Joe and Sarah Bearden own Dreamscapes Landscaping Services. In 2017, Dreamscapes acquired a competitor, which yielded immediate and significant growth. Due to its size, Dreamscapes required additional personnel to meet and manage their own sizeable growth along with the new growth through acquisition.
At about the same time, Sarah was installing a backyard pool and looking for independent retailers who sold outdoor furniture. Learning there were none in west Georgia, she realized she’d found a second growth opportunity.
While considering her options, she learned that Cole Fannin, a Dreamscapes client, had joined the UGA SBDC at the University of West Georgia as a business consultant. Bearden came to his office in July 2017 to discuss managing her business’s growth while expanding into retail and acquiring a new facility to manage her operations.
They first addressed the staffing issues.
“This industry has a high turnover,” said Fannin, “so we looked at her interview screening process, employment count and the additional labor force needed. Then we focused holistically on her human resources processes.”
An employee handbook and safety manual are critical for any small business, especially in an industry where heavy machinery is operated. Fannin called on UWG Area Director Todd Anduze for his expertise in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Together they assisted Bearden in developing an employee handbook and safety manual, and Fannin assisted with developing a streamlined onboarding process for new hires.
“Once we put the guides and employment expectations in place, the hiring process improved,” said Bearden. “There is no question now on what we expect. And we’ve grown to 15 employees.”
She then worked with Fannin to prepare owner financing documents for a 2,000 square-foot commercial building that would allow Dreamscapes to sell outdoor furniture and playsets. They reviewed her QuickBooks and financials and put together a cash flow analysis.
Bearden purchased the building and added a showcase filled with high-quality outdoor furniture. She also began selling and installing residential playsets. Her expansion paid off, with Dreamscapes winning the bid to build a 9,000 square-foot playground at the Douglasville home of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and his family.
Bearden next explored Google AdWords to create a digital marketing campaign. Fannin called in Drew Tonsmeire, area director for the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University and a digital marketing expert.
“Drew helped me pinpoint who to reach out to and showed me terminology people in the South use when they look for playgrounds. Our sales quickly picked up,” said Bearden.
In fact, net revenues for Dreamscapes grew more than 40 percent in 2018. By April 2019, the company’s installations were booked to October.
“I told Cole just this morning that after owning a business for 10 years, you think there’s nothing left to learn. But if I had just continued running a landscaping business, it wouldn’t have grown like this,” said Bearden. “I encourage all small business owners to reach out to the SBDC. You may not know how big you can get until you start talking to them.”