Creating a Strong and Sustainable Landscape Company with Human-Centered Approach

Crystal Greens Landscape

Commercial Investors and Property Managers want to work with landscape companies that are experts in their field, have the resources to handle jobs of all sizes, offer a wide service range, and charge competitive rates. But just as important, are the people representing the companies. They should be proactive, responsive, and adaptable to your unique business needs and hopefully, express passion and enthusiasm in the process of managing all phases of the service.

Crystal Greens Landscape has standardized efficient practices while promoting a human-centered approach to all aspects of its work. It believes company culture and structure are forces that can transform people and communities just as profoundly as it transforms landscapes.

The idea is simple. Make things better than you found them; especially people. “We always aim to care for our people, clients, and community first, and believe if we are good stewards of our relationships and resources, the business side of things will fall in place,” says Jason Sutton, General Manager at Crystal Greens Landscape. “Any success we have is the byproduct of who we are as people, wanting to serve clients, serve each other, serve employees, and serve the community.”

Crystal Greens Landscape’s wide range of services operates year-round with the core business of commercial landscape maintenance, irrigation, design and renovation, enhancement, tree care, and snow and ice services. The company, based out of Oregon and Southwest Washington, has over 200 staff, 1,000 commercial clients and 120 trucks on the road at any given time. There is consideration of entering the Seattle region in future years.

Clients are able interact with one Account Manager instead of multiple managers or workers. “The account manager is the point person,” explains Sutton. “They partner with a client’s staff and property managers.” These Account Managers act as a single point of contact across all sites, regardless of geographic location. “Clients don’t have to deal with area managers. They don’t have to deal with eight different managers across their sites and cities. They deal with one person, who then interacts with our production management team across our different branches.”

This streamlined communication model makes life easy for businesses with single or multiple properties and makes it easy for clients to give feedback on any property Crystal Greens is overseeing. There is accountability at every level and someone the clients know and trust, ensuring results. Account managers are continually receiving on-the-ground updates from Crystal Green’s staff members and, in turn, update clients on the state of their properties.

“Our quality assurance system includes visual-aid,” continues Sutton. “Our crews and supervisors submit pictures of completed projects. We produce a monthly quality report of the landscape, and then attach recommendations or notifications of either issues or things we think need to be done on the facility.”

The system grew up around several high-profile clients. As the company added more dynamic clients, properties, and portfolios, Crystal Greens was continually challenged to keep pace and provide ever-expanding services, to a client with unique needs. Hospitals and care centers cannot have loud noises, pollution, or workers operating at peak times, yet still require all the essential year-round services, from maintenance to snow and ice removal.

The company brings nature to the city, playing a vital role in improving air quality and appreciation for the environment and green space. It also works to be as sustainable as it can be through smart designs, its use of recycled materials, and operational efficiencies. However, probably the area with the largest impact is water, both in irrigation and stormwater management.

“We manage thousands of irrigation zones as part of our standard landscape management services,” says Sutton. “Every time we come onto a property, our staff discover water waste and opportunities to improve the water management.” Many factors cause waste, but good technology and smart ways of applying water can save companies thousands of dollars and, most importantly, not waste this precious resource.

“Studies have shown that a large amount of irrigation is being poured out onto concrete and wasted, we’ve done things like introduce MP Rotators, which apply water more accurately, and at a much slower rate, so it absorbs into the root system and applies a lot less water,” explains Sutton.

Stormwater management is also improved through the use of bioswales, which filter and clean water before it goes back into the earth. When it rains, oils, dirt, and pollution are carried from roads and into green space. Bioswales use natural filters like rocks and dirt to effectively clean the runoff before it reaches creeks or other water bodies.

Due to its large size, Crystal Greens has the resources and expertise to tackle almost any request or issue that may come up, something smaller companies may not be able to accomplish. Its fast-growing list of clients would agree.

“It’s something we’re proud of,” says Sutton. “We adapt to our clients. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to landscape management and customer service.” A distribution center is often more concerned with functional solutions like water conservation and drive visibility, while retail centers tend to invest more in curb appeal and aesthetic improvements to attack consumers. Regardless of the type of client, Crystal Greens aims to “create beautiful and professional spaces and landscapes, and take care of issues that are taking place on dynamic facilities.”

While Crystal Greens Landscape is now one of the largest commercial providers in the Northwest, it certainly didn’t start out that way. In the late eighties, Founder Pat Murphy did all of his work from an old pickup truck with a lawnmower he had picked up at a garage sale. After he would finish lawn maintenance on a golf course, he would mow lawns late into the evening.

Slowly, he built a client base and, in 1990, founded Crystal Greens Landscape. After ten years of residential work, he moved into the commercial market, and his reputation grew.

By 2010, only a couple of years after the great recession, he put together a team that devised a five-year growth plan that was reached in only 18 months. “We strategically and provocatively said hello to our target market, and there was a good reaction and an appetite for our service model,” recounts Sutton. The company is now producing around $20 million in revenue, and was named to Landscape Management Magazine’s list of the industry’s top 150 revenue-grossing U.S. companies.

The leadership team that Pat Murphy has built around him has grown from one person with a truck and a lawnmower to an operation with two hundred staff who use top-tier trucks and equipment.

“We have adopted and relied on our Founder Pat Murphy’s definition of leadership: to make people better and to not take credit,” explains Sutton. “Leaders are only as good as the people on their team.”

This philosophy is a driving force that has seen Crystal Greens being recognized on the list of Best 100 Companies to Work for in Oregon, by Oregon Business Magazine, on multiple occasions. The values are more than just good intentions; they are tangible actions that include above market pay rates, full benefits, and numerous team and community building events and activities.

Even through its incredible growth, the company remains modest. “We’re still trying to figure out what intentionality means in an organization with two hundred human beings,” says Sutton. “What are the best ways we can provide support, training, team building? We never want to lose touch with our people. Ultimately, people need to feel safe, respected, known, and valued in order to do their best work.”

The company works to be a positive force for the companies and people with whom it works as well as throughout the community as a whole. “We have a fund in our budget for specific charities and staff family emergency relief funds, staff therapy, and education scholarships. We work with Ronald McDonald Charities, Rotary International, Providence Healthcare Foundation, Divine Threads, and local athletics,” says Sutton.

It is winning by being a better company that does excellent work, provides meaningful feedback, and puts egos aside in favor of collaborative, ongoing partnerships. “We want to first seek to understand and listen, communicate proactively and effectively. And to never over-promise, as we aim to exceed expectations,” explains Sutton.

“It is really key for us to provide an experience, not just a service. We want to be refreshing and solutions-oriented and operate with the authority to serve.” For a human-centered experience from staff and management who truly care about the work they do, people contact Crystal Greens Landscape.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 16, 2019, 11:53 PM EST