Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We do landscape maintenance and installation for commercial and residential customers. We go from the Oregon border up to Grants Pass. The business was started by Carol Corbridge in 1985 and Jayna Harrison later became a partner in the business. We bought the business from them in 2011.
Business: Carol's Colors Landscaping
Owner: Greg and Valri Williams
Address: 87 W. Nevada St., Ashland
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? My family came here in 1905, and I was born here in 1955.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? My grandparents started Ashland Flower Shop and Greenhouses beginning in 1905. My parents bought the business from my grandparents in about 1950. I became a partner in 1978, and then my wife and I bought the company outright in 1994. We sold the flower shop business in 1999 and sold the greenhouses in 2008. I've been a grower for 30 years, and Carol's Colors was our largest customer. When I was growing up we were growing more than 3 million plants a year, and when the business became available I had known Carol for more than 20 years, so it was an easy transition. For years, I was into selling plants. Now it's about selling our expertise.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? My wife is a CPA, and we're updating a lot of the bookkeeping, and updating business aspects. For me, it's fortunate my background is in business. General Manager Penny Fullmer has been with us 13 years, and some of the other employees have been here longer than that. We have experienced landscapers, but the behind-the-scenes things needed updating. For a lot of landscapers, that's a big issue, knowing whether they are making a profit or not. We're going to be producing profit and loss statements, and financial statements so we are able to track our costs.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? Knowing when to hire and when not to. Hiring labor is a challenge. Our business is increasing, and knowing when to bring people on and to second guess what the economy is going to do is difficult. People will cut back on landscaping if they think things are going backwards, and we have to be cognizant of that. Landscape is so tied in with construction as new homes and buildings. We bid on a lot of commercial projects, and the more construction, the more work there is for landscaping.
Who are your competitors? Any more there are a lot of landscapers out there, especially maintenance, because you don't have to have the same licenses. We have licenses in irrigation installation, pesticide application and landscape construction. Greentimes and Bumgardners Landscape do a lot of installation, and there are a bizillion maintenance firms out there.
What are your goals? I'd like to build the business and be considered one of the top landscape companies in the valley. In five years I'd like to make it into an employee-owned business. We have some real key employees. I'd like to have them own a piece of it.
What training or education did you need? I was born and raised in greenhouses and business. That's what I went to college for, taking biology at SOU and horticulture at Oregon State. My wife graduated with an accounting degree from SOU; that's very important in our business. That's where a lot of business owners are lacking, especially in a field that is so labor intensive. Every year I go back to take the Ohio State short courses in growing. Most landscapers plant and maintain. I understand the growing because it's so unique. I really know my annuals and perennials.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Try to get as much financial education as you can. Understand what a profit and loss statement means and that it's a real key. Be able and willing to put in long hours.
To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.