Back to the Land
Landscaping is a tough business. In addition to the challenges all small-business owners face, landscapers are faced with the unpredictable challenges of nature. For skilled landscapers, these are easy to overcome; for a seasoned professional like Josh Bruner, co-owner of Bruner Landscapes in Indianola, Washington, nature's challenges aren't challenges at all. They're part of doing business. And Josh has known the landscaping business — and business ownership in general — for more than 25 years.
When Josh was a junior in high school in Indiana (nope, not Indianola), he and a friend quit their landscaping jobs to start a landscaping business of their own. By the time senior year rolled around, that business had a growing list of happy clients and eight fulltime employees (not bad for an 18-year-old). Now, 25 years, six startups, and almost 2,000 miles later, Josh is at it again. While some of his ventures have strayed from his roots, he's always felt pulled to return to the land.
"When I went to work as a recruiter, I learned a whole new business…but I wasn't being fulfilled," says Josh of his time away from landscaping. Nonetheless, he was good at recruiting and eventually started his own firm, thinking that business ownership might scratch his itch. It didn't.
"I'm very much an artist at what I do," says Josh of his lifelong passion for landscaping. "The landscape is my canvas. I created beautiful things and I missed that." So, after running a successful — though unfulfilling — recruiting business for a while, he knew what had to be done: he needed to be landscaping and he needed to be doing it on his own terms.
So he went back to his roots — this time with his wife Shannon as his partner — and, in July 2014, opened Bruner Landscapes. "In order to create the beautiful things that I create… I need to have 100% control," says Josh of why he went the small-business-owner route once again.
But that doesn't mean things were easy. His last landscaping business was in Seattle and, despite Indianola being relatively close to the city, the market in both Indianola and nearby Poulsbo is vastly different. Josh knew that the large jobs he'd taken in the past — often with timelines that spanned months and budgets that exceeded $100,000 — could no longer be his focus. He needed to scale down his existing business plan to meet the needs and demands of his new market without losing his focus on detail, luxury, or quality. That meant his back-office operations would need to be flawless. Luckily for him, Shannon was up for the challenge. So with the back office under her management and Josh working hands-on with the Bruner crew, a business was born.
Before long, Bruner had a growing list of happy customers, a crew of seven, and a booming landscape business with a full schedule.
His success suggests that Josh has a secret small-business strategy. Not exactly, but aside from his genuine passion for landscaping, there are two main things that set him apart: a genuine understanding of client needs and a mastery of the entire landscaping process.
First, Josh has a way with people. He's great at listening to his clients to understand their wants and needs. "I take a lot pride in really listening to what [my clients] want," says Josh, "in being observant to the lifestyle they lead and to what their hot points are." For example, when one of Bruner's first clients called because her original landscaper didn't create what she had in mind, Josh took the time figure out exactly what she was looking for. "We were able to translate what she really wanted," says Josh.
Second, there's quality. For landscaping to be of the highest quality possible, it has to look great day one and, even better year five (and year ten, and beyond). That means it has to be done right. "We always go in and do good foundation work first," notes Josh on the importance of understanding drainage, soil, and the unique needs of a given lot. "We build the landscape from the bottom up." In fact, Josh is so confident in what his company does that Bruner guarantees its work for five years. That's an impressive guarantee in any industry, but it's almost unheard-of in landscaping.
In order to deliver on that guarantee and create beautiful, lasting landscapes, Josh needs to focus his time on his work. That doesn't leave much time to think about business details like insurance. But he doesn't need any time to think because he found insureon. After working with Insureon to insure his recruiting company, he knew exactly who to call for Bruner. Why? "The customer service has been phenomenal," says Josh of both his experiences as an Insureon customer.
Now he can direct all of his attention to the canvas that is the land of the rainy Pacific Northwest. Persistent as it is, though, it's no match for Bruner Landscapes. They guarantee it.
To learn more about Bruner Landscapes, visit http://www.brunerlandscapes.com/.