Landscape, Irrigation Businesses a Perfect Fit for Husband, Wife

Article excerpt

It isn't all that unusual to have family ownership of a landscaping and irrigation business. What sets apart the two companies -- Bailey Enterprises and Alternate Rain Company, owned by husband-and-wife team Doug and Jackie Bailey of Elkhorn, Neb. -- is the fact they began the business in their teens and it now it's more than 20 years old.

Their companies started as Doug's junior high school mowing enterprise to earn extra money. Today, with an eye toward diligent customer service and a management consultant's help in organizing the growing business, their operation has become one of the major businesses of its type in the Omaha area. The companies employ more than 25 people in summer.

The Bailey companies began as a way for Doug to earn money when he was 13. By the time he graduated from high school in 1979, Doug had his father and grandfather working for him while he was at football practice and his then-girlfriend, Jackie, taking over the bookkeeping duties.

Through the college years, getting married, having six children (one girl and five boys), and acquiring three dogs, the entrepreneurial couple has always tried to keep their lives in balance. They use a sharp eye on the business aspects of their lives, while enjoying the pleasures that their hard work has earned them and their family.

"It's been a partnership for as long as I can remember," explains Jackie. "When Doug had a motorcycle accident the last year of high school, his family and I realized that most of the business information was in his head. With him laid up in bed, I took over the office-type duties to keep the operation moving along."

With that teamwork and initiative, the couple married in 1981, and the formal partnership has continued growing. An example of their focus was the purchase of the company's first large commercial mower. "When my grandfather died," explained Jackie, "he left money to each of the grandchildren. My sisters bought cars. I bought our first Toro Groundsmaster mower!"

They apply the same attention and clear focus to their relationships with their workers and customers.

Lacking workers

"This can be a difficult business to find and develop reliable employees," Doug says. "In addition to the mowing and irrigation business, we also do snow plowing and salting in winter. Each of our businesses is weather-dependent, and reliable employees become great assets in keeping the operation running smoothly and efficiently.

"I'm happy to say that we've found great employees. Some of them have been with us more than 15 years."

Like many people in the landscaping and irrigation business, the Baileys know their territory well and are positioning themselves for continuing growth, thanks to the good economy that the Omaha area enjoys. At the same time, however, they also have to contend with the problems that the area presents.

Doug notes that most areas have their own unique situations. In the Omaha, it's the fact that the area has grown to become a center for telemarketing. Many people who might otherwise be interested in outdoor work now aim for indoor work, where they can set their own hours. In addition, those operations pay very well. Still another factor affecting the available labor pool is the number of gambling casinos that are opening close by in Iowa. "This is still another industry drawing potential workers from us," says the landscaper.

Landscape & irrigation

As the Baileys explain it, they've never lacked for work in all the years they've been in business.

There is a greater demand than ever from both the commercial and residential sides for landscaping and irrigation services, according to Doug.

Commercial developers, builders and property owners are key customers for the Baileys. These people have one focus -- creating an inviting, attractive environment for the tenants. This means installing and maintaining the sprinkler system, keeping the landscaped areas and grass areas properly trimmed and attractive, and making sure that walks and parking lots are plowed and salted. …