Medina Lawncare is featured in the September 2014 issue of Lawn and Landscape Magazine. This feature piece discusses family owned lawn care businesses and how Medina navigated through transitions in ownership and passing the business management on to the next generation. Below you will find the clip of the article featuring Medina Lawncare. CLICK HERE to read the full article in Lawn and Landscape.
Excerpt from “The fine art of family business“
by Kristen Hampshire | Lawn & Landscape Magazine | September 1, 2014
Make it big
When Carlos Medina approached his father 16 years ago and offered to buy the family business, his dad and mom – sitting at the kitchen table/office – were surprised. Then, Medina laid out his plans: The first thing he would do is move the company out of the kitchen, invest in new, larger equipment and go after big jobs. His father, Medina Sr., was skeptical.
“My mom said, OK, and my dad gruffled about it a bit,” Medina admits of his initial presentation. “I told him, ‘I don’t want to just cut grass. I want to do install, I want to diversify.’
“I wanted to continue the family business and make the business something different,” Medina says.
Medina promised his father a weekly paycheck for as long as the company existed. This was an appealing offer following the break-up of the Medina Brothers, the company Medina Sr. had run with his two brothers since 1967 before they went their own ways. Since that time, the company hadn’t been the same. Each brother, Medina’s father included, went out on his own.
Medina had worked in his father’s business beginning at age 12, but had pursued his own ventures during adulthood: buying and selling a restaurant, running several successful carwashes, and working full-time in the motion picture industry designing, installing and duplicating landscaping sets for movies like “Home Alone,” “Transformers” and “The Fugitive.”
“I had been working on movies for so many years on a large scale that I wanted to bring those ideas to our small, family business,” Medina says.
The time was right for Medina Sr. to agree to his son’s offer to take over as president and CEO, and they decided on a reasonable financial package that involved Medina Jr. paying his father a sum, then promising a paycheck for life.
Then, Medina moved the family business out of the kitchen – and since that time, has grown the firm from an average $150,000- $200,000 annual revenue to $2.7 million.
Medina immediately applied a “think big” mentality to the business. “I put employees in uniforms and began advertising,” he says. The trucks became moving billboards. Never before had the firm put itself out there like this, Medina says. “We flooded the market with as much information as possible for a few years, then we stopped and the word-of-mouth referrals started coming in,” he says.
His parents never planned on marketing the company, and they saw the results of Medina’s efforts. But initiating so much change so quickly was difficult for Medina Sr. to watch at times. He had to step back after running the business for 20-plus years. “I remember telling dad, ‘You’re getting your paycheck, just relax and enjoy the ride. Let’s see what we can do,’” Medina says.
He also had to tell his father: “There cannot be two bosses at this place,” and, “Relax, you’ve done this all these years, let me do it now. I don’t want you to work anymore. I don’t want you to worry about payroll or fuel costs or employees.”
Easy to say for Medina Jr., difficult to do for Medina Sr., who still shows up at 5:30 a.m. and is the first to unlock and open the gate for business in the morning. “He has never been able to relax,” Medina says. “To this day, he tries to tell me things, and I’ll say, ‘Dad, stop, please.’”
All of this is loving, respectful banter.
Medina knows that his father is proud of how far the company has progressed, it’s just not easy to step back. But communicating to employees “who’s boss” has been important. “There can’t be two bosses telling the employees different things,” Medina says, relating that the first five years following the ownership change there was some friction. But immediately after taking over, Medina’s brother, Sergio, and wife jumped on board. The new school renamed the business Medina Lawncare and was inspired to continue their father’s legacy.
Meanwhile, Medina assured his dad that he had earned his stripes in business, and could apply what he knew to raising up the family business. “I had run five successful businesses that I bought and sold,” Medina says. “So I had a proven track record.”
In particular, Medina had grown one of his car washes by diversifying into selling auto accessories, window tinting and more. “In my mind, offering the customer just one thing was not enough,” he says.
Medina has taken the same approach with Medina Lawncare. After taking ownership of the family firm, Medina’s wife launched a complementary business, Chicago Xteriors, an outdoor facilities contractor specializing in pavers, concrete and fencing, including wrought iron custom built balconies. The companies work in tandem to provide clients with a broader range of services.
Medina Lawncare’s commercial clients include McDonald’s, Chicago Public Schools, Cook County and various developers and management companies. Time and a track record have shown Medina Sr. that he can step back and enjoy the company’s success. After the first year of taking over the business, Medina doubled revenues. Within five years, he increased revenues to more than $1 million.
And though it may never be easy for Medina Sr. to be on payroll rather than managing it, his son taking over the business has resulted in a strong bond as the family works to preserve the legacy.
In a video Medina created to commemorate his father, the voiceover tells of one man, traveling 2,430 miles as a U.S. immigrant from Los Herrera’s Durango Mexico, three generations ago, with a common goal to serve Chicago.
“We work really hard as a family,” Medina says.