When Joe Munie founded his company, Munie Greencare Professionals, in the greater St. Louis area in 1980, it was a wide-open playing field.

“Professional lawn care was a relatively new industry back then,” Munie says. “Growth was pretty fast. We started with maintenance, and we added irrigation because we saw a need. We were one of the first in the marketplace for that segment.” With his background as a golf course superintendent, Munie also began installing irrigation for golf courses. The company grew organically from there, moving into golf course construction by the mid-’90s.

Today, the company has expanded operations to nine states, primarily in the Midwest and Southeast. Munie Greencare continues to offer residential lawn care maintenance, though it’s admittedly a small portion of its overall focus. “We initially got out of lawn maintenance back in 2000 because the golf industry was so strong, but we have since re-entered as things cooled down in the golf segment,” Munie says.

The company’s primary concentration is grounds and land maintenance for large complex sites such as hospitals, corporate headquarters and military installations. For these clients, Munie Greencare offers a full range of maintenance services ranging from irrigation and water management to plant health care, pruning shrubs and installing perennials and seasonal color.

Know the players.

One of the company’s areas of expertise is the establishment and maintenance of sports turf.

“Sports turf management involves a different skill set from what’s needed for residential or commercial maintenance,” Munie says. “Performance fields are under hard use and managed much more intensely.” For instance, soil compaction and drainage are significant issues that require constant monitoring. In addition, larger equipment that isn’t used in a residential market, such as boom-type sprayers and deep tine aerators, are required.

The other key difference? “Your clients want to consult with you. They want you to manage issues such as disease and be able to quickly respond to what’s happening,” Munie says. “Coaches and athletic directors typically are involved. There’s a big emphasis on safety. For example, how well does a field drain after it rains? How quickly can play resume? If you become a trusted advisor, clients will lean on you and stay loyal.”

Practice makes perfect: Munie recommends securing smaller clients like Little Leagues or church fields to refine your sports turf expertise.

 

 

Time to cultivate.

Munie says for companies looking to expand into professional turf management, it’s not a quick transition. “You need a strong knowledge base and an understanding of issues such as soil composition. Get someone on board who’s got the golf or performance turf background,” he says. “And start with turf that’s less demanding, such as a Little League field or a large church. They won’t have the same needs as professional turf, and you can learn to master your techniques for weed control, aeration, and overseeding.”

Munie says growth has been successful because the company has responded to obvious needs in the marketplace, such as getting involved in the military housing market when it was privatized. That allowed them to expand into other non-military markets in time.

“We have always tried to look for obvious needs,” Munie says. “For companies trying to expand, growth is more competitive now. But there’s still potential if you can identify your niche and hone your core competencies.”

There’s no question that adding sports turf management services to your lineup is a long process that takes time to cultivate. In a nutshell, this is not an area for newbies to tackle. “Be realistic about your expectations,” Munie says. “Understand that it’s a significant investment into specialized equipment and people.”

The specialty is an intriguing segment of the turfgrass management industry if you’re dedicated to the education and science required.

“What I like is the challenge. This is the ultimate in turfgrass management,” Munie says. “You have to be passionate about this and have a good understanding of many different issues such as soils, compaction, the physiology of grass, how it grows, and what it needs at certain times of the year. It’s about growing turf, but it’s about taking it to the next level.”

The author is a freelance writer based in the Northeast