Interview with British Columbia’s Landscaper Kris Karlson

Groundforce interview

 

Groundforce is a very successful landscaping business that delivers quality work on the British Columbian mainland and more recently onto Vancouver Island.

I was able to catch up with the founder and owner Kris Karlson for a quick pow-wow.

Mike and Kris Chat

Mike-

Hey, Kris. Thanks for taking the time to do this quick interview. I know you’ve been busy this year running around working your landscaping business.

Groundforce has been pumping out loads of projects lately, so I thought I’d pick your brain a bit to see how you got your business to where it’s at today.

Kris-

Hey, Mike. Yeah, no problem- love to share.

Mike-

Awesome. So first off, can you tell me a little about Groundforce and what kind of projects do you guys do?

Kris-

Well, we do everything from consultation to design, quotation to full on-site and off-site management.

Starting with demolition and excavation; grading and drainage; full landscape with lawns, gardens and plants; hardscape installation such as paving stones; stairs and retaining walls; and masonry including natural stone veneer.

We also cover all aspects from beginning to finish so the clients get a sort of a one-stop shopping, thereby reducing their need for multiple subcontracts.

For example, while we are installing the driveway, we may also be applying masonry to the house and preparing the irrigation system.

Mike-

Wow, that sounds like the full meal deal Kris. How many years have you been doing this for?

Kris-

It’s flying by pretty fast but it’s just creeping up to 13 years now. Feels like we just started yesterday.

Mike-

How did you get into this particular trade? Did you have prior experience in landscaping? 

Kris-

Well, my work experience started while I was traveling abroad. In order to keep myself overseas, I worked in Australia when I was 20 in the landscape industry.

I guess that’s what sparked it and got me going. I just kept learning and developing my skills from there. Eventually, I went to trade school, then registered my landscaping business.

Mike-

Cool. What type of registration did you apply for when starting your business- sole proprietorship or incorporated?

Kris-

I really had the vision of running my own business so I went with the sole proprietorship registration. I didn’t have a partner at the time so I kept it simple and went solo.

Mike-

Did you have to get any insurances?

Kris-

Yeah, I started off with 1 million liability, but I think now most new companies start with at least 2 million.

Mike-

Did you build the business up slowly or just jump right into it?

Kris-

I started on my own and then hired 1 employee which was the same for the next 2 years.  Currently 13 years later I have 8 employees. 

Mike-

Nice, that’s a good size crew. 

Can you tell us some of the first tasks you did to get things up and running? Did you open a business account right away etc…

Kris-

Hmm… I opened up a small business account at the bank for Groundforce. Then, I opened accounts with all the different suppliers so I would start getting the discounts on the products.

After that, I designed my construction Brand. I made a company logo,  had business cards made up and got a simple estimating and invoice program ready to go. Pretty basic stuff. 

Mike-

How long did it take to get things up and running?

Kris-

Didn’t take long at all Mike. Once I was registered and insured, I was ready to market the business and just look for work.

Mike-

Where did you find your employees or helpers?

Kris-

It was really word of mouth to start then I hit Craigslist. You can also try places like indeed.com or workopolis.com. They’re all pretty good. Once the word got out I started getting customers, then it just started to snowball from there. 

Trade Schools registrationMike-

That’s similar to my business. Once people heard about my painting services the phone started to ring and the emails started to come in requesting an estimate for projects.

I think word of mouth is key to finding work.

How many people would you suggest hiring for a small landscaping business, and what would their roles be?

Kris-

In the beginning, it is simply myself as an owner/operator.  The initial employee was a laborer which grew into my first foreman.  That is the ideal situation.

Mike-

What about the accounting part?  That’s usually a sensitive area for new business owners. For me, I had my wife look after the accounting part of the business,  just so I could focus on doing the estimating and invoices. 

Do you do the accounting as well or do you have people helping out there?

Kris-

I don’t do the accounting part as it is time-consuming and ..I’m not an accountant lol. However, it is important to do the bookkeeping in order to keep in touch with all the bills.

For example..if I see were buying allot of a particular product, I’ll approach the dealer and see if we can get a better discount.

Small things like that help your business as every penny counts. Also, I like to monitor the employees hours so I know how long things are going to take on each project. It also helps me estimate the projects better.

Mike-

That’s awesome Kris. Thanks so much for your time and  I’m sure everyone got a little something out of the interview.

Before you go, can you share some words of wisdom for tradespeople just starting or wanting to start up their own business?

Kris-

Commit, don’t socialize or ‘party’ as it takes a lot of focus to start up and run a company. Your family and friends will understand and will always come back.

Mike-

Well said. I totally agree. Put the same hours and effort in as you would if you were working for someone else and you’ll reap all the benefits in the end.

So can people just go to your website at groundforce.com to check out your work or contact you?

Kris-

Yes, go to groundforcebc.com. My contact is Kris@groundforcebc.com. 

Mike-

Alright Kris, all the best and have another great year at it!

Kris-

Cheers, Mike!

 

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