Creating Landscapes for Life

Landscape Concepts Management
Written by Ryan Cartner

Landscape Concepts Management began in 1981 in a very small garage in Libertyville, Illinois as a construction and landscape management operation. From these humble beginnings, the company worked to establish a reputation and soon launched a partnership with a major developer in the Chicago Metropolitan area called Cambridge Homes. This was the beginning of a trend of consistent growth for Landscape Concepts.
In 2003, the company split into two separate entities. One-half of the company unionized and left to focus on construction projects. The other half remained strictly non-union, took the name Landscape Concepts Management, and, while it still does some construction, the focus is on landscape management.

Before the economic downturn of 2008, the company offered landscape maintenance services to companies throughout the entire Midwest, including Indianapolis, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit, Michigan; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company still offers services in these areas, but only for new construction and only to companies based in Chicago, Illinois. Streamlining its services in this way was a decision that enabled the company to weather the economic storm and has carried Landscape Concepts to great success as the economy has stabilized.

The company operates from Illinois facilities in Aurora and Chicago and its main corporate headquarters in Greys Lake. It also has a facility in Mequon, Wisconsin, which serves Milwaukee. At its peak, the company employs around 350 people.

Landscape Concepts strives to be a leader in its field and has grown from a landscaping and maintenance company into something much more. It has focused a great deal of effort on building a team of dedicated and highly qualified experts. All of the company’s account managers are certified arborists with an average of twenty years of service in the industry. This means that customers are dealing with experts in the field, who have a clear understanding of the work they are trusted to do.

The company is passionately committed to professionalism, and it works hard to find qualified people with degrees in horticulture from some of the best universities in the United States. Those who practice horticulture are trained in many specialized skills including determining what species are suited to an area, selecting, planting, and fertilizing of the chosen trees. They also control pests and manage the growth of the tree through pruning, shaping, and more.

The company is a big supporter of an organization called PLANET, a professional land-care network for certified landscaping professionals, and it is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), which is dedicated to the professional study of how trees and shrubs grow and how to care for them.

The company is built on a foundation of honest, quality service, and lasting partnerships. “We only sell services that we believe in,” says Landscape Concepts Vice President Mike Graham. “We’re all about building long-term relationships.”

Landscape Concepts understands the value of a good reputation, and the team works hard to do right by the customer to create lasting business relationships that will benefit all parties long into the future. “We’re not perfect,” says Graham, “but if we make a mistake, we correct it as fast as possible at no cost to our customers.”

Landscape Concepts is renowned for the quality of its work, and the company has been granted dozens of awards for it. In 2016, the company won the Industry Partner of the Year award from the Institute of Real Estate Management and a merit award from the National Association of Landscape Professionals. These are only two of the many prestigious accolades the company has earned through its dedication and hard work.

“We expect a lot from our employees,” says Graham, “It’s demanding, but it’s also rewarding.” To maintain its quality, the company sets high standards for its workforce, and to keep them motivated, it offers a compensation package that is above the industry average. The company leadership understands that a business is only as good as its people. “I wouldn’t have a job without their work ethic and their dedication,” says Graham, “and we recognize that. There’s a lot of respect for everyone from the person who mows the grass to the person who runs the company.”

Most of the company’s employees are H-2B workers from three states in Mexico. H-2B is a non-immigrant visa that allows an employer to hire foreign employees on a temporary, seasonal basis. These workers come to the United States to work from April until November and return to Mexico in the offseason. These workers come from the Mexican states of Michoacan, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato, and being from these three communities means that many of them have relationships outside of work. The team is built up of friends and people with family ties, and these connections help with work performance.

Landscape Concepts is a thirty-million-dollar company, which puts it among the top one hundred landscaping companies in the United States. This is a significant accomplishment by itself, but especially when considering that it has grown entirely without acquisitions in one of the most competitive markets in the United States.

The Chicago Metro area has many high-performance landscaping companies that are extremely competitive in cost and quality of work, constantly challenging Landscape Concepts to push itself harder. In the face of this, the company continues to grow with a focus on managing that growth to between three to five percent annually so that it has the resources to meet client expectations and does not overextend.

The company sets itself apart from the competition by having brought under its purview a wide range of services for which many landscaping companies use subcontractors. Landscape has specialized divisions to cover every aspect of landscape management so that it can perform as many of the necessary services in-house as possible and have fine control over every aspect of a project. This allows Landscape team members to stay very close to every facet of a landscaping project. As a result, the operation becomes relatively seamless, and a levelof reliability is achieved that simply cannot be matched by those using numerous disconnected companies.

Landscape has a tree care division that handles the installation of new trees, the preservation of existing trees through pruning, shaping, disease treatment, pest control, removal of problem trees and stumps, and more. The company’s team of certified arborists are experts in the field of tree care.

There is a seasonal color division that works with clients to build beautiful flower installations from an extensive catalog of different flowers and plants. It also has a water management division run by certified irrigation specialists; an ice and snow removal division with a fleet of state-of-the-art equipment; and a plethora of specialized services too numerous to mention.

Landscaping can be a very easy entry market for new businesses. The core services, such as lawn mowing, line trimming, and snow removal, are all fairly rudimentary tasks that do not require much skill or experience, and as a result, the market can become saturated with fledgling competition. However, the expertise of Landscape’s people sets it apart.

This year, for example, there has been a fire blight epidemic affecting Chicago area pear trees. Fire blight is a bacterial disease that affects some fruit-bearing trees and, under certain conditions, can destroy an entire orchard in a single season. Landscape account managers are experts in recognizing diseases that can affect trees, and the company is committed to identifying these problems early, educating clients on these issues, and helping them find the most cost-effective solutions.

Landscape Concepts provides top quality services, and this means putting much trust in its workforce to perform far above the competition. A big challenge of working in such a competitive industry is that, because Landscape invests so much back into its workforce, the company’s employees become high-value targets for other companies looking to poach experts. Despite this, Landscape has had a good deal of success maintaining stability in its workforce.

Landscape Concepts has built a solid team. “Quite frankly,” says Graham, “I feel that I work for best landscape management company in the country, and there’s a spirit at the core that goes along with that. There are lots of great companies, but when it comes down to execution, quality of work, and detail, Landscape Concepts Management is top in the nation.”



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