Crawford Landscaping on Growth Path

Fort Myers News-Press, March 2016

A Naples business has taken a unique path in the landscaping industry, using a systems-based, standards of excellence approach as it has broadened its services over the past 12 years.

Crawford Landscaping has grown significantly over the years, with owner and CEO Blake Crawford seeing more growth ahead as offerings expand over the next 24-36 months.

“We’re getting ready to relaunch our business in terms of growth,” he said.

The company's list of services already includes arbor care, design, irrigation, construction and lighting, among other offerings, with that list expecting to swell.

“We can position ourself as a full-service company,” said Crawford, adding the market is booming. “The demand for maintenance: for every business that opens, there is more opportunity for growth.”

Crawford employs 170 people, serving over 220 commercial and residential clients from Marco Island to Fort Myers, with 2016 revenue projected at $13 million. The client list includes many of the area’s top homeowner associations and high-rise complexes. One of those is Dorrill Management Group, which manages communities primarily in Collier County.

“What impresses us the most and why we are using Crawford Landscaping is the comprehensive solution that they offer,” said Kevin Carter, field manager. “They offer not only traditional landscape services, but they also have on staff an arborist. They handle pesticides, fertilizers, it’s full service.”

Crawford, 43, is reinventing the business, reviewing standard operating procedures with next steps in mind.

“We’re asking, ‘What do we want to be when we grow up?’ ” said Crawford, reflecting on the company’s founding principles, one of which is top-tier customer service. “We are uniquely positioned in this market.”

Crawford is locally owned and managed, with the owners in the office every day. That’s a differentiating factor, he said, because the competition is primarily large, national companies.

The CEO places a premium on hiring quality people, emphasizing that employees have careers, not jobs: “Our secret is trying to hire the best, with the long term in mind.”

Eduardo Moya, 31, of Golden Gates Estates, has worked his way up over the past six years.

“I started at the bottom as a laborer,” he said. “I like a challenge.”

Moya moved up to driver and then foreman and from junior account manager to account manager. And it’s a family affair: a sister works there as a secretary and an uncle is employed as a foreman.

“It’s freedom, there’s always an opportunity here to do what you want to do," he said.

One key hire was Phil Buck, a board-certified master arborist — one of only 11 in the state. Buck has built the arbor division into one that generated $1.1 million in revenue last year.

“We wanted that to be a self-managed business from day one,” Crawford said. “We’re able to build around that guy.”

 Blake Crawford, left, CEO and owner of Crawford Landscaping, with Keith Mahan, president and owner.  (Photo: Casey Logan/The News-Press)

Blake Crawford, left, CEO and owner of Crawford Landscaping, with Keith Mahan, president and owner. (Photo: Casey Logan/The News-Press)

The latest big move was to name Keith Mahan president. The 36-year-old was hired in 2009 to run the company’s irrigation division.

“I had great success with that division,” he said, adding he likes the company's family feel.

Mahan later took on additional management of the construction division, then was named vice president two years ago. Naming a president is a big step, so what sets Mahan apart?

“What appealed to me most is we think a lot alike when it comes to operating a business,” said Crawford, noting qualities such as personality and patience. “It’s much more than just having knowledge about something. He’s very detailed in his approach. I just felt like I was talking to myself in a way.”

This move will allow Crawford to focus more on strategy, along with financials and sales.

“I didn’t envision quite the success we had. I surpassed my goals,” he said. “We had phenomenal growth for five to 10 years, it was amazing.”

Now, rather than be satisfied with that success, the goal is to build on it: “It is affording us the opportunity to dream again, and I think the sky’s the limit.”