Oscar DiVeroli: Would like to welcome to our studio today Jeremy Webby, CEO of the Grounds Group. Welcome, Jeremy.
Jeremy Webby: Thank you for having me.
Oscar DiVeroli: Tell us a little bit about the Grounds Group, what do you do?
Jeremy Webby: Grounds Group, we are a family owned and operated commercial industrial landscape company. We do from houses of worship to golf courses, homeowners’ associations, retail, industrial, highways and everything in between. Anything from landscape design, installation and maintenance. We service the Southeast United States and in a nutshell, that’s us.
Oscar DiVeroli: I should’ve asked you what don’t you do?
Jeremy Webby: Oh, I wish, I wish.
Oscar DiVeroli: What motivated you to launch this business?
Jeremy Webby: You know, it was almost by mistake. It was while I was in college, I transferred to University of Miami and my dad said you’re not going to just sit around and do nothing and I had done landscaping in the past and knew how to do it well. I thought that’s right next to roofing, I can’t stay in the sun that much. You know I sweat in a meat locker, so I thought there’s no way. A few weeks later, I decided to do it and my dad made me sign a contract with him that I would do it for a year, I’d only do it on the weekends because I was still in college and if I didn’t graduate college, the business became his.
Off I went, against my better judgement and the first six months … It’s a good thing he made me do that because it was very difficult, it was challenging at best and eighteen years later, here I am. It’s been a lot of work.
Oscar DiVeroli: I need to ask about the magic pixie dust. The Grounds Group is one of the most successful, fastest growing commercial landscaping companies in existence. What’s the magic?
Jeremy Webby: You know, there’s a lot of folks who do what we do and I’ll tell you the only thing that we do differently than everybody else is customer service. It is simply customer service. We’re all using almost the same people, almost the same trucks. We bend over backwards for our clients. We under-promise and over-deliver. I know that’s become cliché, a lot of people say that, but that’s truly what sets us apart. Our communication’s outstanding and we give you one team member to deal with. Whatever it is, you have one point of contact for your entire project or multiple projects. For some of our clients like Home Depot, et cetera, they have so many different sites, they don’t want to deal with ten different managers. For us, it’s customer service, it truly is. We bend over backwards for our clients.
Oscar DiVeroli: Fantastic. You started this business how many years ago?
Jeremy Webby: A little over eighteen years ago.
Oscar DiVeroli: Wow. How has the business changed over eighteen years?
Jeremy Webby: From when we first started?
Oscar DiVeroli: Sure.
Jeremy Webby: When I first started, we were using my dad’s Ford Explorer and a trailer. It slowly evolved, it was one of those things where I had an economics advertising and marketing degree that had nothing to do with horticulture or landscaping. I just know how to do it from an uncle who taught me from a very young age and continued to do it. I went from almost the back of a truck to where we are today with a little over eighty vehicles and covering quite a bit of territory. To say the least, it was challenging, but it simply comes down to communication and customer service. That’s really all it is.
Oscar DiVeroli: You must be incredibly active in the day-to-day operations of your business, I would imagine to grow at the rate that you’ve grown.
Jeremy Webby: I’ve been very fortunate … Fortunately and unfortunately, all at the same time, I am an operations manager. We have a saying around our office that nobody works for anybody, we all work together. The reason for that is, if it means that I have to go out and help pick up garbage with the highway crews, I will. If it means that I have to go out and get on a bulldozer with our grading crews, I will. Just the same with our management and our team members, we all work together. To say the least, I like the operations side. I am certainly not very good at being cooped up in an office. It’s just not my style. I like to get out and get it done. Nothing makes me happier than giving me a set of plans and a project.
Oscar DiVeroli: Jeremy, how were you able to establish credibility, early on?
Jeremy Webby: Well, the truth about the credibility is I was very young and there was a couple clever things I did, but initially, I would bring my dad with me to a lot of our meetings. He’s a commercial airline pilot, knew nothing about landscaping, but just his presence gave us instant credibility because of his age. Whereas, I didn’t have nearly as much credibility because of my age. Over time, I would never introduce myself as the owner. I never had a business card that said I was the owner. I was simply just the manager for your area.
