Crawford Landscaping Group LLC: Groomed for Success

Crawford Landscaping President and CEO Blake Crawford isn’t one to watch weeds grow around his dreams or his business. Instead, he’s the type of person that will cut down the weeds standing in the way, groom the path leading to success and maybe even outfit that path with some aesthetically pleasing greenery. At least that’s what he did in 2004 when he founded the Naples, Fla.-based full-service landscaping company.

In just four years, the former start-up company has grown 40 percent annually, with much of the same expected in 2008. The company is positioned to reach revenues of $10 million by 2010. Crawford will lead the company to further success by maintaining its quality of service that adheres to a set of professional standards.

“We have grown to approximately $7 million, and now, entering our fourth year, we’ve almost doubled our size in two years,” Crawford notes. “When I started this business, I committed to doing what we say we were going to do and standing behind our work.”

Operating under parent company The Crawford Group, which is operated by his father, Richard Crawford, Crawford Landscaping provides full-scale landscaping services. “We have been fortunate enough to be funded by The Crawford Group, so we can take on growth,” Crawford says. “But, over the last 12 months, we have been able to fund our landscaping division solely from our operations [revenue].”

The company operates enhancement, lawn maintenance, horticulture, design/install, pest control and fertilization, mosquito control, irrigation and landscaping lighting divisions. Its diverse portfolio includes everything from estate homes to commercial properties.

In The Beginning

Crawford thought of founding a landscaping company that would operate as any other professional business, therefore requiring it to provide comprehensive and top-notch services and to also train its employees and provide employee benefits.

While in high school, Crawford founded his first business, Crawford-Mourad Landscaping, in Grosse Pointe, Mich., which helped him implement some of the best business practices at Crawford Landscaping.

After working in and learning the ins and outs of the Detroit automotive industry, and dabbling in central Florida’s real estate industry, Crawford decided to make his dream a reality.

In 2004, he decided on launching a business to serve the Fort Myers-Naples corridor because it seemed like an area that could support a professional landscaping company.

“There was a lot of heavy growth in the trades, but the market lacked sophistication in the trade base as there was so much business available, there was really no need for contractors to differentiate,” Crawford recalls of the South Florida market at the time. “If we could get into the marketplace and bring the operating systems, we could differentiate ourselves. It was a combination of a love for landscaping and applying what I had learned from a quality standpoint.”

The latest large-scale installation Crawford Landscaping is managing is for The Naples Daily News building, a $500,000 project due to run through the first quarter of 2009.

Quality Standards

The greatest differentiating factor between Crawford Landscaping and its competitors is its quality standards. Crawford’s background in the Detroit auto industry proved useful in creating the standards, which he says, mimics kaizen – the philosophy of continuous improvement.

“There are not many companies creating measurements like we do, but in manufacturing, which was my background, it’s more common,” Crawford notes. “I thought that if we brought that discipline to landscape maintenance, that we could differentiate ourselves.”

Crawford Landscaping is pursuing its ISO 9000 certification. The international certification program has its roots in manufacturing, but it has now spread to all types of industries, with a focus on quality management systems.

“From our standpoint, to guarantee that we can do what we say we’re going to do, and offer the quality and services, we have to surround the business with good operating procedures,” Crawford says.

The work process begins with a route sheet that organizes customer jobs by location and tasks. When crews arrive at a job site, they follow a standardized system from where they will park their trucks to how to cut lawns, prune plants and trees, to how it will leave the property.

These reports are then given to the customer service manager for entry into a computer software system. 

Since each step is performed according to written instructions, each procedure becomes a company standard process that can be easily measured.

Expanding Geographically

In April, Crawford opened a branch office in Sarasota, Fla., to serve commercial, residential and multi-family clients.

The Sarasota office is operated by Branch Manager Judson Griggs, a past president of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America – now known as PLANET.

“We believe that there are many clients looking for the expert horticultural care that we provide as well as the high level of customer service that has allowed us to grow as rapidly as we have in southwest Florida,” Griggs said in a statement.