Goodness Grows – The Success of a Sustainable Small Business
by Carson Manley
We’re so often told that you need an extensive list of qualifications to be successful in today’s professional landscape. The standard of basic preparation has increased drastically; what used to be a high school diploma morphed into an undergraduate degree, which then became a masters from a reputable school and years worth of relevant experience. But even at that, there are still no guarantees of even the lowest of entry-level positions in your chosen field. When the ante seems like it’s never been higher, we often overlook a clear and feasible alternative: why not start your own business? All it takes is an original idea, a solid plan and a good measure of perseverance.
Heather McLean of Goodness Grows in Austin is one of the individuals who rolled the dice on this alluring proposition. She never went to college, and she had to work in the landscaping industry for 8 years before deciding to make her move. However, neither of those things precluded her current success. Goodness Grows in Austin is a thriving small business here in Austin that has prided itself on creating beautiful, functional, and sustainable garden installations for its clients since its inception 14 years ago. “Things might’ve been different if I had gone to college, but my curiosity and desire to keep learning have taken me on a path that has been every bit as rewarding.”
Goodness Grows in Austin is defined by sustainability, and as such, it’s important to inquire into what sustainability actually means in a business context. As Heather puts it, the core concept is a very basic one: “Will it last?” This goes beyond just the landscape itself. Like other businesses operating with this mindset, Goodness Grows emphasizes the use of native and well-adapted plants, installs gardens that require minimal maintenance, and adheres to a zero-waste profile. However, what makes Goodness Grows unique is the business model itself. Instead of following the industry standard and paying her workers a low hourly wage, Heather pays the foreman and crew members independently for each project they complete. She also avoids purchasing machinery and expensive equipment, choosing instead to rent these items as needed.
There are a myriad of positive effects that arise from these decisions. With regard to the pay system, the principal benefit comes in the form of a better finished product. Subcontractors work more expediently and utilize fewer materials in the process because there’s not a draw to keep working for that extra hour of pay. Heather sees this firsthand on a daily basis. “My crews are proud of their work, and they even spend time taking pictures of the installation once they’re finished. It’s really gratifying to see how much it means to them.” Clients and other professionals that collaborate on projects are more satisfied as well; Goodness Grows has little need to advertise due to the frequency of word-of mouth referrals. Additionally, renting large equipment reduces the carbon footprint of the business by eliminating the need to power, maintain, and store these cumbersome devices while they aren’t in use. It also preserves financial capital for purchasing materials and compensating subcontractors.
Heather’s creativity and ingenuity in implementing these solutions has brought much success to her business. Although she keeps it relatively small for personal reasons, the platform has a high capacity for expansion due to its inherent sustainability. In Heather’s mind, “Sustainability arises from employees having a vested interest in doing their best work.” Higher pay and a more focused application of resources brings this to the forefront and contributes to lasting relationships that benefit the business, its employees, and its clients.