As time progressed, that was to my benefit because there were several clients that I dealt with in person, but then would call and ask to speak to the owner and I’d answer and talk to them. They’d tell me that the manager that they’d been dealing with told them ‘x’ and I was the manager and the owner all at the same time. It worked out as a strategy for us management-wise for me to, not necessarily show all your cards all at once. Work hard and that’s really what I wanted was an opportunity. I think if I’d introduced myself as the owner, it kind of puts you on the spot and you don’t have the opportunity to think about what’s best for them. You have to do what you think is best for the company and sometimes that’s hard to do on the spot.
Oscar DiVeroli: Have you ever used an unusual or creative sales tactic to win a contract?
Jeremy Webby: We have a few. One of my favorites is you go and buy a first base and you really have to know who you’re dealing with before you do this. You can go an buy a first base and I would Fed-Ex it to whoever it is and say we just want to get on first base with you, how do we do that? Another one is we send them a cake and say I hope this sweetens your day, sweeten mine, I’d love a meeting with you. Things like that are pretty clever. We’ve done a few other things where you have chocolates made to who you’re dealing with, but I like both of those. Those are two of my favorite ones.
Oscar DiVeroli: Jeremy, what is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last five years or so?
Jeremy Webby: I would say, one of the most difficult decisions was how to deal with the upcoming healthcare that’s going to be impending our company shortly with some of the new ObamaCare rules.
Oscar DiVeroli: Okay, how do you think they’ll affect you?
Jeremy Webby: It’s negatively going to infect us, simply because our employees don’t want to participate. We’ve tried in the past to get them to participate in that and they don’t, so the burden’s really going to be on us to provide it. Otherwise, there’s zero participation by most of our employees. That’s been one of the most difficult decisions is how do you do that in the face of being forced to?
Oscar DiVeroli: How do you define success?
Jeremy Webby: For me, success is waking up every day, loving what you do, being excited about the next thing coming up and being happy because it doesn’t matter if you make all the money in the world, it doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest, the best, the largest. If you’re not happy, you’re doing it for naught and if you don’t have family time, it’s for nothing. Success for me is measured by happiness, family time and loving what you do.
Oscar DiVeroli: Beautiful. I’ve been watching your company for years and I’m beyond impressed. You’ve won every accolade and business award out there and you simply continue to amaze me with your entrepreneurial prowess. I want to be part of your success, so I’d like to make a one million dollar investment in your business and I’m curious, how would you deploy those funds?
Jeremy Webby: Before or after we take off? No, I’m just kidding. I would deploy them, I think we would start with some initial investments as it relates to bigger office space. Right now, as you know, we’re about ten pounds of space in about a five pound box. I think that would actually help a little bit of our work environment. There’s some specialty specific equipment that we have that, while they do very well, they’re starting to get a little bit dated and cost us some money in repairs. I think we’d also save some for a rainy day because we’re growing incredibly fast and, as you know, our business is a long-term investment. I think that’s exactly how I’d start with it.
Oscar DiVeroli: Great, fantastic! On the way out, I’ll hand you the check.
Jeremy Webby: Yeah.
Oscar DiVeroli: What one word describes Jeremy Webby as an entrepreneur?
Jeremy Webby: One word. Loyal. If you gave me three or four words, I would say, loyal, honest, hard-working, reliable. I would say those because if you don’t have that as a foundation, you really don’t have much. I might say loyal, loyal to your employees, loyal to your business relationships because they’re really partnerships. Sometimes you see your work staff more than you see your family and if you’re not reliable, you’re not dependable and you’re not honest, the rest matters for nothing. Those, I would say, are of utmost importance. If you had to describe me, I am the most loyal, reliable and trustworthy person you’ll meet.
