Four women who work in landscaping and property management industries in Southern California discussed issues ranging from being female in a male-dominated industry to how education can make the industry more diverse.

The Lunch-N-Learn webinar panel, hosted by Richard Restuccia, vice president of water management solutions at Jain Irrigation, featured panelists Stacey Sturnot, executive operations manager for Landscapes USA; Tracy Wankner with Worth Property Management; Nicole Hill, director of landscape operations at Irvine Company Office Properties; and Corrine Crawford from Powerstone Property Management.

Here are four takeaways from the panel:

1. Gender shouldn’t hold you back in landscaping.

Most people who work in landscaping are male, but based on the experience of the panelists, gender is not the large factor in having success in this industry.

“I’ve always found landscaping to be very welcoming,” Hill said. “(The landscaping) industry respects hard work, positivity, willingness to show up, do work, show people respect and kindness. Gender hasn’t affected much.”

Hill said she can be more nurturing as a leader. She said she doesn’t know if this is because she is a woman, but it goes against the leadership style that reigned when she first entered the industry – hierarchical and aggressive, which often involved yelling at employees.

She said this allows her to lead a diverse group of people and create an environment that brings out their talent.

Sturnot added she knows female employees that enter the industry can be less confident because it is male dominated. Sturnot said she works to nurture, support, stand by and mentor these employees to help them stand on their own.

Seeking a mentor was advice most of the panelists gave for young women in the industry.

Crawford suggested just asking someone in their company who they like to be their mentor.

Sturnot suggested learning Spanish since it has helped her gain respect from her team.

2. More women need to be brought into landscaping.

The problem still standing is that women, and many people in general, aren’t seeking careers in the landscaping industry enough. It’s improved over the years, but not by much, Sturnot said.

One reason for this, Hill said, is that the industry has an image problem: horticulture is often not seen as a career path. She saw a stark image of this at Disneyland. There was large mural on the wall about jobs in horticulture.

“It didn’t list arboriculture, it didn’t list irrigation, it didn’t list any management role at all. It was like, ‘gardeners can make up to $30,000 a year,’ and I was so mad. This is the worst perception ever of our industry because I think there’s amazing opportunities on both sides, either on the management side or the landscape side,” Hill said.

Working to combat this image, Sturnot used to visit her former high school and speak to students at their horticulture class. She would look to recruit more people, including women, into the industry.

“We need to start from high school level, college level too, to make sure we’re adding the right people and training some all-stars to take over after us,” she said.

3. Educating is key to success in landscaping.

Another image problem the landscaping industry faces is that many people don’t think it’s very technical, Hill said. People often assume it’s just “lawn mowers and blowers.”

The truth is landscaping is very technical. It is often a task of the landscaper to tone down any technical language and speak to homeowners, boards and property managers in everyday terms to make information digestible for the decision makers, Hill said. This can be done often to justify the large expense landscaping usually requires, Wankner said.

Educating others starts with educating yourself, especially as technology rapidly changes.

“There is a part of our jobs where there’s a sliver of time to educate, learn and innovate,” Hill said.

4. Your relationship with those around you is vital.

This education goes both ways: There needs to be a good level of education between the landscape contractor and the property manager, Crawford said.

For property managers, they need to be educated by landscapers so they can keep the value of the property, make fixes before they become problems and not overspend on repairs.

“I am very well aware of the fact that I am not an expert in landscaping or irrigation, so that relationship with the landscape contractor is so important,” she said.

Crawford, as a property manager, said she wants as little to do with landscaping as possible. She wants to trust the landscapers she works with and wants them to find a good balance when educating her.

“You tell me too much and I’m going to go, ‘I don’t need to know this. I’ll do a different job.’ You don’t tell me enough and I’m not going to be able to do my job as a property manager,” Crawford said.

Educating requires a landscaper to maintain a good working relationship with the people they are trying to educate. They must build trust with these people first to be heard.

Having a face-to-face relationship with them, whether it’s over Zoom or in-person, helps build trust.

Sturnot said this can involve bringing in vendors to educate, too. Building trust is vital, especially if they have had bad experiences with landscapers in the past or have dealt with past mistakes.

“Being able to come into a room of people from a variety of different backgrounds, may or may not have any education in what you’re trying to present to them, and being successful at that is really hard, but it’s so key when you do what we do,” Hill said. “But being the person in the room who can tie everybody together confidently and earn their trust, it’s so hard and it’s so underrated, but it’s so important.”

Senske announces Tim Ehrhart as new COO

Ehrhart brings over 20 years of experience in the home services industry with ServiceMaster and TruGreen.

KENNEWICK, Wash. – Senske Services has hired Tim Ehrhart as the new chief operating officer. Ehrhart brings with him over 20 years of experience in the home services industry with ServiceMaster and TruGreen.

Ehrhart's career in the industry began with ServiceMaster in 1997, where he quickly moved up the ranks and held several senior-level positions, including national sales director, director of operations, region VP of operations and vice president of sales.

"I'm really excited about having Tim join the leadership team at Senske," said Chris Senske, president. "His two decades of experience in the industry will bring a new focus on growth along with the ability to manage a more profitable organization."

“I have been aware of the Senske brand and their great reputation in the industry for years. As I learned more about the diverse home service lines offered and the different brand platforms available to grow, I realized this was an ideal fit,” Ehrhart said. “The Senske culture, values and long-term vision of Chris Senske are all reasons my family is excited to re-locate to the Pacific Northwest and join the Senske team.”

Ehrhart is joined in Washington by his wife, Lacie, and son, Luke. In his downtime, Ehrhart enjoys biking, running and expanding his guitar collection.

