By Lee Edwards
Chief Executive Officer, President
The following is part my recent interview for an article that was published in the July 2018 edition of a national magazine, Landscape Management, written by Abby Hart. It highlights our employee ownership, which is the driving force behind our ongoing success.
As Berry Edwards approached retirement, he began to look for a way to reward his team, especially those who had remained loyal when times were tough. Establishing The Greenery as an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) helped accomplish this goal.
The company began the process of becoming an ESOP in 2003 and completed it in 2007.
“If people own a part of something or have a stake in it, they’ll do a better job,” Edwards says. “They’ll work harder, they’ll work smarter and they’ll treat it like they own it—they’ll take better care of the equipment, they’ll take better care of their clients.”
The employee-owners are aware of the stock price and have been motivated by seeing the price go up year after year. “It’s gone up every single year, even during the recession. That’s not easy,” Edwards says.
In addition to employee stock ownership, The Greenery matches 401(k) with company stock. For every dollar that employees put in, up to 3 percent of their salaries, they get a dollar of stock. The next 2 percent is matched 50 cents on the dollar.
“We’ve had some phenomenal growth in the last 10 years, and really a lot of it is due to us being an ESOP company,” says Bill Davoli, The Greenery’s COO.
In fact, Davoli says that’s what appealed to him when he came to The Greenery in 2008, from his position as manager for ValleyCrest in Charleston, S.C.
With a background in management companies, landscape company mergers and acquisitions, and owning his own landscape company in Florida, Davoli has seen the industry from all sides.
“The Greenery being an employee-owned ESOP company is probably the best structure for our industry,” he says. “We don’t have a third party or a private equity fund that we need to worry about making certain earnings per quarter, or driving our share price or giving out dividends.”
Davoli says that the ESOP is the company’s No. 1 recruiting tool and notes that the ownership interest makes employees more likely to stay with the company.
“You have to do more than just provide a strong compensation plan to retain good employees,” he says.