Oscar DiVeroli: Words that come right out of your heart. Where do you go to if you want to brainstorm an idea, if you want to problem-solve, if you’re looking for a little bit of guidance? What’s your source of brain trust?
Jeremy Webby: I have several. I would say, if I was going to brainstorm an idea, I usually go to my dad first. Obviously laying in bed, I’ll bounce it off my wife. I have a very near and dear friend of mine who has been a very successful entrepreneur that I trust emphatically and I usually go to him, but more than not, I’ll always go to my forum-mates. I’m in Entrepreneur Organization and I go to my forum-mates and usually bounce my ideas off of them because in Entrepreneur Organization, you have the so fortunate opportunity to have so many different lenses that look at the same thing you’re looking at, but through different bi-focals. For me, I’m in a forum with eight different guys and I get seven different opinions and seven different ideas and seven different thoughts that I would never have thought of. Apart from those first three, that’s really where I go.
Oscar DiVeroli: I’ve also been a member of EO for fourteen years now and I’ve been with the same group of seven other individuals that also, for me it was life-changing. The trajectory of my overall life is night and day of where I think I would be without them.
Jeremy Webby: Sure.
Oscar DiVeroli: If your forum went away tomorrow, what would happen to you?
Jeremy Webby: When you say, “went away tomorrow,” as in, we don’t meet? I would tell you that I would still talk to those guys on a weekly, daily, monthly basis. If it was to where I didn’t have access to them, initially you think … I’ll tell you, recently my wife was injured and we had retreat and I wasn’t able to make the retreat and I thought it wasn’t going to bother me. Not being on the retreat bothered me only from the standpoint of, I was missing out on what experiences they were sharing, things they were doing and advice and jokes and et cetera. You would think, not a big deal, you’ll catch them on the next one, but it bothered me tremendously.
I would say that if I couldn’t speak to them, it’s a significant impact on my life, it really is. You know when you can go to … Everybody has their close friends and you can always go to them. They’re close friends, near and dear, but they’re also close friends that have the same business experience, same business challenges, same personal challenges you do. When you own your own business, it’s completely different than when you’re just somebody who shows up to work and when you leave at five, the door closes, you don’t have to worry about it til eight in the morning. When you’re an entrepreneur, if at midnight it calls, it calls. Dealing with people who are of the same mind and the same business style, obviously they’re all in different businesses, is of tremendous value, absolute tremendous value.
Oscar DiVeroli: Absolutely, I completely share that with you. As a business leader, how do you make a mark in either your business or your community?
Jeremy Webby: We try to do a lot more good … I’m a firm believer in Pay it Forward and I’m a firm believer in life is about QTR: Quality Time Remaining. From the time you’re born, it’s about the quality of time that you have here. That’s why earlier, I said it’s about family time and the amount of experience and time that you get to have with your kids and your wife and loved ones, but for us, we try to make an impact on the community by doing nice things. Nice things could be, you sponsor something for somebody who’s not as fortunate.
This week, coming up, I haven’t shared this with you, but for Jack and Jill Nursery, we’re moving an entire playground set to Irma’s House, which is an inner-city Jack and Jill type set up and they need a playground and we were fortunate enough that we were able to help. We try to do things that will make an impact locally. Very near and dear to our heart is Handy, which is an orphanage that stands for helping abused, neglected and displaced youth. I think it’s a responsible duty as entrepreneurs to give back when you can because we’re very fortunate to be where we are and if it wasn’t for the community and the people that we have around us, I wouldn’t be where I am today, I don’t care how hard I worked. I try to support some of our local charities. I know there’s lots of national ones that could use the help, but I think the local charities have done well, so I try to help them.
Oscar DiVeroli: Jeremy, if I say the words, trust and respect, what do they mean to you?
Jeremy Webby: Trust and respect are the backbone, the moral fiber of almost any company. If you don’t have trust, you don’t have respect, you really don’t have a lot. The trust portion, you can earn over time. Respect, you can earn very quickly and you can lose very quickly and it’s just not something that we’ve ever wanted to jeopardize. I would tell my kids and anybody who is embarking on a new business venture, trust and respect are the two things that you should cherish the very most because without them, it’s very difficult in this world.
