You could say that Bruce Moore Jr. never knew a life outside of the landscaping business, and you’d be right. He grew up around the industry, as the commercial landscaping firm his father founded, Eastern Land Management, opened its doors just a few years prior to his birth. Not only did he grow up in the business, now at 36, landscaping is still a huge part of his life.
“Growing up, I just enjoyed being around my father and the business,” he says. “It was truly always something I enjoyed doing and wanted to be a part of.”
This wasn’t just a childhood phase, a young boy wanting to be “just like Dad,” then growing to develop other interests. For Moore, wanting to be a part of his father’s business was a desire that always stuck with him. As soon as he was old enough, he began working part-time during summer breaks, going out to job sites with crews and learning about horticulture firsthand. “I got to establish relationships with our employees and customers as well,” Moore says.
Having already garnered so much in-the-field experience, when it came time to go to college, he decided he would be able to best serve the company by pursuing a degree in business management rather than one in landscape or horticulture.
“That ended up working out really well,” Moore says of the business management degree he earned at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts. He couldn’t wait to start applying what he’d learned to the family business: Graduating on a Saturday in 2005, he was at work full time the following Monday.
Just last year, Moore was appointed president of ELM, taking over the role from his father, fulfilling part of the company succession plan. He was ready for the responsibility, having spent the previous 13 years performing just about every job imaginable in the company. “I’ve gotten to see pretty much every side of the business operationally and administratively,” he says.
One of his first assignments as a full-timer was to help transition a major service category to an inside-the-company function. “We were utilizing an irrigation subcontractor for all of our properties, and we made a decision at one of our strategic planning events that we really should be doing it in-house,” he says.
Doing so would allow ELM to control that aspect of the business and develop it into a profit center. Moore was tasked with that initiative, becoming an account manager for a while, working with clients and responding to their needs. From there, he expanded into the role of director of landscape maintenance.
“I oversaw other account managers that were responsible for our clients on the maintenance side of our business. That later grew into being vice president of operations, where I oversaw all the day-to-day operations of the business in all the different profit centers: irrigation, landscape maintenance, construction — all of it.”
Now, as company president, Moore oversees all the firm’s corporate and operational matters.
The secret to success
Moore credits his father for the company being what it is today, a full-service commercial landscaping firm providing landscape maintenance, landscape construction, snow services, irrigation, turf and plant health care, and holiday decorating.
From its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, and a branch office in Monroe, Connecticut, it serves customers in Westchester County, New York, and Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut, with some employees working in satellite locations on client properties.
Well over 80% of ELM’s customers take advantage of all the many services the company has to offer. There must be a reason for that, and Moore has the answer.
“How we’ve been able to grow our business is to my father’s credit,” he says. “He was very passionate about developing long-lasting, trusting relationships with our clients and vendors alike. I learned from him and took that mantra on myself. We run pretty hard for our customers. That’s one thing that differentiates us from the competition.”
Moore knows that having successful client and vendor relationships starts with the front line, the employees. ELM has about 150 workers during the peak season, which runs from March to November and employs about 50 in the off-season.
He describes ELM’s culture as “family-based.” “We’re flexible as to everyone’s personal needs and situations,” he says. “We want everyone to have a nice work-life balance,” adding that, “If we treat our employees well, then they in turn will treat our clients well and that goes a long way.”
This approach has rewarded the company with many longtime clients and employees. For Moore, it all boils down to building those trusting, long-lasting relationships his father talked about, delivering exceptional customer service, maintaining good communication and having a passion for people both inside and outside the company.
While relationships are key to ELM’s success, Moore says it’s not the only thing that keeps the business thriving; it’s also being excited about new challenges. “Every day is different. All of our business is based on what Mother Nature is doing.”
Unlike manufacturing where there are a set number of widgets that need to be produced every day under a roof in a controlled environment, ELM, like other outdoor-based businesses, has to create estimates for projects based on certain conditions — particularly the weather, something that’s completely out of the company’s control. But Moore says that’s what makes it fun. “We have to adapt and change to whatever Mother Nature throws at us. Every day is different and gives us a new opportunity. You have to look at things in a positive light.”
Aspiring to accreditation
Eastern Land Management, Stamford, Connecticut, has been a successful commercial landscaping business for over 40 years. A big part of maintaining and growing this business has to do with investing in its employees.
