A Halloween Horror Story

row of plants potted with a spider web overlay

Starting—and then growing—a successful business is an exciting endeavor. Sure there’s a lot of hard work, late nights, and endless worry, but the awesome results of all that labor plays out every day in being able to take on more and bigger projects and building a team of employees who are knowledgeable and trustworthy. 

Perficut started in Des Moines in 1990 with two employees. It now employs hundreds and is one of the Midwest’s largest landscape and snow removal companies.

As any business owner will tell you, the path from start to success is not a smooth one. There are always missteps along the way. President and CEO Matt Boelman says that once upon a time, Perficut had to learn through adversity.

In honor of this spooky time of year, he’s going to tell us a Halloween horror story—a hair-raising tale of a BIG business mistake (spoiler alert: the lessons learned strengthened Perficut long term). So gather ‘round…

FROM CELEBRATION TO CALCULATION ERRORS

Much like your favorite thriller movie, the plot of this story starts out innocent enough: In early 2007, Perficut was asked to bid on a large government job creating and filling planting beds along Interstate 235 in Des Moines. It would be Perficut’s first government contract and a big step up in their capabilities and notoriety. Not to mention it represented a large paycheck for the company. 

One happy day in February, Perficut learned it won the bid. “It was the largest contract we had been awarded in that stage in our company,” Matt says. 

After that initial excitement, however, ominous background music began playing. Matt and his team discovered they had missed some important details: “What we didn’t read in the specs is that the planting windows opened only two times a season, from May until June and then from August to November,” he says. “We also were contacted by our DOT supervisor that we had to till up the ground along the roadway. That was unique. We were used to digging a hole for the tree or plant and that was it. That was another step we had missed in the process. It costs us enormous amounts of labor and time.”

When the first planting window closed in June 2007, the Perficut team was able to complete about a quarter of the work, Matt says. “We started again in August and planted until that window closed and we got to a little over halfway.” In May of 2008, Perficut started again. “We put all hands on deck and got it done,” Matt says. 

For an additional year from work completion, it’s standard in a landscaping contract for the company to cover the expected loss of plant material. Since Perficut didn’t complete the work until 2008, “we ended up replacing dead trees and shrubs three times until June of 2009,” Matt says. “By not understanding the scope of work, missing the planting window, and missing the scope of the costs, we ended up losing about $200,000 on this project.” 

This was a big lesson in the development of Perficut, Matt says. “After that, we took a huge step up in terms of contract review, timeline review, and aligning the right size crew and capability to get the work done. I wish it hadn’t cost us what it did, but it was—in hindsight—a great lesson.”

perficut team member putting plants in soil with a spider web overlay

FROM FRIGHTENING FAIL TO CORE BEST PRACTICES

Matt and Team Perficut have turned this early lesson into core values in the way they interact with clients and partners. They know that any good project starts with a successful plan. And Team Perficut is meticulous in outlining strategy from the outset. “We ask every time in the planning stage: ‘Do you have a scope of work plan, or do you want us to prepare one for you?’” he says. 

Planning ahead means no more horror stories—for Team Perficut or their clients. When working with Amazon, Team Perficut advised making room for snow staging in the initial site plan, rather than figure out what to do with a parking lot full of flakes after it happened. “And sometimes we’ll make changes to a commercial site landscaping plan based on our experience with trees and shrubs,” Matt says. 

Team Perficut’s relationship success comes from walking through each and every step of the process together with the client. “We are proactive in the planning and budgeting stages. We prefer to deal with things up front,” Matt says. “All this was derived from failures and learning lessons along the way.”

Curious about Perficut’s history and mission?