Maintaining Our Ruppert Advantage as We Grow

By Phil Key, President

In my role, I have opportunities to talk to many people both within our company and within our industry. Recently, I’ve had several conversations with people who expressed surprise about how much we’ve grown. Our growth isn’t a surprise to me, it’s a sign of a healthy company that has an expanding customer base, is a good employer with engaged employees, and is doing great work for our customers. Those attributes are what have enabled us to grow organically (vs. through acquiring businesses) at a fairly high rate relative to our competition. Another critical factor is the positive mindset of our team, who come to work with a “can do” attitude that enables them to work well with one another and support and serve our customers. That attitude and camaraderie is what we’ve always call our “Ruppert Advantage.”

At a high point this coming year, our team will be well over 2000 employees and our revenue will reach the $280 million dollar mark. Within our industry, this puts us in the “large company” category. That’s a great accomplishment that we should all be proud of, as there are many advantages that come with that growth. Equally as important, however, is protecting those qualities that make us uniquely Ruppert and have gotten us to where we are today. We can’t afford to get complacent. That means leaning into our culture and values as we continue to grow.

Pictured right: Michael Moody, Associate Branch Manager, and team members from the D.C. branch discuss the importance of working efficiently, a key tenet of our “Take Ownership” value. 

So what are the benefits of being a larger company? Here are a few thoughts…

  • Opportunity. One of the biggest advantages of growth is that there are more opportunities for our team. We have the ability to perform much bigger scopes of work, which we are seeing with the jobs our landscape construction division is undertaking. We have the ability to develop more specialized roles like our software development team; and interim positions like our Association/Assistant Branch Manager, Assistant Project Manager and soon-to-be Assistant Area Manager position, which enables more opportunity for additional training and future advancement. As we grow, our team members have more opportunity to move up, try new positions, learn new things, move to new locations, and make more money—which ultimately helps with achieving personal goals of things like home ownership or starting a family.
  • Resources. The better we do as a company, the more resources we have to invest in our employees and our community. For our employees, that investment can come in the form of training and professional development; uniforms; better tools, equipment and vehicles; pay and benefits; more corporate support; and retirement savings. It also comes with a broader network of team members—from different backgrounds, skills and knowledge, which makes us stronger and better as a whole. For our community, our growth enables us to give back—which in 2021 meant $638,000 to many worthy causes.
  • Ability to Scale. Many of you may be familiar with the concept “economies of scale.” What that means is that as a company gets larger, it has a competitive advantage over smaller ones because it’s gained a number of efficiencies. Things like buying in bulk which leads to cheaper pricing, greater ability for specialization of positions so that work can be done more effectively, and even a bigger network of customers. These factors help make us more competitive in the marketplace and more attractive to customers.
  • Benchmarking. Another advantage of being bigger is that we have more guardrails in place that keep us from straying and repeating past mistakes. What 50 years in business have taught us is that having policies and procedures in place, tracking critical information, and paying close attention to our financials and long-term goals keeps us accountable. It also enables us to benchmark within our organization—learning from one another, evaluating and comparing information between branches, and implementing best practices. This makes us more capable of anticipating our needs, predicting our profit, and ensuring that we’re responding consistently to changes in the market or economy.
  • Stability. The more we grow, the greater our ability to expand geographically, diversify our client base and increase our service offering. The diversity on those fronts, combined with our ability to flex and shift, helps safeguard our future even when there are economic downturns.

With the many positives that come from being a large company, one thing is clear to me: growth is only good if everyone feels good about it and we remain committed to the many details that got us here. Our success as a large company hinges on our ability to remain focused on what makes us uniquely Ruppert, from our team and image to our culture and values. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as we navigate the path forward:

  • Battle bureaucracy. There’s a fine line between well-defined processes and procedures and red tape. Bigger companies often get the reputation of being slow to change and too bogged down in status quo. Looking at how we were able to respond and pivot during the pandemic, I feel very good about our company’s agility. But as we grow, I do think we’ll need to fight against complacency and continue to be innovative and forward thinking in all that we do.
  • Lean on our branching structure. Our decentralized branching structure was designed to ensure that each branch is run like a small business. As we grow, we need to rely on that structure as a means of ensuring that every branch team is rich in leadership, culture, and a shared vision of success.
  • Culture first! Our culture needs to be reinforced at all levels. We capitalize on opportunities like new field manager orientations and branch visits to have Craig share our cultural vision and values. Our branch managers are playing a huge role here as well and are doing an excellent job. But they are relying on you to teach, influence and support their efforts. As we grow, we’ll need even more culture leaders to step up and play a bigger role in communicating and disseminating our values in every region, at every branch and in every team in our company.
  • Keep information flowing. One of the big lessons we learned in the pandemic was that there are many ways to communicate and ensure that information is reaching those who need it. We got better at using TEAMS to connect from afar, picking up the phone, and even added some new ways to deliver information with RLTV. As we grow, we’ll need to remain focused on keeping our lines of communication open to ensure that everyone is informed and feels connected to our goals and invested in the direction we’re heading.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago what our biggest challenge was, I would have said maintaining our culture as we grow. Well, it’s 10 years later, and we’ve essentially doubled our size twice in that time. Yes, we’re larger but we’ve also grown our culture at the same pace.  Congratulations on the role you’ve played in enhancing and strengthening our organization and getting us to where we are today. If you ask me again where our focus should be for the next 10 years, I’d tell you the same thing. We should continue to grow, provide opportunities for our team, and ensure that our culture is strong and growing right along with us. Let’s keep taking advantage of all the things a larger company has to offer us, while working hard to maintain our Ruppert Advantage and ensure that small, family-owned feel.