When storms washed away the beach of an oceanfront hotel property serviced by Park West Landscape Management, President Dustin Kemmerer knew the earth-moving needs surpassed the capabilities of his maintenance crews. Park West Landscape Management’s forte is planting, mowing, weeding, trimming, light construction and irrigation maintenance – not operating front loaders and other heavy equipment this situation required.
Instead of calling subcontractors or stretching his crews beyond their core competencies, Kemmerer turned to the built-in support of Park West Landscape Construction, led by that department’s president, Bart Ryder.
A separate company underneath the same parent organization of Park West Companies, which landed at number 10 on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list, Park West Landscape Construction provided the equipment and experience Park West Landscape Maintenance needed.
Plus, the client didn’t have to hassle with an unfamiliar subcontractor or doubt whether crews specialized in each phase of work being performed.
“The cohesion between the companies is fantastic,” Kemmerer says. “These companies work hand-in-hand and support each other. There’s collaboration almost daily.”
Kemmerer says it’s not too often that a decision has to be made by the three company leaders that will affect the entire organization. If there is, and they can’t come to a consensus, CEO Jim Tracy, brother of the company’s founder, Mike Tracy, and the company’s board of directors will serve as the tie-breaker.
Kemmerer, Ryder and Corey Gallagher, who leads the tree division, meet monthly to discuss issues, and are in daily communication with each other.
“Even though I run the construction company on a daily basis, all three companies operate out of the same corporate office, Ryder says. “We literally see each other every day and discuss business matters, whether it pertains to maintenance, construction or the tree care company.
“From a procedural stand point we all follow the same guideline. From an operational point of view, we are very different – different clients, different equipment needs, different staffing requirements.”
Growing through hard times.
In 1978, long before Park West Companies, Mike Tracy graduated from high school and advertised his landscape services in the PennySaver. By 1986, he built Tracy Landscaping to $5 million in annual revenue by focusing on commercial landscape installation.
Tracy saw opportunities to service projects after completion, but he didn’t want to take attention away from construction. So he founded a separate landscape maintenance company in 1986 called Park Maintenance to take over the work his construction company installed. Park West Companies, the parent organization, formed in 1997. Tracy Landscaping became Park West Landscape Construction a few years later, and Park Maintenance became Park West Landscape Management in 2004.
“In many cases, to reduce operational costs for struggling HOAs, maintenance crews removed annual color and installed permanent plant material, which reduced the need for multiple change outs annually, thus reducing cost.” Dustin Kemmerer, president, Park West Landscape Management
When Kemmerer became president in 2004, Park West Landscape Management was doing $12 million in revenue with 275 employees. It has grown steadily every year since, to a projected 2016 revenue of $55 million, with 860 of the parent organization’s 1,500 employees and 337 of its 491 vehicles.
Pre-recession, Park West Companies’ revenue peaked at $186 million in 2007; encompassing $168 million from landscape construction and about $18 million from landscape management. By 2010, as recession halted most construction, Landscape Construction dropped to $45 million while Landscape Management grew to $28 million.
“About 75 to 80 percent of our business is HOAs and master planned communities, and they got hit hard,” Kemmerer says. “Foreclosures were up, directly effecting (HOA) dues. But we partnered with our customers through those times and continued to grow.
“In many cases, to reduce operational costs for struggling HOAs, maintenance crews removed annual color and installed permanent plant material, which reduced the need for multiple change outs annually, thus reducing cost. We also gave our customers options for more drought-tolerant plant material and drip irrigation that would ultimately reduce their water costs.”
“More importantly, we communicated with our customers through these times. Each customer had its own unique challenges and needs, and we worked with them to achieve those objectives. Our goal with all of our clients is to create long-term mutually beneficial relationships, and being flexible is essential to achieving those objectives.”
Last year, Park West Landscape Management’s revenue grew to $45 million, while construction climbed to $83 million. Other than sharing administrative functions like IT and accounting, the companies operate independently and partner often. Kemmerer’s crews may take over post-construction maintenance work that’s built into construction contracts, and construction crews might assist maintenance with large-scale enhancements, especially when work requires heavy equipment.
However, there are still some jobs that, even together, both companies can’t do. Hiring a few hardscaping subcontractors here and there was no big deal, but the amount of business being outsourced to tree care specialists signaled big opportunity for Park West. That led the organization to expand again in 2015 by adding Park West Tree Care, and bringing in Gallagher to lead that department.
“We were subcontracting significant revenues and we were able to open our tree company to absorb that revenue,” Kemmerer says, projecting more than $3 million for first-year tree revenue. “The timing was right and it made perfect sense to perform the tree work on our accounts. We have built-in revenue because it’s vertically integrated.”
Now, instead of sending away revenue to tree contractors, Kemmerer can call Park West Tree Care and the customer is only dealing with one company.
“Some customers just want one invoice, one contact, so we invoice them under maintenance and then the tree company bills us,” Kemmerer says. “In some cases, we connect our maintenance customer directly with our tree care representatives and they work directly with each other. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that customers get the best experience with the least amount of effort.”
Three are better than one.
Park West Landscape Management is successful independently; construction referrals only make up 20 percent of its customer base. But in the process of building its own brand as a maintenance company, it benefits from the added strengths and specialties of two vertically integrated companies.
“When we market the maintenance company, we share the capabilities of our construction company and our tree care company, and explain how that helps us service the client,” Kemmerer says. “It’s a holistic approach where we can satisfy all of their needs, instead of being limited to maintenance. We want to serve all of their needs, so the marketing and branding needs to emulate that.”
Over the past year, Park West Companies has been putting more effort into marketing its companies collectively in addition to promoting brands individually by hiring a PR firm to accentuate its three-in-one combined strengths. By building a full-service reputation, Park West positions all three companies for growth.
“You’ll start to see a lot more ‘Park West Companies’ branding,” Kemmerer says. “That’s one of the reasons we brought on the tree company, because we want to be able to serve all of our customers with whatever they need. Whether it’s landscape, irrigation, enhancements or tree care, we want to be full-service for these customers.”