Heather Menjivar is the president of Hidden Lane Residential Landscapes based in Oak Hill, Virginia. She grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and started mowing her family’s yard at nine years old.
“As a teenager, after my barn chores were done, I’d spend summer days creating landscaped beds in the hard-to-mow sections of our yard,” Menjivar says.
She went on to attend Virginia Tech and first tried to study landscape architecture. However, after a few semesters, she changed her major to agricultural economics. She started working for Hidden Lane after she graduated from college.
“In the office, I handled reception, bookkeeping, HR, job costing, and payroll, but somehow site measurement, drafting, unloading plant deliveries, mowing, and irrigation repair managed to work their way into my job description as well,” Menjivar says. “Several years in, I was promoted to General Manager. When Peter Murray, the owner of Hidden Lane, started to think about retirement he approached me about buying the business, and in 2018 I became the new owner of Hidden Lane, after 20 years as an employee.”
What is your proudest moment in business?
My proudest moment was the day I purchased the business. Hidden Lane started in 1957 and has a tradition of ‘handing down’ the company to an employee. I’m proud to have been entrusted to continue that legacy as the fourth owner.
What is your biggest business challenge today?
I would say my biggest challenge is developing as a leader. I recognize that I need to adapt in order for the business to continue to thrive. A management style that works for our employees who have been here 15 or 20 years isn’t necessarily going to work for our next generation of employees. Finding the perfect balance isn’t easy, but I’m working on it!
What motivates you on Monday mornings?
The people at Hidden Lane. We have an incredible team of people here who really make work enjoyable. Everyone on staff has an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ and is always thinking about ways to improve our services, systems, branding, etc.
What business worry keeps you up most at night?
This past year I lost a lot of sleep worrying about contingency plans for every possible pandemic scenario. My main concern was to be able to provide job security for our guys while at the same time making sure they knew that their health and sense of well-being was a top priority.
Another big concern is finding the right people to fill out our sales and management teams so we can continue to grow. Everyone here is ambitious with an incredible work ethic, but without sufficient support staff, there is always the risk of employee burnout. Finding labor is, of course, a challenge too. Many of our foreman and crew techs have been with us for 15-20+ years so we need to make sure we are bringing in motivated individuals for them to train so we’ll have skilled, knowledgeable talent to pull from when the foremen retire or as we add crews to keep up with growth.
Who is your business mentor?
Peter Murray, previous owner of Hidden Lane. He gave me a lot of responsibility early on and encouraged me to take on more of a leadership role over the years.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
As landscape professionals, we take pride in doing what we love. We enrich our clients’ lives by providing well-thought-out, well-crafted outdoor spaces and quality services. We genuinely care about our employees and people know it. And, as professionals, we are willing to learn and continually look for ways to improve our businesses.
What does it mean to you to be an NALP member?
It’s great to be part of a network of people who are so willing to share their knowledge and experience in order to help others succeed in this business.
In five years, where do you see your business going?
I look forward to maintaining our reputation for creative design and high-quality work. We are planning for 40-50 percent growth over the course of the next five years.
In five years, where will you be as a business owner?
In five years, I will have stepped away completely from the day-to-day tasks and be able to focus much more of my time and energy on being a mentor, company development, and strategic planning. I also look forward to being able to take a little more time off to spend with family. My 13-year-old has decided she and I are going on a road trip across the U.S. followed by a grand European tour right after she graduates high school and that’s right around that 5-year mark.
This article was published in the March/April issue of the magazine.