The population in Charleston, South Carolina, increases by roughly 45 residents a day, according to U.S. Census information. Because of this, Baytree Landscape Contractors knew it had to change the way it offers services.“It’s really a very hot market for housing, land development, multi-family houses,” says Matt Maurer, co-owner of the company, which does 100 percent commercial projects. As more people move into the city, more shopping malls, banks, schools and other commercial facilities are built.
During the population boom in the mid-2000s, Maurer says people were buying up land and expanding the footprint of the city, but the most recent boom is different.
“It’s up and not out,” he says. “This emphasis is more on redevelopment. The emphasis is more on infill, on tearing down old projects and putting up a nice, mixed-use building.”
He says previous apartment complexes would be 275 units on 20 acres, which created a lot of landscaping to maintain. Now, complexes that house 275 units are being built on 3 acres, cutting down on that landscaping.
“The size of landscaping projects was going down and down and down, just like New York City,” Maurer says. “There’s not a lot of green space in New York City. So, we had to find where we would still be able to be a company that could provide both services (maintenance and hardscaping) without specializing in one or the other.”
Baytree was founded in the spring of 2014 as a landscape maintenance and construction company based in both Charleston and Atlanta. Each of the company’s four founding partners, Phil Walters, Todd Hunt, Drew Watkins and Matt Maurer, had been in the landscaping industry for more than 20 years and had worked together in the past.
“We knew each other’s strengths. We knew what each other could bring to the table and we felt like it was a successful mix to start Baytree,” Maurer says. “Knowing your partners and knowing what they’re capable of doing is very helpful. We all have our responsibility and we all know what that responsibility is, and when there’s four of us, it’s a little easier to manage than one person trying to do it all.”
The four partners were able to combine the resources and industry contacts they had to start the company in two key markets. Based in the Charleston location, Maurer is responsible for everything in the North and South Carolina markets.
Walters is responsible for landscape construction (which includes irrigation, hardscape and landscape) out of Atlanta. Hunt is the company’s chief financial officer, holding down the fort financially, and Watkins – based in Atlanta – runs the maintenance division for both locations. As it looks at expanding more, Baytree is keeping its eye on emerging markets.
“We are definitely looking to grow within the Southeast into some additional markets,” Maurer says. “We are a client-driven organization. Our clients do work through the southeast and we follow them. It’s how we build our loyalty with our clients.”
“We’ve lost many jobs because we were unable to provide hardscape services,” Maurer says.
“We knew each other’s strengths. We knew what each other could bring to the table and we felt like it was a successful mix to start Baytree.” Matt Maurer, co-owner
Often, commercial properties in the company’s market will hire their hardscaping company to continue doing landscape maintenance when the job is done, leaving Baytree with fewer opportunities at contracts.
Additionally, the contracts are bigger.
“Typically, a hardscape contract is a lot larger than a landscape contract because of the cost of materials, the labor’s a lot more skilled,” he says. The appeal would be enough for any company to consider expanding its offerings.
“The landscaping on one of those jobs, a multi-million-dollar high-rise, could be $50,000,” Maurer says. “Where now our scope of work could be a million and a half dollars because we’re doing the hardscaping around it as well.”
To make the shift to hardscaping, Baytree starting looking into the possibility of offering the service in house. Realizing they had the right personnel in place – something Maurer says was No. 1 – the company started bidding on jobs.
“We did see where it started to turn the tables,” Maurer says. “‘This guy can do landscape and hardscape, we’re going with him.’ That was a big driver.”
In 2016, the company saw a revenue increase of 60 percent, which Maurer also credits to the company’s age.
“We were able to open up some doors that we knew we could get in and work with these folks,” he says. “But in the early stages of Baytree, our capacity wasn’t there.”
While adding hardscaping definitely played a role in the revenue increase, Maurer says the growing market helped.
“The cities we work in, the markets increased tremendously over the last three years,” he says. “We had a very strong market growth.”