David J. Frank celebrates 5-year safety mark

The company lost no time due to accidents in that span.

GERMANTOWN, Wis. – David J. Frank Landscape Contracting recently celebrated 1,825 consecutive days – five years – with no lost time due to accidents, extending the longest streak in company history.

David J. Frank Landscape Contracting finished No. 83 on Lawn & Landscape's recent Top 100 list.

“This streak began under the guidance of our founder and my father, David J. Frank. He would be so proud of this monumental milestone,” said CEO and President David R. Frank. “He was passionate about safety and protective of our team members, and he understood that implementing safe practices was important to the stability of the company.”

CEO and President David R. Frank says his late father, David J. Frank, was particularly passionate about safety.
Photo courtesy of David J. Frank Landscape Contracting

Like many outdoor careers, the combination of heavy equipment, power tools and fluctuating weather conditions present landscape workers with daily risks. Keeping the company’s 250 employees safe requires diligence, and this safety streak is no accident.

“Our company culture revolves around safety,” Frank said. “We use a combination of training, education, communication, and rewards.”

The company’s emphasis on safety includes: identifying potential safety hazards before going to a new jobsite; weekly safety meetings; jobsite visits by the company safety committee; company training accreditation courses and workshops; OSHA-10 training and certification programs; training sessions on new equipment and procedures; safety articles in the weekly company newsletter; and safety recognition and rewards.

Davey Resource Group acquires assets of TGC Engineering

Founded in 2001, TGC offers civil, municipal and environmental engineering services.

KENT, Ohio – Davey Resource Group, a subsidiary of The Davey Tree Expert Company, has acquired certain assets of TGC Engineering based in Sharon Center, Ohio.

Founded in 2001, TGC offers civil, municipal and environmental engineering services to clients in the private and public sectors. The firm and DRG have a longtime partnership in place and have worked together on multiple projects spanning nearly 10 years.

“We are excited for the employees of TGC as we welcome them into the Davey family,” said Ken Joehlin, vice president and general manager, DRG Environmental Consulting. “TGC has been a leader in the field and their experience, combined with Davey’s scientific and technical leadership, strengthens Davey’s commitment to our clients across the region. This acquisition also expands the range of services we can offer to our clients.”

As part of DRG’s Environmental Consulting services division, TGC will continue providing civil site engineering, water resource engineering, construction surveying and topographic services in Ohio and surrounding states.

The firm employs 24 people, all of whom will continue employment with the company. TGC founder and owner Travis Crane will continue with Davey as engineering area manager to lead DRG’s engineering services in Ohio and the Midwest and to ensure a successful transition of employees and clients to DRG.

Crane said both DRG and TGC share a passion for creating an excellent client experience and employee development.

“We know the people at DRG really well, and it is a great opportunity to help us grow our business segment under the DRG umbrella,” Crane said. “Our teams also share a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that makes this partnership a great fit.”

Ryan Lawn & Tree expands services in Kansas City

Its landscaping division nearly doubled in size over the summer.

One of the largest lawn and tree care companies in the Kansas City Metro area has expanded to offer landscaping services to more customers.

Ryan Outdoor Living, the landscaping division of Ryan Lawn & Tree, which ranked No. 45 on Lawn & Landscape's Top 100 list in 2020, has almost doubled its staff this summer including the addition of a fifth landscape crew, and a new landscape consultant, landscape architect, and division project coordinator.

“This was the plan we’ve been working on over the last year, and it is finally coming together,” Ryan Outdoor Living Manager Shawn Parker said. “Our additional experts will allow us to expand comprehensive landscaping design services from Overland Park and Leawood to the entire Metro area.”

Parker, who started the landscape design division at Ryan’s Kansas City location three years ago, said he has worked to develop a reproducible model that works for all customers on a lasting basis.

“When we work with a client, we are always thinking long-term,” Parker said. “We’re not just putting a band-aid on something; we’re providing the best products and solving landscaping challenges that will last. We want to build a relationship with that client that continues as long as they own their home.”

One of the ways ROL solves landscape challenges is by using the expertise of new landscape architect Sarah Walls. As the fifth member of the ROL design team, Walls will allow the company to shorten the time it takes to turnaround a finished design that effectively addresses customer needs.

The new ROL team will have the capability to handle all aspects of landscaping. The customer service representative gathers information from the prospective customer and schedules an in-person appointment with a landscape consultant. Ryan’s landscape consultant will work with customers to create a plan, avoiding any uncovered site issues. Depending on the complexity, the landscape consultant will either provide a same-day estimate or recommend they move to Ryan’s design process. If needed, ROL designers will prepare a comprehensive design to present to the customer. Once a plan is finalized, the landscape crew carefully carries out the plan.

That plan may include some or all of the services ROL offers: landscape design including tear-out, plant selection and edging; hardscaping including patios, fire pits/grills, water features, walkways and retaining walls; drainage including downspouts, French drains and grading; and landscape lighting including path lighting, uplighting and tree lighting.

“Our goal is to transform unusable outdoor spaces into comfortable extensions of your home,” Parker said.

To help coordinate and organize the high volume of new projects across the Metro, ROL added landscape coordinator Angie Laughrey. Laughrey has spent this year as part of Ryan Lawn & Tree’s customer service team.

“Angie brings many strengths and valuable experience to ROL,” Parker said. “We are excited to have her on our team to communicate with customers, streamline the workload and keep our focus.”

As a licensed general contractor, Parker said ROL offers the benefit of pulling any needed permits and managing multiple contractors, as needed, so customers don’t have to worry about taking on that role.