Sixty years of driving beautiful, functional landscapes
There were plenty of reasons Nathan Helder shouldn’t have bought his father-in-law’s landscaping company. For one, Helder had no experience in the field and, for another, Helder’s wife wanted no part of buying her dad’s business. She was the only one of her siblings never to work at Waterdown’s Gelderman Landscaping.
Helder argued with himself for a while before starting the process to buy Hank Gelderman out. That was just about nine years ago. Since then, the business has almost doubled its revenue and its staff.
Helder instituted a corporate structure, boosted staff training and is now embarking on an expansion plan. The first new branch location opened in Guelph about four years ago. There are two more in the works.
“I think me not having a landscape background is the best thing ever,” said Helder. “The outside perspective could take the business to the next level.”
That includes using behavioural assessment tests to find the right employees at all levels. Helder says that has prevented bad hires and accelerated the time it takes for new staff to fit in.
“We’ve always been wrong when we’ve overridden an assessment and hired anyway. The person has quit or we’ve had to fire them every time.”
Roy Hummel, vice-president of maintenance and snow, says employees now see the company’s vision. “The good people stay because they see a career here. They’re not just in for a summer and then gone.”
Gelderman focuses on two revenue streams: maintenance contracts for condos and residential landscape design and construction. Helder says their focus is on high-end service, including commitments to communication, punctuality, cleanliness and high-quality work.
The company is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, the company has restored a 1948 Jeep Willy, the same model Jan Gelderman used to start his landscaping business.
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