Doug White and Meade Stone became fast friends shortly after graduating from college. While Stone worked in commercial real estate and White worked for a lobbying firm, the two developed a vision for working together.
Finally, an associate in property management suggested they call a friend in Texas who was recapturing the market in landscaping.
The rest, is history.
White and Stone packed their bags and headed to Texas, where the two got a crash course in everything they needed to know to run a landscaping business.
“We wanted to secure something before we invested a lot of time and capital,” Stone explains.
So from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., the conversation continued about how to build a successful landscaping business in Hampton Roads.
“We came back and thought that this was something we could do, and we had the peace of mind of, ‘We should go after this,’” White says.
From there, the duo began pursuing contracts and bidding on a few projects. In the morning hours, White and Stone would mow grass and in the afternoon, the two doffed the yard work attire and cleaned up for an afternoon of sales and pursuing more work.
Today, their business, Town Scapes, is three crews strong and growing, focusing mainly on commercial jobs as far north as Baltimore, and as far south as Raleigh.
From left, Doug White and Meade Stone. Photo by Paul Chin, Jr.
“I think that within landscaping in Hampton roads, there is plenty of room in the pool for people to swim,” Stone says. “It’s a great market, and even though things have slowed, cities still require grass to be cut.”
Stone goes on to explain their strategy as aggressive, yet conservative, meaning the two are constantly searching for new leads, but are conservative enough to not take on more than they can handle, and handle well.
“This recession, fortunately or unfortunately has weeded out those that can’t compete,” Stone explains. “We have a natural ebb and flow, and we are not out selling every day while not servicing the needs we have now. We have a good foothold in this marketplace and a lot of people have given us great opportunities.”
While taking a one-step-at-a-time approach to growth, the Town Scapes owners spend a lot of time recruiting the right employees, partnering with firms that have helped them find the right people. By compensating their employees better than average, Stone says, people stay with them longer.
“One thing we’ve always been challenged with is attracting good clients and keeping them, but the same thing applies with employees,” White explains. “It’s fundamental to business. If you can narrow down how to do that, it helps productivity, and you’ll win more than you lose.”
Stone reflects: “We’re intense on management and scrutiny and the job getting done correctly and well, but give a lot of freedom to our employees to feel empowered so they don’t have to call on us all the time.”
White agrees. “Everyone is given a different gift set, and sometimes it’s never been cultivated. Sometimes, there are foundations there that you can cultivate, and that’s a diamond in a rough for an employer. You hear them out and, naturally, it grows itself.”
This seems to be a recipe for success. The two friends have a sound working relationship, and business is good.
“Our partnership has been an important piece,” White says. “Promoting each other’s gifts with each other has been important and crucial to success.”
When the two friends spend about 10 hours a day together, White admits “sometimes he has to carry the weight for me, and me for him” and that there are obviously times when issues arise, but picking up that piece is crucial.
Stone reflects: “It’s a nice partnership. There’s always someone in the wheel house, spending time with a client or future client. With a one-person operation, it’s hard to go on vacation, but it has been helpful to know if I am away for the weekend, everything is covered.”
The only problem, it seems, is semantics.
“We get called each other’s name a lot,” White says. “I’m Meade a lot. He’s Doug sometimes. It’s fun though because we work with and for a lot of great people.”