Jennifer Davies & Bob Naylor, owners, Pratt’s Lawn Care and Landscapes
Photos: © Jon Arman

Bala, Ontario, population 500, is home to 39-year-old Pratt’s Lawn Care and Landscapes. “The Hamptons” of the North sees a surge in visitors when warm weather hits. Multi-million-dollar cabins are filled with vacationers, some staying just two weeks out of the entire year. For Pratt’s owners Jennifer Davies and Bob Naylor, the high-end residents of Bala help bolster their bottom line.

“Our clients look for the best of the best,” Davies says. “And we try to provide that.”

However, it’s not all glitz and glamor for the husband-and-wife duo. The full-service landscaping business, originally owned by Davies’s step-father, was turned over to Davies in 2007. The company is bringing in roughly $1.1 million in revenue, but the owners know they have the potential to reach $2 million.

Who’s the boss?

Davies comes from a background in finance and Naylor is a licensed contractor. Together, they run the business out of their home, but they struggle to form a united front when it comes to leading their team.

“Working as spouses is always a challenge,” Davies says. “We both have held leadership roles in our previous work, so coming in and having a bunch of teammates under us – we both want to be in control,” Davies says

Both Davies and Naylor admit they tend to step on each other’s toes when it comes to the business. Currently, Davies handles all of the administrative work on her own. Billing, payroll, scheduling and all HR work run through her in her tiny basement office. She also oversees landscaping and gardening jobs. Naylor spends most of his time in the field working and checking in on jobs and tends to manage more of the installation projects.

With her plate full, Davies says the office work has piled up and some clients are getting their bills late.

The couple is also concerned that the team doesn’t have a sense of consistency when it comes to bringing up problems or issues.

The Harvesters would like to see Naylor take ownership of the yard which includes a complete cleanup.

The people problem.

In a small town where everyone knows the Pratt name, finding work has never been a challenge. The hard part for them, like many businesses, is finding good employees. The company is located in a resort-like town, so most of the population is temporary during the landscaping season, creating an interesting twist in the typical labor shortage issue.

“There just aren’t enough people here,” Davies says. A nearby business owner has even resorted to picking up her staff in nearby towns each morning.

Pratt’s sought an operations manager for four years until the owners finally found one recently. He drives in from Gravenhurst, a larger town about 35 minutes away. The couple hopes the new manager will be able to lessen the workload for the two of them so that they’re able to work on the business more but aren’t sure if they’ll be able to relinquish some of their responsibilities.

“He’s going to be able to help us do our jobs more efficiently,” Naylor says.

To relieve some of their people issues, Davies and Naylor have toyed with the idea of using their acreage to build housing or setting up a system to bus workers in from larger towns. Davies is also passionate about starting up an internship or apprenticeship program.

Greenhouse dreams.

Pratt’s Lawn Care and Landscapes sits on a large plot of land. Davies invested in a greenhouse, but the Harvester’s aren’t too sure it was the best use of the space and finances. The end goal is to be able to house an inventory of plants on site to offer better stock to clients and have a showroom for retail purposes.

“The greenhouse will allow us to have materials at our beck and call, and it will give us and others in the area the access to materials, which are really hard to get in our area,” Naylor says.

Davies likes the idea of being able to bring clients to the greenhouse and show them what types of plants they can have installed on their properties.

Another plus side to the greenhouse is the office space it will provide. Creating a home base for the staff will help unify the team.

“Working as spouses is always a challenge... We both want to be in control.” Jennifer Davies, co-owner, Pratt’s Lawn Care and Landscapes

Harvesters’ take.

Jennifer and Bob have a very nice niche market catering to a high-end residential customer base. They surpassed the $1 million mark in 2018 and eagerly want to grow the business to the $2 million level.

As part of our initial visit, we helped build the Pratt’s Lawn Care and Landscapes vision. This plan will provide the “road map” for achieving their goal of $2 million by 2021. This is certainly a very worthy goal and will require a great deal of effort.

We have broken down their game plan into three areas to focus on that will help them achieve their Vision 2021.

Critical areas for the company need addressed and substantially implemented by March 1. The main issue is people. It’s the biggest challenge they face by far. We’re also defining each leader’s role and will help them stay in their lanes and play to their strengths. The company has a good safety record, but there needs to be a well-defined and executed program in place. Jennifer’s vision is to add a garden center to their revenue mix with the new greenhouses. This will be a big challenge to juggle.

Other areas we need to focus on include culture building, which means formalizing their vision, mission and core values.

I’d also like to see a clean yard and facility. Bob assures me this will be all nice and tidy when we return in the fall.

Stay tuned to see how all this unfolds after the snow melts ... they average 10-12 feet per year.