In February, I sat down with Andrew Kerin and Roger Zino. The two men headed up Brickman and ValleyCrest, respectively, before both companies were bought by private equity firm KKR. Now, they are leading the creation of BrightView, the largest landscape company in history. In an exclusive interview with L&L, they talked about how they're integrating two already-huge companies, how they see their place in the industry and what it means to carry on the legacy of two of the landscape industry's founding families. – Chuck Bowen
Chuck Bowen: Let's talk a little bit more about how these conversations started when initially KKR came invested in Brickman and then seemingly the next day invested in ValleyCrest. How did you guys get into a room and start talking?
Kerin: Fortunately, Roger and I had met sometime before then and when KKR got involved and obviously MSD Capital on the ValleyCrest side, we had an opportunity to visit and Roger and I first talked to see how we feel about that.
Now we are together providing more comprehensive service, providing more opportunity for our people which is clearly a top priority. Being more local. If you think about it, we have so much density, we're so much more local in many markets.
Chuck Bowen: Can you give me an example of maybe one of those markets where you've been able to really strengthen those local ties? Because I think the legacy companies never had that we're-the-local-guy reputation.
Kerin: One great example is the community work that we're doing in Dallas, as well as the work we're doing for our clients. Maintenance service is now adding tree services. Where there was development work going on, now they add maintenance.
And I think importantly just the sharing of resources that we have across horticulture, irrigation, maintenance, development, we are the local company in Dallas and we're all stronger for it. Our people are stronger for it, our clients have better service because of it. And we're there to respond both reactively and proactively in a much deeper way.
Chuck Bowen: So as you guys have brought the two companies together, what surprised you the most?
Zino: When you get people in the room, how excited they got about being in the room with each other. I mean you have a bunch of landscape people coming together, right? And just sort of unprecedented in terms of people saying, “Hey, how do you do this?” And, “Here's how we do this,” and, “Let's compare notes.”
And I think that the instant desire to kind of share knowledge and learn from each other really was – I mean it was just fun to watch because both companies always had a great interest in each other and everybody wanted to just find out more and where to take and how do you do this, oh, wow. This sort of shared vision of how do we get and do things better and the opportunity to have so much experience, different in a lot of ways but similar in so many ways too. It was really cool to see.