The Boston Herald featured Warner Larson in Small Business Matters column, emphasizing how the firm’s value-oriented focus allows it to adapt to challenging economic times.
Landscape architect adapts to tough times
Landscape architect David Warner has been reading some alarming headlines.
Towns all over the country are cutting back on school building projects or nixing them altogether. That could be really bad news for a firm that does a lot of work with schools.
It could hardly come at a more challenging time; Warner only recently took over the business.
It’s clear that the turmoil on Wall Street is swirling throughout the economy disrupting businesses in all sorts of ways. Consumers can’t get car loans so car dealerships struggle. Towns have a hard time selling bonds and the school construction industry struggles.
Warner, however, sees opportunity in the disruption.
“As we look forward to the next fiscal year, there are going to be changes,” he said. “It’s inevitable and we have to adapt.”
Warner went into the field because of a strong interest in the environment and the outdoors. He first studied horticultural technology in college but realized that he would be limited to being a nursery manager or taking up landscape construction, which didn’t interest him. Instead, he went to Cornell University to study landscape architecture.
Even then he knew he wanted to have his own company someday.
“It’s about having more of a say in how thing are done and having control over my own destiny,” Warner said.
He graduated into the middle of a previous recession and found little demand in the field. The closest he could come was a landscape construction company. It was more labor-oriented than design, but it gave him a strong feel for the practical side of his business.
In 1997, as the economy started to turn around, he found a job with Gary Larson. Six years later, he bought his first shares in the company, beginning a lengthy ownership transfer.
Slowly, he began to take over more of an owner’s role. The transition was intended to be seamless.
Now, the company, Warner Larson Landscape Architects, is his, but the bottom has fallen out of the market. More firms are fighting for fewer contracts.
Warner says he isn’t worried, however. His company is in a good position because it is a value-oriented firm, he said. It has a history of offering high quality at a reasonable price.
Still, the economy has pushed him to change the way he does business. He spends a lot more time having coffee and taking people out to lunch. He’s been encouraging his employees to do the same.
He also keeps reading past the doom and gloom headlines to find out where things are happening. Community colleges are expected to expand, for instance. And, there will be a growing need for senior centers. It’s all about knowing where the needs are before they become apparent.
Warner isn’t waiting for things to happen either. He’s being proactive in suggesting ways that communities can get more out of their existing facilities such as installing synthetic turf.
At the same time, he’s expanding his geographical reach, pushing toward the western part of the state.
Warner believes he can come out of the economic downturn with an even greater market share.
“That may sound optimistic, but I believe in creating your own self-fulfilling reality,” he said.