There’s one thing Ben Wright tries to do every day at his job as operations manager of North Carolina-based Canopy Lawn Care – put the people first.
“We have employees who are people and people have a lot of things that go on personally,” Wright says. “Marriages, kids, illness. I really try to be a part of that.”
And he does. Wright’s co-workers say he takes time to invest in employees at Canopy. They say he has helped employees find counselors for marriage issues. He visits co-workers when they are sick in the hospital and brings meals to their families. If a co-worker has a substance abuse issue, Wright personally helps them by finding them outside support and providing them with accountability to stay clean on the job.
Wright even took personal time and resources to house a Canopy employee who needed a place to stay for a season.
“I learned that (a Canopy employee) was sleeping on different peoples’ couches and oftentimes sleeping in homeless shelters,” Wright says. “I started thinking about what it would look like if he came and lived with (my family) for a season.”
After his wife and kids agreed, Wright invited his co-worker to live with them.
“It was a sacrifice,” he says. “But to me, it was really neat for my wife and kids to get to know him and to show my kids what’s important in life – someone is in need, you provide them with resources you have.”
Canopy Owner Hunt Davis says the employees all take notice of his compassion. One employee even asked Wright to officiate his wedding.“One of our guys in the field had gone through some life stuff and Ben took such good care of him that the guy asked Ben to officiate his wedding,” Davis says. “That’s evidence that Ben cares for our folks and relates with them and has an effect on them.”
Wright always knew he wanted to pursue a career that was tied to the outdoors. His father managed a Young Life high school camp in the mountains of North Carolina. Wright often went with his father to the camp in summer. He recalls watching the students and volunteers at the camp collaborate to serve one another. He says the camp shaped character and gave him a love for the outdoors. “It was a powerful sort of molding experience for who I am today,” he says.
So, in college, he majored in landscaping and horticulture and then pursued it as a career. After college, he was offered a job to design Peace Haven Farms, a farm community that would help people with disabilities. “He hired me to design the community farm and build it out from scratch,” Wright says.
When that job was done, he transitioned to work as a design/build manager for a landscaping company near Raleigh, North Carolina. But Wright didn’t stay there long – Davis approached him in 2014 to see if he would help him start Canopy Lawn Care.
“(Hunt’s) background is not in landscaping,” Wright says. “But he experienced things from the customer side of landscaping and felt the pain of hiring good, reliable contractors to maintain his home. He started thinking about that and how to make the process easier, more convenient. With Canopy, it was really about rethinking (landscaping) as a whole for the customer, and that was appealing to me.”
So, Wright joined Davis at Canopy. Wright served as a “landscape expert” to Canopy when plans for the residential maintenance company were being developed.
Co-workers say Wright helped make the company’s motto, SERVE, which stands for Strive for excellence, Exceed expectations, Represent ourselves well, Value others and Enjoy what we do.
“Ben introduced this idea of being a servant to Canopy, which is not surprising because that’s him,” says Josh Nance, operations manager at Canopy. “He’s a true servant of the people.”
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For many at Canopy, Wright was one of the first people they got to know. “When he started (at Canopy), he joined as our director of operations, but he created every role in the organization chart,” Davis says. “He performed each role himself to sort of create it and then he hired someone into that role.”
To fill jobs, co-workers say Wright would meet people in-person to recruit them. John Falasz had that experience when he was hired at Canopy in 2016. Falasz had worked for another landscaping company in Raleigh. Wright and Falasz crossed paths that year and he learned Falasz was also in the landscaping industry.
“He was asking if I liked walk-behind mowers or hydraulic,” Falasz says. “Then he said, ‘If you ever feel like you need a change…’ and he handed me a business card for Canopy. Nobody had ever approached me like that before.”
One week later, Falasz’ company told him he was getting laid off and he was out of a job. So, he picked up Wright’s business card and to see if his offer was still valid. Shortly after, Wright hired Falasz to work on the Canopy Pro field team.
“Ben and I hit it off from the beginning,” Falasz says. “I was excited, and I’ve had that excitement ever since.”
Wright says training and developing Canopy employees is one of his favorite parts of the job. He says his ultimate goal is to eventually train someone so well that he will be “worked out of a job.”
“It’s all about developing people,” he says. “Like multiplying yourself and working yourself out of a job. That’s my goal every day.”