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Houston Landscapes: Making a Name through Creative Backyard Destinations
Jeremy Miller, principal of Houston Landscapes (Houston), admits he ended up in the high-end residential and commercial landscaping and construction industry by accident. “My roommate at the time wanted to start up a lawn mowing and hedge trimming business and he asked for my assistance in setting up the basic operating systems for the company,” shares Jeremy. “With my business background, I helped him get things going.”
An Unexpected Career & Rapid Growth
Jeremy, who spent several years after college working as an events promoter for local night clubs, never though he would end up owning a landscaping company, but after a few short years Houston started to grow exponentially. “We established Houston in 2004 and by 2005 we landed our first construction job,” he recalls. “It was then that we realized larger invoices were more productive than doing $100-at-a-time jobs so we switched to more exterior construction. We started growing at a tremendous rate, from $300,000 the first year to $1.2 million the second year –the numbers continued to excel.”
What started as part-time assistance eventually turned into a full-time career for Jeremy. “Over time, I earned shares in the company and my involvement increased to the point where I was full-time,” he explains. “About three years ago, I stepped in and bought out my partner and I’ve been the sole owner ever since.”
Jeremy says his lack of construction and landscaping experience has actually contributed to Houston’s success. “I’m not a tradesman by any means, but I think its part of our success,” he adds. “My approach is to hire qualified professionals to do the job right while I focus on perfecting our branding, sales and operating systems. I’m more of a true executive than anything else.”
With a diverse background in marketing for large web development companies as well as promotional events, Jeremy focused on establishing a name for Houston early on. “I understand the importance of appearance,” he notes. “Even when we were still a small company, we broke the bank to buy new trucks and have a well-designed, recognizable logo. That’s what really put the word out and helped us take off in the beginning.”
Today, Houston serves the greater Vancouver area, mainly the North Shore and West Side of the city, serving high-end residential and commercial clients. “We’ll go to Richmond and Burnaby, but Vancouver is our primary market,” details Jeremy. The company has expanded to the point that it recently outgrew its 1,800-square-foot warehouse and moved to a new 5,000-square-foot stand-alone facility on the North Shore.
“Our target market is estate property homes,” shares Jeremy. “We’re looking for the right customer who’s not shopping based on the price tag; because we’re not going to be the cheapest and we won’t pretend to be. We want to work with people who understand you get what you pay for.”
High-end Residential & Commercial Service
Houston is involved in both residential and commercial markets, but Jeremy admits the work ebbs and flows with economic cycles. “Generally, we’re serving custom homes, but we maintain a good amount of multifamily work as well,” he says. “During the downturn we were doing about 80 percent commercial projects, whereas this year it’s about 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial. The purpose of doing both is to be flexible –we’re not tied down to just one type of work.”
The company serves not only as a landscaper and exterior contractor but also a general contractor. “We’re not water proofers or garage builders per-say, but anything that’s outside of our expertise we’ll oversee if a client doesn’t want to contract and manage four different companies,” explains Jeremy. “We are capable of doing a great deal in-house though, from basic landscaping including plants and turf to pavers, vertical and flatwork masonry and specialized carpentry including high-end decks and fences. We’re pretty flexible –if a client wants a million dollar yard we’ll find a way to make it happen.”
From multimillion dollar estate properties to large-scale commercial projects, Houston covers both arenas. “We recently completed a green roof at the Vanduesen Centre’s Garden Visitor Centre,” shares Jeremy. “The 20,000-square-foot green roof is by far the most complex of its kind built in North America.” The company has geared up for more green-roof installations. “We’re seeing more of these projects in the future,” Jeremy adds.
Aside from a wide range of in-house services, Jeremy says what really distinguishes Houston is a strong company culture. “I treat everyone well and my employees do the same in return,” he notes. “Problems are bound to happen, but we don’t want to be the typical construction company who points fingers. Instead, we deal with the problem first because the owner needs a solution, we can figure out who’s to blame after. I’ve got a team of leaders and managers who can quickly identify who easily falls into our culture and who doesn’t.”
Since 2004, Jeremy has worked hard to establish this sense of company pride and recognition and Houston has risen to the top as a result. In 2012, the company was honoured to receive the BCLNA Award of Excellence for residential landscape installations and Houston currently ranks number 316 on Canada’s PROFIT 500 Fastest Growing Companies list.
But despite rapid success, Jeremy admits he’s not looking to grow too fast. “Sometimes it’s a good thing to restrain growth a bit,” he says. “We need to stay focused on our current projects and do the best job possible. Continuing on a path of steady, not explosive growth is our best bet, because it’s all a balance.” Houston Landscaping continues to make a name for itself after a nearly a decade of excellence.