Toward that end, the company holds weekly safety training tailgate talks. It also has a weekly training series for its foremen so they can become Landscape Industry Certified through the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
“We have eight to 10 people annually in that program,” says President Bruce Moore Jr. “They have both classroom and hands-on training every week until the test, which takes place in October. Our goal is to become an accredited company through NALP.”
One of ELM’s largest and longest-term clients — and one that Moore is most proud of — is Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. “We’ve been there for almost 10 years now,” he says.
The university had been self-performing all its exterior services, but as the years went on it outsourced more and more of the work. “Now we are pretty much the exclusive provider for exterior services, and the school has just grown tremendously.”
ELM is involved with day-to-day maintenance and landscape and irrigation installation for all the school’s buildings.
“The client has a true passion and appreciation for the curb appeal and the image of the properties, so it’s been a pleasure working with them. They have high expectations, but they understand what it takes to meet those expectations.”
It’s been a collaborative effort with Sacred Heart’s team of landscape architects and general contractors who oversee the construction of new facilities. Moore enjoys seeing the plantings ELM put in 10 years ago starting to mature and fulfill the vision the school and its architects have for the institution’s landscape.
One of the challenges of working with this property is that, compared to a typical Northeastern college campus full of large trees and rolling lawns, Sacred Heart’s grounds are in a fairly confined, much denser space, according to Moore.
As the year progresses, ELM’s crews adjust the landscape to mark the passage of time. “There is a seasonal changeout of color for every one of the four seasons,” Moore says.
Sacred Heart is also among ELM’s many holiday decorating clients. The company got into that business based on client requests. “It’s mostly exterior work,” Moore says, “wrapping trees with lights, putting wreaths on buildings and in lobbies, putting garlands and bows on light poles and things like that.”
Holiday decorating has been a great business for ELM, so much so that the company’s fall is busier than its spring. “Everybody kind of thinks of the landscape business as having that spring rush,” Moore says, “and that’s true for us too. We’re definitely not slow during that time. But there is a lot of seasonal prep to prepare for winter, for the snow, the holiday decorating and the seasonal color change-outs. There are fall cleanups and construction projects we’re trying to get finished up before the end of the year.”
It’s yet another case where Moore says Mother Nature comes into play, imposing a deadline on ELM’s crews to get everything done before Dec. 1.
In February, Eastern Land Management opened its 6-acre, 20,000-square-foot campus in Monroe, Connecticut, to serve as a hub for the company’s zero-emissions, all-electric fleet.
“The facility houses our battery-powered crew,” says Bruce Moore Jr., the company’s president. It also stores the equipment used to service one of ELM’s university clients that requires the company to use electric and battery-powered equipment only. Right now that’s a mix of products from Mean Green Mowers and Greenworks Commercial.
The property also includes a salt storage area, an eco-friendly brine-making facility and a fleet of specialized vehicles and equipment used for anti-icing pretreatment, snow removal and post-storm liquid applications for winter weather events.
“Every year we make more and more progress on our initiative to reduce the amount of salt that we use in our winter operations,” says Moore. “We make our own sodium brine at that facility and then distribute it to our other locations.” Another sustainability project he hopes to accomplish in the future is installing solar panels on the building.
More from Moore
Having only been company president for a year, you could say Moore’s just getting started. “What I enjoy about my new role is it involves me in every aspect of the business,” he says. “Deciding how I spend my time in each of those areas creates a challenge, but that’s what I enjoy.”
Meeting new challenges isn’t the only aspect of the business Moore likes; he also savors the fruits of ELM’s labors. “Stepping back and looking at some of the landscapes that we’ve either created or maintained, and the progress that has been made with them, is the overall thing that keeps me coming back every day,” he says.
And it’s not just the progress of the projects that Moore likes to see, it’s also the growth of the individuals who come to work every day at ELM. “It’s amazing the different opportunities our industry presents for a lot of people. It’s satisfying to see people come into the organization, grow, become successful, and then start families, beginning their own personal journeys.”
Moore — should he ever find the time to do so — could look in the mirror and see how much he himself has grown in his own career. One of the things he’s learned is that “sometimes you have to really slow down to go fast. The more time you take to sit back, to plan, to strategize and to collaborate, the more successful you’ll be. You can’t do it all overnight.”
With that statement in mind, we’re sure we haven’t seen all we’re going to see from Moore or ELM. He’s got a long career as president ahead of him, and we can’t wait to see what he and the company he leads do next.
The author is editor-in-chief of Irrigation & Green Industry and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.