Photos by Complete Lawn Grounds Maintenance

Productivity was failing so badly at David Bowman’s company that he recalls the exact day he realized things weren’t going well.

“It was April 21, 2010 – my daughter’s birthday,” he says. “I went to check on a job and the guys left the property without finishing.”

After trying to get to the bottom of the situation, Bowman realized everyone was blaming someone else. “I told a supervisor to fire his whole crew,” he says.

He was down a huge portion of his workforce at Complete Lawn Grounds Maintenance in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, trying to build his new home and spend time with his daughter who was sick in the hospital. “I had a meeting the next day, and a supervisor refused to show up,” he says. “I was down two supervisors. It was kind of a kick me when I’m down thing.”

But just as things seemed the darkest, Bowman recalled an old acquaintance who could help.

Rick Anderson had worked for a company that was subcontracting for Bowman’s company, and the two had a good relationship. But Bowman’s company and the subcontracting company were at odds after a few rough months, and they ended up severing their business relationship.

“Rick is as loyal as the day is long,” Bowman says. “When we parted ways, I told him to keep me in mind.”

One day, as Bowman was doing some work on his house, a truck pulled up, and out walked Rick Anderson. “He told me they fired him,” Bowman says. “I couldn’t believe they’d let him go.”

While Bowman wasn’t quite ready to hire Anderson at the time, Anderson found a few other jobs to keep him busy. “I was working three part-time landscape jobs after that,” he says.

Now that Bowman had an opening, he knew exactly who he wanted to hire.

“I didn’t have Rick’s phone number and I didn’t know exactly where he lived,” he says. He knew what truck Anderson drove and he knew the neighborhood he lived in, so he spent an entire Sunday driving around looking for his house.

Bowman says, “(When I hired him) he told us if we could pay him the salary we offered, he wouldn’t ask for anything more. And he never has.”

No job too small.

In order to hire Anderson, Bowman knew he would have to pay him a decent salary. “I figured I would cut back where I could,” he says. Bowman was able to offer Anderson twice as much as he was paying the previous supervisors.

On Anderson’s first day working for Bowman, he came in and completely reorganized the shop.

“He came in at a time when we really needed structure,” says Jackie Bowman, office manager and David’s mom. “He cleaned the shop, went to work fixing broken machines.”

The company was able to save money with a lot of the maintenance work being done in house thanks to Anderson, and they didn’t have to cut back as much as they thought.

Complete Lawn Grounds Maintenance ran two crews when Anderson started with the company. Today it has four crews with four supervisors. Jackie says Anderson does much more than his fair share as a supervisor.

“He does all the interviews, does all the paperwork,” she says. “I tell him all the time I can handle that, but he says, ‘Oh no, Jackie. I can do it.’”

Most of the 25 employees at the company have passed through Anderson since he handles any crew-related issues. “The guys joke that if you make it through Rick you can make it through anything,” David says.

When the company hires a new worker, Anderson is the first to take them out on the job. He pays attention to the new hire to get a feel for their personality and work ethic.

“I just watch them,” he says. “You know, if they see a piece of trash on the job and they walk on past it, that’s just something that shows maybe they aren’t the best worker.”

Moving up.

The company is hoping to move Anderson out of a supervisor role and give him a foreman position soon. “He’s a supervisor right now but he does more work than that,” Jackie says.

The company has been able to grow large enough for more crews and more supervisors, and David says he’d like to see Anderson in a position that allows him to spend less time working on a job and more time overseeing all the jobs. Although Jackie says she thinks he will always want to have a hand in the “dirty work.”

At home, Anderson has a family and recently became a grandfather, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing him down.

“His daughter was at the hospital getting ready to have a baby, so I told him to go on home,” David says. “But he told me, ‘I’m just going to go up there and wait,’ so he stayed at work as long as he could.”

If he’s not catching up on jobs on the weekend, Anderson enjoys kayaking with his family and riding dirt bikes. He says everyone in the family rides together, even if he doesn’t get out as much as he’d like.

“Rick is as loyal as the day is long. When we parted ways, I told him to keep me in mind.” – David Bowman, owner, Complete Lawn Grounds Maintenance
Overdoing it.

Anderson’s work ethic, while valuable, did cause him a bit of trouble about a year ago. Anderson was enjoying some time on the beach with his wife when she noticed a mark on his neck. He went to get it checked out and his doctors told him it was cancerous.

He underwent surgery to remove the melanoma tumor from his neck and was ordered to stay home for two weeks.

“He didn’t listen,” David says. “I would call to check on him and he would tell me he feels fine and he’s ready to get back to work.”

David worked out a deal with Anderson after a week of recovery. David suggested he ride around in one of the trucks, stay in the air conditioning and take it easy.

“I couldn’t sit in the house anymore,” Anderson says. While he was working, he tried to move something in the shop and ended up busting his wound open.

After a trip to the hospital to get fixed up, he listened to the doctor and waited the full recovery time before he returned back to work like usual.

“He’s just a blessing,” Jackie says. “He’s always working, doing something.”