New Jersey Landscape Company Bucks Trend to Invest in its Future
In the midst of the toughest economic climate in recent memory - an recession that hit the metropolitan New York/New Jersey area particularly hard - a privately owned and operated landscape business made a substantial commitment to an investment designed to give back to its neighbors and, in turn, open up possibilities both in business and community service.
Now in its 33rd year in business in the competitive northern New Jersey region, Jacobsen Landscape Design and Construction has its headquarters and primary Design Center in Midland Park, N.J. - about 20 miles from downtown Manhattan. A second Design Center and showcase for its work opened as an outdoor Landscape & Garden Gallery in historic Barnstable Court in affluent Saddle River, N.J., a little more than two years ago.
This was, as owner and founder Glenn Jacobsen, CLP, recalls, just about when the financial markets were in free fall.
"When we started the Landscape Gallery project in July 2008, it was exactly when our core customers - those in the financial and service industries - were getting hit the hardest," Jacobsen recalls. "I admit, our timing made me nervous, but my instincts told me he had to invest and be distinctive in order to build a presence in this key new area."
The three-year investment at this new location is now paying dividends through a better connection to its customers and to its core Northwest Bergen County community. The key to the success is that the Landscape Gallery - nestled at a fork in the winding Saddle River surrounded by water and historic buildings - has been offered as a unique outdoor venue for community, cultural and non-profit organizations to hold events.
"One of the primary reasons we opened the Landscape Gallery at Barnstable Court was to give us another way to reach out to our friends and customers," explains Jacobsen. He points out that integrating the Gallery into the community was always a key part of the plan when deciding on a location for expansion.
"This goes well beyond increasing the exposure of Jacobsen Landscape," he adds. "It is more about becoming a part of the business and residential community that has been so good to us for so long."
In the past year, Jacobsen hosted nearly 20 community-based meetings and cultural activities at the Gallery. On any given day or evening it was not uncommon to find a landscape educational seminar, Garden Club gathering, church member activity or Chamber of Commerce meeting taking place among the colors and natural beauty of the gardens. Other past events have ranged from local business networking groups, Boy Scout Troop safety classes, local art shows, yoga classes on the patio, and even an evening of herb gardening with hands-on cooking.
The Gallery has also become a favorite setting for photographers and painters to spend early mornings or leisurely afternoons enjoying their work. In one instance, a wedding party celebrating across the pond at the historic Saddle River Inn strolled across the rustic wooden bridge into the gardens for photographs.
Community events also allow employees to get to know and interact with local organizations. The company is in the process of scheduling activities for the summer and fall season. "We welcome organizations to contact us and we will work with them to provide a free, unique, relaxing and fun setting for their activity," Jacobsen says.
Jacobsen certainly acknowledges that the significant investment in the Landscape Gallery was made more difficult due to the economic uncertainty in the region at the time - yet he was determined to persevere.
"When everyone was pulling back and looking for ways to cut costs, we were investing in our company and our community," Jacobsen says. "This is one of the major initiatives we have taken in the past two years to position ourselves well for when the economy started to turn around. For the most part, staffing of the Landscape Gallery has been handled without adding headcount, primarily with design salespeople sharing the responsibility."
Of course, the investment is not all about giving local groups a free place to hold their events. The bottom line, as always, is the bottom line.
With that in mind, the company put in place a sophisticated system to track leads directly attributable to contacts made through these Landscape Gallery events, whose expense in contained in the company's marketing budget. While reluctant to release exact sales numbers, Jacobsen acknowledges that "the significant amount of new business certainly proves the investment was worth it.
"Clients today are more discerning than ever with their money and what they are willing to spend on their properties, and this gives us more visibility and legitimacy in their eyes when deciding where to invest." Jacobsen says.
Plus, Jacobsen admits, he personally likes to spend time in the bucolic setting of the Landscape Gallery. "It really is a beautiful, calming place, a perfect place to relax after a long day," he says. "That's one of the additional benefits of the investment."