Seven-year-old Sawyer Granger wanted a battery-powered edger for his birthday, and his father, Brandon, was proud to let him unwrap the wish. The boy put on safety glasses and made rounds on the family’s Florence, South Carolina, property.
The Facebook video showing Sawyer’s day in the field went viral and quickly got nearly 4,000 hits.
“He loves to go to our jobsites,” says Granger, who started the business full time in 1998, after spending time studying horticulture at North Carolina State University.
For Granger, capturing Sawyer’s excitement and drive for the outdoors and landscaping is like revisiting his own start in the green industry. “When I was young, I would for hours be outside, pull weeds, and that is how my business started – mowing neighbors’ yards when I was a teenager,” he says.
A real-life business education.
Today, Granger Landscapes is a design/build and maintenance firm that has grown sales by 20 percent the past several years. In 2016, Granger broke the $1 million revenue mark.
But, for every heartwarming story about a business, there’s the lesson-learned situation that makes a company grow stronger. Even during the toughest times, Granger has persevered.
“Closing the business was never an option for me because this is what I love to do,” Granger says, relating how a developer’s bankruptcy in 2009 put his company in a grave financial situation.
The developer owed Granger $30,000 for a landscape installation job that included a subdivision’s common areas and entranceways. Granger still owed vendors about $20,000.
No matter how carefully you vet a client, there are market forces you just can’t control. “This guy did the (subdivision) project on good faith, but he got caught up in the Recession and it was one of those times,” Granger says.
For a small business like Granger’s at the time, the $30,000 loss was significant. “It took us three to four years to recoup,” he says. The process began with calling vendors and working out payment plans with them.
Then, Granger sold some trucks and equipment the company wasn’t using to pay off debt. “We stepped back and re-evaluated,” he says.
“Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.” Brandon Granger, Founder
Before the developer filed bankruptcy, which made him financially untouchable in terms of collections, Granger says he did all the right things, including file a lien on the property.
But ultimately the loss resulted in expenses Granger had to eat.
Granger Landscapes still works with some developers today and while there was no way he could have anticipated the fallout from that recession-year deal, he says he carefully reviews a developer’s track record before entering into any agreement.
“But you really don’t know,” he says, reiterating that the previous deal was never supposed to end that way. Running a stronger business will protect Granger Landscapes from a hit like that.
Keeping service promises.
“Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it,” Granger says, reciting the customer service mantra businesses often hear but don’t always practice. At Granger Landscapes, delivering on the promise goes deeper than the company culture. It’s how Granger lives his life.
For example, Granger Landscapes completed a total overhaul on the Florence Baptist Temple property, including lighting.
The business administrator, Ryan Caudill, says, “Brandon is true to his word. He did exactly what he told us he was going to do, and that’s very important.”
Commercial clients Granger serves include the local Veterans Affairs office, where the firm installed 30,000 square feet of sod, and business sites like a cookout restaurant chain in Summerville, South Carolina, where it put in new landscaping. Residential design/installation is its “sweet spot.”
That includes projects on new home sites and renovating existing properties.
Granger loves working with a blank slate. “We come in and create people’s backyards,” he says, noting that those projects take about two weeks and are a higher profit margin (30 to 40 percent) than maintenance work, which is closer to 15 percent.
On the residential side, Granger says a consultation process and ongoing communication is in part responsible for all the referrals his company gets.
“We meet with clients on site, talk about their goals and draw up a plan to present,” he says.
When projects take longer to complete – some larger design/build efforts could take 60 to 90 days – Granger keeps clients updated with weekly meetings. “There are no surprises,” he says.
In the future, Granger sees opportunities to continue expanding geographically and from a service perspective.
Granger will continue to grow that strong landscape core business – and pass the love of working outdoors to his children, particularly his son, who is so interested in the activity.
“He’s definitely following in the footsteps,” Granger says.