realized there was so much more to the profession.
“I suddenly realized I wanted to do something bigger and better,” Borst says. “In college I got interested in design/build work and decided to earn a degree in landscape architecture, which I did from Rutgers University.”
In 1989, while still in college, Borst founded Borst Landscape & Design. The company has been growing steadily ever since. NALP recently caught up with Borst to find out more.
Borst Landscape & Design
Headquarters: Allendale, New Jersey
Year founded: 1989
Revenue: $10 million
Services offered: 26% maintenance, 16% garden care, 10% lawn and tree, 16% snow, 32% design/build
Clientele: 75% residential, 25% commercial
What is your proudest moment in business?
I don’t have a single moment but would say just how impressed I’ve been with my team at Borst Landscape & Design over the years. A lot of my original employees still work here. In fact, the first two employees I ever employed are still here. One of my employees started working for me part time while he was in high school and I was in college. Now he manages our whole design/build side of the business. I never dreamed I’d have a business the size it is today but seeing how my team of people has stepped up to the plate to help it grow has been rewarding.
What has been your biggest business challenge?
Like everyone else, labor is my biggest challenge—in the field, especially. But finding good management can also pose its own challenges. To address this, we are constantly interviewing potential employees.
We also use the H-2B program even though we’ve tried to wean ourselves off that as much as possible given the difficulties. We’ve been using H-2B since the mid-90s and over the years have taken some of our key players and assisted them in earning their green cards and even citizenship for some. Over the course of time we might have helped with 30 legalizations. Of course, when people hear that, the first question they ask is once those employees are legal, do they stay with my business? I had two that recently left—one changed industries and the other moved out of state—so honestly, my track record is pretty good.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
I think the thing I enjoy most is how Borst Landscape & Design runs. I’m no longer involved in the day-to-day operations so I don’t have to schedule the crews or figure out the day. The department heads really take control of that. Everyone runs their own department as its own entity and my general manager oversees all of that. That allows me to enjoy seeing it all run efficiently. But that’s not to say I’m not here first thing on a Monday, still. On Monday mornings I’m here early. I arrive at 6:30 a.m. and leave at 6 p.m. I try to be a very present owner.
Who is your business mentor or idol?
When I was first in college, I was at a community college and then transferred to Rutgers University to get my degree. In community college, there was a person by the name of Bob DeRosa, an adjunct teacher, and he was really the one who motivated me to better understand the landscape industry. Early on, he was an instrumental mentor in my career. I’m still friends with him today.
What is your favorite business book?
“The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber—the original one. That book is one that I retain the most valuable information from. The concept that I took out of that book was how to delegate to other people. I’ve always been a micromanager, but this book helps me think outside of the box regarding how to delegate.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
I’m a landscape business owner, of course. I think of myself first and foremost is a business owner. We are well-respected in our community because of the way we run Borst Landscape & Design. When I was smaller, I was viewed as a guy who cut lawns. Now that I’ve grown, I’m viewed as a business professional.
What does it mean to you to be an NALP member?
It means being part of a larger voice. In my early days as a small business, I gained so much knowledge that helped me grow my business. I’ve learned practical advice on how to run a business that I’ve implemented.
Where do you see your business in five years? Where will you be?
I will still be doing what I love. Borst Landscape & Design will continue organic growth—for us that is 5 to 10 percent growth per year. I also see us creating opportunities for people in our business to continue to rise through the ranks.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Want more design/build-focused education? Attend the Design/Build Specialty Summit at LANDSCAPES, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15.