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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 2 weeks ago

Finding the grass is greener in Southwest Florida

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Greenscapes CEO Steven Pruchansky moved south in 1989 in search of a better lifestyle. Since 1991, he’s grown the company from a team of seven to more than 300 with more expansion and a new Fort Myers location underway.
by: Andrew Warfield Lee-Collier Editor

Steven Pruchansky was encouraged by friends to relocate from Boston to Naples in 1989, in part because, as the saying goes, the grass was greener on this side of the fence.

It also grows year-round, and somebody has to mow it and maintain it. That somebody, for hundreds of Southwest Florida customers, is Pruchansky, who, in building a $20 million company, has focused on some integral business principles: Don't let growth get ahead of service, surround yourself with a great team and constantly dig around for operational efficiencies. And one more: be willing to take calculated risks.   

Two years after he moved to Naples, Pruchansky acquired Ray’s Sod from Linda Nelson. Back then it was a company of seven people that installed sod for residential customers. With a plan to shift the company from installing landscaping to maintaining the grounds for commercial clients and homeowners associations, just as intense population growth reached Southwest Florida, the name was changed to Greenscapes.

The company would grow right along with the region.

“We started our buildout in 1991 and we've been growing at a nice steady rate,” says Pruchansky, CEO of Greenscapes, who started furniture distribution company Advantage Distributing in his native Massachusetts with $10,000 in 1978, growing it to almost $25 million in six years. “We grew with the community. We were fortunate with the demographics in the area I chose to relocate to. The business was here. Linda is a native of Naples and she has been with me since then. She runs the operations and the field work and I run the administrative end. I stay with what I know and she stays with what she knows.”

What Pruchansky knows is a service company cannot outstrip its own ability to provide customer satisfaction. Rather than aggressively chase new business opportunities, his growth strategy is based on developing long-term relationships sustained through superior service. The business adds new clients gradually, as hiring, training and equipment procurement allow. 

“By putting us closer to the customers, we have less drive time, less overhead on servicing our accounts and we can spend more time on their property and less time traveling." Greenscapes CEO Steve Pruchansky

The strategy works. Offering pest control, lawn maintenance, irrigation, pruning and tree services, Greenscapes averages 6% to 8% annual revenue growth. It posted $20.2 million in revenue in 2017, up 15.4% from $17.5 million in 2015. It employs more than 300, serving clients from south Naples to Punta Gorda.

“There was a period when we had so much demand for our services we were not taking on new customers,” says Pruchansky. “We were outgrowing the quality we could provide. The quality comes first. We have excellent training programs. We do our own in-house safety and training videos and we use our senior people to make the videos. That builds a great deal of respect between the field personnel (and) the management. We spend a lot of time and money in training.”

Pruchansky also spends a lot of time developing strategy. Serving southern Fort Myers from a Naples facility and northern Fort Myers from a Punta Gorda facility, he knew Greenscapes wasn’t maximizing opportunities in the center of its footprint. Now, after three years of scouting locations, planning and designing, construction is underway on the company’s new 5-acre, 10,000-square-foot facility off Alico Road near Interstate 75. It's a $2.5 million project. 

The new location, expected to open by late November, will initially employ 40 to 60 office staff and field techs — growing to 100 in the next 18 months — and provide parking for vehicles that will be added to the current fleet of 160.

“By putting us closer to the customers, we have less drive time, less overhead on servicing our accounts and we can spend more time on their property and less time traveling,” says Pruchansky. “We've been looking at that area for four or five years. We haven't quite had the growth we hoped for in Fort Myers, and we needed the new location because we have enough men and equipment going up there. It also frees up space at (the Naples) location so we can add more trucks and more equipment. The move to Fort Myers will allow us to grow in both locations.”

Planning to hire dozens of workers and actually executing it in today’s competitive labor market, Pruchansky knows, are vastly different tasks. Greenscapes attracts and retains staff by creating a family atmosphere, he says, providing extensive training and, as growth often accommodates, room for advancement. 

"We try to hire people who are passionate about what they're doing," says Pruchansky. "There are things I can't do and there are things other people can’t do that I can do. We're all equally important. We all need each other to make this company run and be successful for everybody and provide career paths, which I believe strongly is one the most important responsibilities of the CEO.”

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