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Sebert Landscaping

After almost 30 years in business, Sebert Landscaping has become one of the leading landscape services providers in the Chicagoland area. Founded in 1985, Sebert Landscaping serves more than 1,000 clients, including office buildings/parks/ complexes, industrial parks, homeowner associations, municipalities, rooftop gardens and LEED-certified building owners.

“We’ve been mainly focused on commercial and healthcare business,” owner and CEO Jeff Sebert says. “We do some municipal work, but our growth is really through the commercial and healthcare markets. We separate ourselves from the competition by looking at our business from a perspective of how to be greener in a green industry.”

Smarter Approach

Based in Bartlett, Ill., Sebert Landscaping has branch offices in Elk Grove Village, Romeoville, Naperville and Marengo, Ill. It has approximately 300 employees, and the company’s emphasis is on customer service that delivers on expectations in a timely fashion.

“On the customer service side, our main focus is on personal contact with clients,” GM Steve Pearce says. “Understanding their personalities and expectations through eye-to-eye contact is how we can best determine their needs. We can handle any project that comes up, from a small tree replacement to large-scale renovations. Earning a customer’s trust is the most important factor.”

As part of its effort to be more efficient in pursuing opportunity, Sebert Landscaping has worked to make important strides in its work to qualify prospects. The company’s goal is to create relationships and partnerships with customers that fit its approach to business.

“We target companies that are moving toward more sustainable practices within their organizations,” says Kim Riebel, director of marketing and sales.

“We want to partner with those companies that have the same ideals as we do and desire to work with an innovative landscaping company,” Riebel adds.

Another part of building relationships with prospects, vendors and customers happens on every other Friday at Sebert Landscaping’s Bartlett headquarters. The facility, which is on track to be certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council, is opened for scheduled building tours every other week.

Visitors can see just what Sebert landscaping can offer, including green roofs and the use of solar panels.

“People can come through and take a 45-minute tour and have lunch,” Sebert says. “That is a perk for customers and a marketing strategy for us, as it helps people see who we are and, hopefully, talk about us when they leave.”

Although it was born as a landscape management services company, Sebert Landscaping has become a full-service landscape company by adding landscape construction, snow and ice management services and a 125-acre tree and shrub nursery to its repertoire.

Some of these newer service additions are directly impacting the company’s growth prospects.

For example, the company has devised all-inclusive snow and ice management contracts that help customers control their budgets by paying a monthly service fee.

Other adjustments are a result of the changed economy. Fewer clients are spending money on color rotations, so Sebert Landscaping is using more perennials than annuals to help clients avoid the recurring costs of color rotation. In addition, proposing various irrigation solutions is helping clients to manage their cost and use of water.

“In a competitive market like this, cost is a factor,” Pearce says.

“But we have found that relationships are just as important today as they were in the past,” Pearce adds. “Some clients stay with us simply because of how well we treat them.”

Efficient and Sustainable

Investing in sustainable solutions and innovative equipment is a fact of life for Sebert Landscaping. The company has increased usage of propane-powered mowers, as about one-third of its fleet is powered by propane. The company also has looked for way to incorporate battery- and solar-powered equipment into its fleet.

“The cost of converting to propane mowers is more than buying a powered mower, but we are quantifying the benefits of the investment,” Sebert says. “We are determining if the maintenance cost of running the mower and the longevity of equipment exceeds the typical gas mower, and relating that to the reduction of our carbon footprint.”

Overall, 50 percent of the company’s capital expenses in the last few years have been toward buying greener equipment. Sebert feels that is another differentiating factor for his company.

Efficiency isn’t just about green issues for Sebert Landscaping, however. The company has gone all-in on lean management principles aiming to eliminate waste in everything it does. 

Not only does lean management assist the company’s effort to be green, it helps with efficiency improvement. All of this is in line with Sebert Landscaping’s open book management philosophy. The company shares all profit and loss numbers with managers to help them make good business decisions. 

There are sure to be many opportunities for Sebert Landscaping to continue growing in the future. Although nothing is imminent, there is the chance to expand the company through acquisition. The company also believes that enhancements to services by helping customers engage in more sustainable practices on their properties will lead to growth.

“We can help customers be more sustainable through certain landscape methods like irrigation, plant selection and color rotation,” Sebert says.

“We think we can help them to be more environmentally aware and efficient,” Sebert adds.

There are some concerns on the horizon, such as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. If it stands, it will mean that seasonal employees would become eligible for health coverage, which would be a major cost burden for Sebert Landscaping. But overall, the company believes it has done everything it can to become as efficient and productive as possible, and Sebert feels the company has demonstrated successful results time and time again.

“I think that we are well positioned within our markets and have a strong presence in the areas we want to be involved with,” he says.

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