The Level Green story starts like a lot of great stories — with an intriguing idea and a conversation over lunch.
In this case, lunch was at Red Lobster. But Bill Hardy and Doug Delano could have been eating peanut butter sandwiches in a truck and still come to the same conclusion: they should start a landscaping company together.
The two friends had worked together for years at a Maryland landscaping company. Doug started out as a laborer and truck driver and worked his way up to supervisor, project manager, area manager and branch manager.
Bill started as assistant supervisor and moved on to be a supervisor, account manager and branch manager.
When Doug decided to start his own business, he immediately thought of Bill as the perfect business partner.
From the beginning, the pair had strong values and high standards.
“If you make a commitment, you stand by it,” Doug says. “If you make a mistake, you fix it. Treat people as you want to be treated. It’s not always the most profitable thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.”
“Do The Right Thing” became the company motto, and it shows up everywhere. Not just on the office wall, but in the choices the owners and employees make, day in, day out.
Do The Right Thing extends to the community, too, where Level Green employees have helped kids plant an herb garden for a senior center. They taught affordable housing residents how to plant a rain garden. They landscaped a student-built house — no charge.
Growing A Company
The business started out small, with a handful of people. But slowly and steadily, it grew, and now Level Green Landscaping maintains an impressive list of commercial properties, from shopping centers to office buildings, condos, HOAs and government buildings.
If you want a sense of the growth, just chat with shop manager Craig Fugate.
When Craig started at Level Green in 2003, as a part-time mechanic, it was just him in the shop, doing everything.
Today, as shop manager, he oversees a crew of four along with the care and repair of a staggering number of items, including 92 vehicles, 43 trailers, more than 300 pieces of hand-held equipment, 133 mowers, and assorted tractors, spreaders, aerators, seeders, tillers and snow plows.
The growth has been huge, he says, as the staff now includes more than 200, but some things have stayed reassuringly the same.
“At other large companies, you’re just a number,” Craig says. “You’re employee number 249, and they tell you if you want to quit, number 250 is waiting just outside the door.
“Here, they treat you like family,” he says. “They care about what happens to you and your family. And as the company got bigger, that didn't change.”
Always A Family
You can't tell the Level Green story without talking about how working here is being part of a family. Everybody talks about it.
You can feel it, too. It feels like family when office manager Lynn Garris brings in a big pan of lasagna, a meatloaf or a vat of pulled barbecue pork. Or her famous holiday cookie tray, heaped with 20 different kinds of home baked cookies.
Everybody works hard here, but there’s time to play, too. Celebrations are important, and so is thanking people for their hard work. There are picnics, fishing trips and outings to baseball games.
At the company Christmas party, Doug and Bill address their employees, thanking them for their efforts and sharing how much they mean to them. It gets a bit emotional.
At the annual Level Green summer picnic for managers and supervisors, there are crazy games, prizes, and the day always ends with a tug of war battle at the edge of the water.
“This is what you can expect if you work here,” says Michael Mayberry, chief technology officer. “You become part of our family. And that means sharing good times and laughing together.”
“We didn’t want a company where you were just a number, where you barely knew anybody,” Bill says. “Family is important to me.”
Customers As People
Customer service is huge here. Call your account manager and they'll get right back to you — even if it's to say their hands are full at the moment, but they'll call you back in an hour.
Everybody considers the relationship between Level Green and its clients a partnership. Account managers might stop by Starbucks on their way over to grab a drink the property manager likes. They ask about the kids and grandkids and share family stories of their own.
“We’re not just about hitting a certain profit margin,” notes division manager Paul Wisniewski. “That’s where we stand above the rest. Our owners’ names are on the job. They take it personally.”
That approach works. Revenue is always growing and customers keep coming back. Level Green boasts a renewal rate of more than 90 percent.
The Level Green Story includes appreciating the past, but always looking ahead to the future.
The company has a management training program that fast-tracks recent graduates into management positions.
If the technology we need isn’t available, we create it ourselves. We’ve developed our own in-house technology to keep customers instantly updated on exactly what our crews are accomplishing on their property.
The company is part of an industry peer group called The Growth Network. The owners of seven landscaping companies of similar size from across the country get together regularly to share, explore new ideas and learn from each other.
“Letting other people open up their books and ideas to you helps you examine how you do things,” Doug says. “We’re always looking for ways to do our work a little better, more efficiently. Ultimately, it helps us deliver better service.”
Looking ahead, there’s more growth in sight, as Level Green expands into Northern Virginia. Craig Fugate might need to buy some more line trimmers.
At the end of the day, the Level Green story is about profitability and growth that comes from delivering the best possible service to customers we consider partners. But it’s as much about pride, goals and passing on success.
“It’s not about how much money Bill and I can make and put away,” Doug says. “We see our young employees buying houses, getting married, having children, raising families. They’re able to accomplish their goals because we’re accomplishing ours.”
Want To Join The Team?
Our story can always use a few more key players. We’re looking for hard-working, talented people to join our team.
Are you ready to work for a strong, growing company that values our past and looks to the future?
Contact us at 202-544-0968.
We’d love to meet you.