April 6, 2021
Member Profile: Cypress Gardeners, Port Carling, Ont.
Dedication to service leads to impressive growth
Cypress Gardeners may only be six years old, but a dedication to providing the best possible service has led to tremendous growth.
Originally the softscape division of Muskoka Landscapers, which is owned by Kevin Scott, Cypress Gardeners became its own entity in 2016 and has flourished under the steady leadership of general manager Sherri Hornsey.
Hornsey started as a maintenance manager with Muskoka Landscapers in 2013, but soon earned Scott’s trust to the point that he took a backseat while she ran the day-to-day softscaping operations.
“From there on, I was in charge of all of it,” says Hornsey. “All the hiring, everything. Kevin was there in the background when I needed him, but other than that, it was just go for it.”
Scott says he’s been very happy with the way Hornsey has managed Cypress Gardeners. Having a good relationship built over a few years provided him great insight into the way she worked. He also notes that splitting Cypress away from Muskoka Landscapers has been beneficial to both companies.
“She’s got a great background in horticulture and maintenance,” says Scott. “She’s also a great trainer, she’s great for staff morale and Cypress kind of has its own culture. It’s a good group of people she has developed around her.”
Cypress Gardeners won an Award of Excellence in 2019 for their work maintaining this property. One of the greatest challenges of the modern planting plan was to get any plant material to grow on the bedrock behind the lounge area.
The results have been tremendous. Cypress Gardeners started with one truck and three team members caring for around 25 properties; five years later it has a summer staff of 20 and six vehicles maintaining 65 properties in 2021.
“It’s taken off really quickly in a short amount of time,” says Hornsey.
Their client growth has been mainly through referrals, with a little bit of Instagram exposure. That strategy is by design.
“Two years ago, we sat down and said we really need to focus on making our existing customers as happy as possible so that they keep returning year after year,” says Hornsey.
Scott notes that referrals also go back and forth between Muskoka Landscapers and Cypress Gardeners as projects are completed.
“It’s amazing,” he says. “It’s been organic growth too.”
The dedication to client retention through providing excellent service led their existing clientele to recommend Cypress Gardeners to their family and friends.
“We also have a dedicated person looking after our Instagram account, which is the only social media platform we use,” explains Hornsey.
Taking photos and videos of various projects – specifically the spectacular gardens – and posting them three days a week, inspires followers to become clients.
“One gentleman called us and said, ‘I don’t care what it costs, just make my gardens look like your photos,’” recalls Hornsey. “Last year was his first year with us and he’s returning for this year as well.”
Hornsey herself entered the landscaping world in 2007, working for another Muskoka landscaping company and learning about the industry from all angles. Gardening had always been her hobby while living in the city, and when she hit a crossroads in life, the thoughts of escaping to greener pastures in Muskoka became very appealing.
“I needed a change of scenery and wanted to do something I truly love as my career,” she remembers. “I applied for a Team Leader position with Water’s Edge Landscaping and got the job. The learning curve was huge, but it was an amazing adventure that led me to where I am today.”
Now, she uses her many years of experience to guide Cypress Gardeners and to make sure she keeps her team engaged and dedicated.
Efficient planning is key, she says. The team knows what the schedule is and what is required of them before each day begins. This leads to strong preparation and great results for clients.
“We have a lot of returning staff year after year,” she says. “I give them responsibility and the ability to make sound choices to benefit the clients. I don’t have to micromanage because I trust them to make the right decisions.”
Cypress Gardeners works mainly on the high-end cottages that Muskoka is famous for. Keeping these clients happy sometimes means acquiescing to interesting requests, such as the client who is at the cottage throughout the week: the Cypress Gardeners staff who tend to the property are asked to speak in whispers as the client “does not want to hear any voices.”
But, as Hornsey notes, the team will do as the client asks to ensure they have a great experience.
“You learn to just roll with.”
This type of business savvy and dedication to their craft helped Cypress Gardeners earn Landscape Ontario Awards of Excellence in the maintenance program in both 2017 and 2019.
Hornsey is also an original member of the Landscape Ontario Peer to Peer group, which she says has been a phenomenal growth experience.
This support group for business owners and upper management allows participants to ask questions and get advice free from judgment; empowers the individuals to help themselves; provides emotional support, fosters friendships and facilitates social interaction and development; and offers support for ongoing personal development.
“I look forward to every meeting,” she says. “They have a dedicated private Facebook feed where you can ask questions or make posts to other members. There are many benefits to this group. The knowledge that this group has is incredible and they are all willing to share their knowledge.”