Tactics to Implement from Field Trip at Russell Landscape Group - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Tactics to Implement from Field Trip at Russell Landscape Group

Photo: NALP/Philippe Nobile Photography

Russell Landscape Group has achieved 20 percent annual organic growth over the last eight years. How they achieved this, as well as how they plan to continue to grow, is one of the aspects attendees of the seventh annual NALP Field Trip were able to discover on June 6-7.

This $62 million-dollar company headquartered in Sugar Hill, Georgia, specializes in commercial landscape maintenance, design and installation. They are also projected to reach $70 million in annual revenue this year.

Over the two days, host Marty Grunder with The Grow Group explored the history of the business, their company culture, and some of their best practices.

Founded by Dr. William ‘Bill’ E. Russell, the company was started in 1987 and he sold the business to his son, Teddy Russell, in 2018. Russell Landscape Group now has 600 peak-season employees across 10 branches in the Southeast.

Dig Into Your Data

One of the most notable features of Russell Landscape Group is their focus on their data and how each department is constantly aware of metrics relevant to them. Frequently Russell teams meet weekly or bi-weekly to discuss these numbers, what’s going well and how to improve.

Photo: Jill Odom/NALP

Rather than using a traditional landscape business software like other operations, Russell Landscape Group opted to craft their own system known as C.R.E.W. This was due to a desire for more customization and to dig into a granular level with their data.

Data that the company monitors include their customer retention rate, margins, job satisfaction, safety, employee engagement, employee retention and more. Part of why these metrics are so useful is because the different branches and teams have meetings to outline their plan of action based on the data provided.   

Russell Landscape Group also utilizes Asset Panda for fleet tracking. Fleet manager Nelson Alvarado can see everything from what one of their nine mechanics is working on to whether a certain branch has not completed their branch audit to makes sure all their hand tools are accounted for. Through Asset Panda, individuals can search a vehicle’s partial tag number and see who is the assigned driver, their manager and GPS location for that truck.

Slow Down When Necessary

Growing at a rapid rate can make it easy to lose focus of the financials or for quality levels to drop off when rushing to complete the work. This is why Russell Landscape Group has worked to slow down certain phases of the business, such as the handoff process from the estimator to the project manager for construction projects.

Photo: Jill Odom/NALP

By doing these handoffs well in advance of the installation date and including all of the relevant team members, they can catch issues before they happen. It also helps set the team up for success.

Similarly, on the maintenance side, they have a job start process where the department heads, regional manager and branch manager will meet with a new client to walk the property. This allows everyone to see and hear the same likes and dislikes of the customer and prevents communication breakdowns later in the relationship.

For instance, if a customer explicitly says they don’t want yellow flowers, this information is known from the start of the relationship by the whole team. This only happens because the company takes the time to have these job start processes, instead of hurrying and assuming a client’s preferences.

Train Your Team

One of the ways Russell Landscape Group retains their employees is by creating a safe workplace and that starts with employee training.

Photo: Jill Odom/NALP

They founded Russell Landscape University in 2020, which is an online platform team members can access to learn about everything from proper string trimming techniques to business management practices. They use the platform Litmos to host all of their training courses. Notably, Teddy Russell is the operator in the videos, taking the lead-by-example mindset quite literally.

Each employee receives a login number to Russell Landscape University and they can track team members’ activity and when they have not completed certain training modules.

Crew leaders are also responsible for training and leading their teams. New hires wear orange vests to help them stand out from experienced employees and the entire company makes a point to educate individuals in orange vests. Typically, employees wear an orange vest for 90 days, but this can vary by individual branches.

Russell Landscape Group is also working on developing their Purple Playbook to include job descriptions, department descriptions, protocols and more. They believe that cross-training is important and utilize SOPs so that if one team member is out, another person can step up and do the job.

Check In with Clients and Employees

Communication is a major key to both customer and employee satisfaction. Russell Landscape Group has a 30/60/90 policy. Depending on the size of the customer account, the account manager has to touch base with the client every 30 days via email or a face-to-face interaction. If 60 days have passed, then Brandon Thomas, VP of customer experience, is notified to reach out.

In cases where a client is unhappy, the 30/60/90 recovery plan includes contacting the customer the same day, communicating weekly over the next 30 days, scheduling a review after 30 days to check in, conducting site audits to see what’s been completed and having a follow up with the customer after 90 days.  

The company often conducts site audits and tracks any issues they see onsite through their mobile manager app. The company also checks in with their team members quarterly to listen to their concerns or any feedback they have.

These are just a handful of the takeaways attendees gathered during Field Trip. Thanks to our event partners: Aspire Software, Gravely, and Vermeer.

Stay tuned for future Field Trip dates.  

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.