More than 200 people toured Southern Botanical’s Dallas office and got a rundown of how the company operates.
Southern Botanical set some ambitious goals for growth in the next three years with a major focus on recurring revenue. The company has experienced 20 percent growth steadily since 2020 and has no plans of slowing down.
“I paid attention to make the business as recession-proof as possible, and for us recurring revenue made that possible,” CEO Jason Craven said.
The company separates its commercial maintenance, residential maintenance, design/build/installation and tree care services into “branches.” The goal, Craven said, is to maintain a high level of personal touch with the company’s clients.
The Green Standard
At the heart of Southern Botanical is the “green standard.” It’s the company’s unrelenting emphasis on quality and details. This priority is reflected in Southern Botanical’s office building and in how the company approaches hiring and conveys its values.
These values include:
- Treat others the way you want to be treated.
- Be awesome and then some.
- Never stop growing.
- Give thanks and give back.
Southern Botanical puts a key focus on its employees. The company integrated a focus on The Ideal Team Player, a book by Patrick Lencioni, and the Culture Index survey, which helps identify psychological attributes, to help predict successful candidates for open roles.
Before crews depart in the morning, a manager must perform one last pretrip inspection. This move adds a layer of safety. At night, the foreman and one other crew member bring the truck in and get it ready for the next day.
“What makes us successful in the morning is what we do at night,” said Dustin Medlyn, residential operations manager.
Training is another big focus for Southern Botanical, as reflected in the company’s value of “never stop growing.” The company’s training program includes the Sandler Selling System.
Kevin Kline, branch manager of residential design/build, said the Sandler method allows Southern Botanical to focus on a repeatable sales process that sets expectations early for clients.
“If they don’t like that, we don’t want them,” he said of how Southern Botanical talks budget and timeline early on in the onboarding process with new clients.
The company also developed its own “green standard” training based on employee feedback and what team members wanted to learn.
Craven and the leadership team approach the culture at Southern Botanical from a personal place.
“What would motivate me?” he said. “What things would I want in a career?”
Southern Botanical went live with Aspire earlier this year. The company started building out the system in October 2022 before going live on Jan. 1, according to Brad Blair, branch manager for tree care. A major challenge was creating 500 existing contracts in the system in two weeks.
“Any new software we bring on has its growing pains,” he said. “We’ve just scratched the surface (of Aspire’s capabilities).”
The company went online with a sales pipeline recently. Southern Botanical is starting to see the benefit of real-time gross profit margin breakdowns by job.
“It really enables you to dial in on price point,” Blair said.
Blair said, before Aspire, the company documented far too much on paper.
“The amount of paper we printed on a daily basis is embarrassing,” he said. “It’s hard to run a construction business without a good platform.”
Following the tour, Craven and the leadership team held a Q&A with tourgoers. Craven talked candidly about several topics, including where he sees his role with Southern Botanical in the future and the company’s use of Enterprise for its fleet.
Enterprise offers GPS monitoring and theft recovery for its 171 vehicles in two locations. However, Enterprise struggles to fill orders.
“I don’t like our fruit cocktail of vehicles we have,” Craven said, noting Southern Botanical currently runs Toyotas, GMCs and essentially anything else the company could lease. “If they can’t catch up and deliver, we’ll go back to purchasing.”
As for his goal for the future, Craven said he hopes to someday be the company’s chairman emeritus. He encouraged attendees to continue to evolve their operation’s training and culture as their business grows.
“Don’t lose those practices that make you successful,” he said.
He tipped his hat to the tour attendees, noting Southern Botanical has benefitted from attending National Association of Landscape Professional events and tours in the past.
“Everything you see here is from us doing it (and attending NALP events),” he said.