Denver Landscapes passes 25 years Email
Written by Colorado Green NOW   
Monday, May 09, 2022 02:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

“I grew up in Oklahoma with family members who were farmers, ranchers, or in construction or general contracting,” says Shane Meyer, owner of Denver Landscapes. “I had a strong work ethic and was business oriented. And I had access to the many tools of various family members and became very handy. I could build most anything and I learned to repair everything we owned.” This skill set would serve him well. When at the University of Oklahoma, his high school mowing business evolved and he taught himself how to repair sprinkler systems.

When a friend moved to Colorado and invited Meyer to visit, he applied for a summer job as an irrigation tech and learned even more. After moving to Colorado in 1994 to work for his former boss, he learned the business was being sold and the new owner planned to replace Meyer with his son.

Starting anew

The disappointment pushed Meyer to start his own business—Cascade Design—which designed and installed new irrigation systems. By the late 1990s, the company expanded services to offer maintenance and install water features.

A turning point came in 1996 when the company developed a website and the web designer suggested the domain name Denver Landscapes, which was available. Meyer changed the name to Denver Landscapes in 1998.

Seat of the pants

“I was young when I started out. I didn’t have a business plan and was operating by the ‘seat of my pants,” Meyer admits. “Irrigation is a seasonal business and my employees wanted to work 12 months. In about 1997, I worked with a mentor through ALCC, who showed me his business plan. I recognized that I needed a plan to stretch the season, which began with doing the kind of work for clients that I had always turned down.”

“The truth is, I was intimidated by plants even though I grew up on a farm! So, I started my education with the Master Gardener class and soon earned the Certified Landscape Technician designation.” Now Meyer shares his passion for plants and uses his knowledge to select the best plants for each landscape.

The business of the business

Meyer wrote a business plan that included offering more services, which opened the path to a longer season. Yet there was more knowledge he needed to run his business successfully. Over the years he hired coaches and took classes from well-known green industry consultants including Charles Vander Kooi, James Huston and Steven Coughran.

More comprehensive job estimates meant his prices went up in the 2000s, yet he was still booking projects. By 2008, the economy was slowing, and the company wasn’t growing.

Post-injury recovery and more learning

Following a motorcycle crash in 2009, Meyer sustained a severe head injury and was paralyzed and unconscious for months. When he “woke up” and was released in 2010, he found the company had continued to operate while he was hospitalized by completing the projects already sold. His wife, Renee, took over administrative tasks and scheduling.

The big business lesson was realizing he was the only person at the helm. He knew that was not sustainable and it had to change. It took him a few years to find them, he now has two capable people who could run the company.

Labor challenges and business growth

“Finding and keeping good, dependable employees to be the hardest part of the business,” Meyer admits. Meyer’s strategies for retaining employees are to treat them with respect, pay for training, pay competitive wages, and provide retirement and health insurance benefits. “Also, I never ask staff to do anything I wouldn’t do.”

What’s next for Denver Landscapes? “I don’t know,” Meyer confesses. “My 5-year plan can’t be effectively implemented without good people and we are challenged at the moment. Right now, we’re stuck with the status quo, accepting that we are not growing. We are booked solid with a lot of projects. The challenge is completing them in a timely manner. If people want our services, they will have to be patient” Like others in the industry, he is facing the growth-limiting labor shortage. Yet, as one experienced in meeting challenges, he is seeking solutions. Says Meyer, “I’m looking into another immigration program—not H-2B. We’ll see if it will work out.” (Read the article and see photos in Colorado Green magazine).

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