Baytree Landscape Contractors, founded in 2014, is a full-service landscape maintenance and construction company with a complete focus on commercial projects. The company’s capabilities are extensive and include landscape installation and maintenance, irrigation, hardscapes, and floriculture.
Trends continue to transform landscaping, while advances in technology influence how designs and projects are achieved. By the early 2000s, protecting the environment through sustainability measures and green practices were concerns.
Today, the landscaping industry is huge and growing with market research firm IBISWorld indicating that the industry in the United States has grown almost five percent in the last five years. A significant percentage of this growth is attributed to the demand for services from commercial clients, and this is good news for Baytree Landscape Contractors.
“There is a seasonality component to our business,” says Baytree’s Principal Matt Maurer. Baytree’s four founding partners – Todd Hunt, Phil Walters, Drew Watkins, and Matt Maurer –each bring to the company twenty-plus years of landscaping experience.
“As a contractor, we work with architects, designers, contractors, and owners in trying to create the best product we can,” says Matt. “Through that, we wear all these different hats… We don’t necessarily do a design, but we’re given a design to make it come to life.” Baytree engages in both new landscape and renovations to old projects.
“We find that the landscape renovation business is a very successful business for us,” adds Drew. “With the cost of new construction now, a lot of owners are renovating their older real estate. We do really well in that space. We’re very well-positioned to do that.”
With its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Baytree also has two offices in Charleston, South Carolina, one office in Nashville, TN and recently it opened a full service office in Charlotte, North Carolina as well as a satellite office in Marietta, Georgia to help serve its customer base more efficiently. The company employs approximately 350.
When it comes to what Baytree wants in an employee, Matt says, “A lot of what we look for has changed over the last five years.” He explains that the company initially sought those who were industry leaders or associated with former projects with a network of people in the industry.
“We were looking for a lot of high talent to build the foundation for what would become the future senior-level managers of the company,” he says. But, as the talent pool has become smaller, Baytree is now looking for people, “that we can bring in that will fit into our culture that we’ve created.”
That culture is continuously unfolding. “We don’t have our culture exactly where we want it, but we know where we want to take it.” Employees must be aligned with the company’s values and have trustworthiness, a strong work ethic, industry knowledge, and self-management capabilities.
“In this industry, there tends to be a lot of turnover,” Matt continues. “We have a lot of people that stay with us for the long haul. I believe that we accomplish this by putting the employees first… We constantly recognize that we would not be where we are today without our workforce. We have not lost sight of that. I commend my partners on that.”
“It’s a much more flexible approach from employer to employee,” notes Drew. “We feel that builds equity between us. We’re in a partnership.” This partnership has built a sense of employee loyalty to the company which in turn enables, “a better service product for our clients.”
The company certainly has some employee incentives with a financial component, but Baytree also tries to do things, “that aren’t financially motivated,” says Matt. These include employee and ‘crew of the month’ awards, for example, and the company plans to have a companywide soccer match where all employees are brought to rented soccer fields in Augusta, Georgia for “the first ever Baytree soccer tournament.”
Baytree initiated a summer internship program in 2015 to instill further interest in those seeking a career in landscaping. The twelve-week, comprehensive, rotational internship provides skills and knowledge in various aspects of the industry such as landscape maintenance, installation, design, estimating, irrigation, and hardscapes.
This exposure to different specializations will help candidates find a specific area of interest that intrigues them most. Matt explains that company representatives attend recruiting fairs and universities in the southeast to select candidates to interview for the program. One or two candidates are selected for Charleston and Atlanta. “The Nashville and Charlotte operations are still growing, and they’re just not ready to handle internship candidates yet,” he says.
Internship candidates are “paired with a mentor. Their mentor walks them through those twelve weeks. They’ll help them transition… We try to give them two-week windows into all areas of our business… We found it very important to let them get a taste of everything.” Upon completion of this internship, candidates are required to complete a project in their determined area of focus to be presented to the senior management team.
Baytree has established several partnerships in the past five years with clients, general contractors, architects, and designers who have played a huge role in how the company moves forward. “Those partnerships are usually developed through blood, sweat, and tears – the good ones,” Matt explains. “We rely on those partnerships to grow our business, to help Baytree expand. A lot of these partnerships have a regional component to them.”
The company was recognized as a true regional performer since the beginning, and clients, “wanted to bring us into their other markets,” continues Matt. Proving successful in Atlanta and Charleston meant that clients were requesting that the company open offices in Nashville and Charlotte so that projects could be completed on those regions.
“We saw that opportunity and have taken that opportunity to grow into those markets. Without those relationships, that growth doesn’t happen.” The company follows its active clients to secure additional projects.
“My professional experience has been that those relationships are what give us the joy of doing what we do,” Drew notes. “There is so much depth involved. It’s a long-term association. It’s a wonderful way to do business because they are known commodities on the other side of the table.”
He says that if it is a new client, there is always the unknown factor in terms of personalities and how projects are executed. “You just don’t have that value that you do with the long-term relationship clients. So, we try to maximize our width with those known relationship clients to the greatest degree possible.”
“There’s a lot of trust that has to be exchanged,” Matt adds.
When Baytree was established, the focus was on landscape installation and management. The company soon realized that some landscape packages on a few of the larger projects, “were requiring hardscapes being done by the same contractor,” says Matt. “We saw another opportunity to set ourselves apart from our competitors because not everybody has the capabilities to offer hardscapes as well… It has proven to be a successful venture.”
“The hardscape work is different from the softscape work,” Drew adds. “The marketplace, particularly in Atlanta, really wants us to perform both, almost to the point where, if you don’t perform both, you’re not going to get the big jobs that separate us from all the small contractors… We don’t play in that space. We want to play in a more elite space. We do wonderful hardscape work.”
The company has employed apps and technologies such as time-lapse video for some of its projects. Clients have access to these, so that they may view progress without travelling to the site.
Last year, GPS was introduced for the entire fleet. “One of the things we’re focusing on is route density to minimize travel time, so our managers were able to get a look into how their crews were running their routes… they all have the app on their phones.”
Additionally, through Rain Bird products, it began “putting in their Wi-Fi remote control program in our irrigation controllers,” says Matt. Adjustments to irrigation costs and timing can be made and data relayed to laptops for analysis. This saves on travel, and although it cannot always replace making a trip to a site, it does, “save us time, energy, and effort.”
There are several trends in the industry, and Drew notes that particularly in the Atlanta market, “We are seeing quite a few LEED certification jobs – different levels of LEED construction. That’s been a very hot trend.”
“The projects are being designed with more amenities than we’ve ever seen offered,” Matt adds, noting that fifteen years ago, an apartment complex may have had a pool and grill. Today, there are outdoor living rooms, televisions, cabanas, and kitchens. “They’re putting so many amenities in these projects. All of these projects are about amenities that will draw people in.”
Baytree’s Del Webb Nexton project in Charleston, at the cost of approximately $3 million, “is our largest project to date,” says Matt. Located in the prestigious Nexton community, one thousand single-family homes are being built across 350 acres of landscaped properties. “There were a lot of challenges with it,” says Matt. “It was very complex in scope.” To date, four to five additional phases of work have been completed with several more phases to go. “It has been a really good client of ours.”
Drew notes two current issues the company faces are the labor shortage and rising material costs. “Inflation is becoming more relevant.” Not only have material costs increased but so too has the cost of transportation. “Input costs continue to rise, and you have to stay ahead of that as best you can.”
He concludes by sharing his vision for the company, which includes growth and expansion within, “a continuing robust construction market.”