Travels with Jim follows Jim Huston around the country as he visits with landscapers and helps them understand their numbers to make smarter decisions.

Recently I formed a partnership called Green Metrix with Kris Ashby, director of operations at Stratton & Brätt, and Chase Coates, president of Outback Landscape in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Several times each year, we take a small group of landscape professionals on a site visit to view the workings of a successful landscaping company, network with other business owners and get ideas for how to do things better.

This spring, we ventured to the campus of Stratton & Brätt and Elite Grounds, one of the largest landscaping companies in Utah.

As we toured the facilities and met with everyone — from the CEO to mechanics to the marketing department to mid-level managers to accountants — one question kept surfacing from the visitors: What does it take to get to this level?

Among our group were both experienced pros and those new to the industry, most with already successful businesses. They instantly recognized the difference between a $2-$3 million local player and an operation 10 times that size. And every single one of them wanted to know how to get from Point A to Point B.

It’s a great question, but not a simple one. There are many moving parts and details that make big growth possible, but there are a few things you can do to position yourself to take advantage of those opportunities as they come.

Hands-on learning.

A picture is worth 1,000 words, and the on-site visit to Stratton & Brätt was valuable in a similar way. There’s such a difference between learning about how to run a business academically and seeing everything happening in real-time.

Serious entrepreneurs should find mentors willing to give them hands-on opportunities. Observing the processes and daily details of a larger company will give a business owner actionable steps that they can take back and implement into their business.

Years ago, after a site visit in California, we had an attendee who really paid attention and took notes. He went home knowing exactly what he needed to do. Later he reached out and told me that the visit had been the catalyst to help him achieve his business goals and find tangible success. Seeing how things should work really helps the brain make that connection.


Running a really big company includes managing thousands of tiny details daily. In order to properly scale, something that entrepreneurs should be paying attention to is smart software solutions. Working through software helps ensure that nothing gets dropped as your business expands.

This is something that Stratton & Brätt and other big industry players do really well. The larger your ambitions get, the more varied your software portfolio needs to be. At the very least, you’ll want an asset tracker and a robust accounting software. Just look for solutions that create less work, not more.


You hear it all the time –– you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. It happens to be true. And the bigger you grow, the less direct managing you are able to do, and the more of a difference individual employees make in the way your business runs.

There are a few things companies can do to get to the next level, and a handful of them, like mentorships and being passionate, are fairly easy to implement.

If you care about your workers, they will care about the company and it will show. Think about what you want your company to be while it is still small and stick to your values as you grow.

Benefits, incentive programs, company parties, branded swag, mentorship opportunities, legal help and more play into the type of business you create.


If landscaping is nothing more than a way to get through college or a side hustle to you, you’ll likely never grow to a $20 million operation. To make it big in this or any industry, you have to love what you’re doing.

Business owners that are committed to the landscape industry will naturally stay on top of trends in design, technology and conservation because they care about what is going on. An entrepreneur’s dedication will show in the way they think about and plan for the future.


Not every landscaping company wants to be bigger and better, but those that do have the capacity if they are smart about it. Start thinking now about the kind of company you want to create. All of these things can help put you on the path to becoming more of a large, big-time player in the landscaping space.