Oscar DiVeroli: Beautiful. One final question.
Jeremy Webby: Sure.
Oscar DiVeroli: It’s a doosy.
Jeremy Webby: Okay.
Oscar DiVeroli: Imagine, for a moment, tomorrow morning, you wake up and the Grounds Group doesn’t exist. What’s the next business that Jeremy Webby’s going to go into?
Jeremy Webby: I can’t share that on national TV.
Oscar DiVeroli: It’s just us, no one else is hearing it.
Jeremy Webby: It’s just us. Being honest?
Oscar DiVeroli: No.
Jeremy Webby: I will tell you, I’ve, for a long time, been fascinated with … I like heavy machinery. For a very long time, I’ve been fascinated with earth moving development and I think if Grounds group went away tomorrow, I would 100% be the guy that you’d call on if you had a building that you needed leveled or a piece of land that you needed cleared and be developed and demucked and pads put in and underground utilities run and turn it over for you to build your building. I think that would be my next venture.
Oscar DiVeroli: Awesome, that sounds exciting. Jeremy, it has been such a pleasure to have you in our studio today.
Jeremy Webby: Thank you. I have one question for you, before you finish.
Oscar DiVeroli: Please.
Jeremy Webby: If you, as well renowned as you are in the entrepreneur space, I would ask if my son came to you today and said I want to open a business, he’s 21 years old. What would be the top five things you told him he would need to do it. I don’t mean money, personnel, equipment. Values and ethics, whether it’s get up an hour earlier than everybody else and work harder. If it is under-promise, over-deliver, what is the top five things you think makes most people successful?
Oscar DiVeroli: One, I think being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 way of life. My phone never goes off, even on vacation. It’s a way of life. Two, I think you need to find a way to control your emotions as an entrepreneur. Emotions could cloud your judgement, could cloud your thought-process, so you need to focus on the logic side without giving up passion. You need to be exceptionally passionate. Sometimes, I see entrepreneurs, they confuse passion for emotions and emotions, I equate to drinking your own wine. If you’re drunk, you’re not going to be a good entrepreneur. You need to still have some objectivity. I think ethics is critical. It’s very very easy to make fast money, but at what expense? Successful entrepreneurs are here for the long haul. They want to do good, they’re typically not motivated by money, they’re motivated by doing things well and helping others. That is the definition of success, money is a bi-product of success, not the reason for what they do, good, successful entrepreneurs. Was that four or five?
Jeremy Webby: That was four.
Oscar DiVeroli: Five, five, I think is one of my pet-peeves, from an entrepreneurial perspective, is not being a me-too, because the crowd is going a certain way, doesn’t mean you join the crowd. Be creative, be an innovator, be a creator. Be a visionary. That would be, I think, the fifth and final part. All of that is a formula and there’s different percentages at different times. You need to learn how to throttle. At the end of the day, a great entrepreneur, they’re juggling multiple balls. There’s multiple balls in the air at any given time and they also have to be, and here’s a bonus, you have to be an amazing problem-solver. You could have all these other great attributes, but if you can’t solve problems, then you’re going to trip and fall and not be able to get up the first time something goes wrong. You have to become a very efficient problem-solver and even look for ways to avoid problems before they actually materialize. The unfortunate thing is you asked me a question and I could talk for hours and hours and hours.
Jeremy Webby: Oh, please. I think I lied to you, that might have been six, but I just wanted another one from you.
Oscar DiVeroli: Jeremy, I am so happy you were able to join us today.
Jeremy Webby: Thank you for having me.
Oscar DiVeroli: I look forward to watching your continued success, personally and professionally. I look forward to seeing you in studio again in future.
Jeremy Webby: Likewise, I look forward to the million dollar check.
Oscar DiVeroli: Yes! Thank you so much.