(L-R): Daniel and Andrew McCurry meet with Mark McCarty, their JCB of Alabama sales representative, at Father Nature’s Birmingham, Ala., location.
Father Nature Landscapes in Birmingham, Ala., has found its “sweet spot” when it comes to its equipment fleet needs.
Over the past year, the company's machine vendor, JCB of Alabama, has become a trusted business partner, friend and a true money saver for the company. Father Nature was founded in Tacoma, Wash., in 2006, expanded into Mobile, Ala., in 2008 and then into Birmingham, Ala., in 2009. The story of this company is as intriguing as its landscape designs.
Andrew McCurry, founder of Father Nature, explained that he started the company to support his family.
“We're originally from Birmingham,” he said. “When I got out of college, I helped start a company for someone else. I worked it for three years, but I was getting married and knew I couldn't raise a family on that salary. I came to the realization that I needed to start my own company.”
Both jokingly and seriously he said, “my wife and I went on pickyourspot.com and it said we should be living in California, Washington or somewhere in Montana. My wife ended up interviewing with a company in Washington and got the job, and that's where we moved. I started the company in Tacoma, Wash., and soon afterwards my friend, Andrew Robinson, started a location in Mobile, Ala. My brother, Daniel, also started a location in Birmingham, Ala. Each set up as their own corporations. Daniel and I are partners here at the Birmingham location, I have a partner in Tacoma and Andrew Robinson as my business partner in Mobile.”
Daniel McCurry, Andrew's brother and business partner provided a snapshot of the company's overall business.
“We mostly do residential re-installation of landscaping,” he said. “However, in the last year or so, we've branched into high-end commercial work which is now roughly 15 percent of our business, and growing. Most of our residential work is actually landscape renovation, primarily for high-end residential, and we do very little new housing landscape business.”
As for the driving force behind the business, Daniel paints a picture of two siblings who have an absolute passion for the aesthetics and beauty of the great outdoors.
“The main focus and mission of our work is to try to get families reconnected to outdoor living spaces where they can actually live life and not just be dormant indoor dwellers and actually have the outdoors to be a part of their day-to-day life,” he said. “Whether it's the kids playing too many video games, or adults who enjoy entertaining outdoors, our main part of an overall mission is getting people outdoors.”
The McCurry's have a very humble and private approach with regards to their company's philanthropic endeavors, but take great pride in, and like to make known, their work on river and stream bank consulting for being environmentally conscious in preservation and maintaining and how to guide people on utilizing the space.
The company employs more than 60 people combined at all three locations. The crews are dispatched with new JCB machines, including the JCB 260T and the 8035 mini- excavator. At the Birmingham location, Father Nature has crews running all the time using approximately 20 Ford trucks that are dispatched to various job sites on any given day.
All five of Father Nature's new JCB machines are leased, which the company now sees as much more beneficial in reducing the overall outgoing cash flow monthly. The brothers concurred that it was easy math, finding this the best way to go and extremely beneficial to their business.
“It's saving us a lot of money and is going to be a big advantage in the long run. The 'guesstimation' on the leasing package is that it is somewhere around two-thirds the cost of buying on a monthly basis and helps the bottom line,” said Daniel.
The leasing includes a service plan and the brothers agree that when any of their machines have an issue, which doesn't happen very often, JCB of Alabama has people to show up quickly for the repair.
And it all started with one machine lease. The first lease from JCB of Alabama put the company on track to quickly go from one to five leases.
“I will say this, the people behind the machines is what sold me,” Andrew said. “In our minds, if a machine cranks, runs and has the proper lift height for loading our trucks and works well for all of our needs, then it all comes down to the people behind the machines. We've got a really good team that is working for us with Mark [McCarty] and Mark [Long] of JCB of Alabama. I think JCB is represented well in this state and the owner [Mark Long] expects a lot of his people. You can tell by just looking at the overall staff that he intentionally hires high caliber people. That's the main reason we're doing business with them.
“I'll admit; we were a little scared of the power boom. But honestly, the people there impressed us and completely assured us that if it ever goes out, there's a lifetime warranty on the power boom and it will be taken care of. Also, our first engagement with the company was a really cool thing. We were 'breaking bread' in their conference room in a lunch meeting with some of our management staff. We had the opportunity to look around their facility and get to know a little more about who they are and their philosophy of doing business. To us, a business philosophy is more than just 'steel and rubber' — we want to do business with like-minded people.”
According to Andrew, this was the first time the company's equipment operators tried out the power boom.
“They actually found the side entrance of the machine and the enhanced visibility as great advantages over competitive models,” he said. “Operators admitted that the safety of holding a load and being able to exit or enter the machine was a safety issue that meant a lot.”
Daniel also found the track width as very advantageous to greater reducing the ground pressure on new sod and not disrupting it.
Father Nature Landscapes' relationship with JCB of Alabama is relatively new, beginning in 2017, and the brothers are already really happy with their choice. The performance of each JCB machine exceeded the expectations of everyone in the company. On the compact track loaders, they said they like the 260Ts, which have Tier IV final engines, but require no DEF fluid, no DPF filter and no regeneration.
“This was like doing business with family, said Daniel. “The first purchase was a bit of a trial in which the dealer wanted to make sure we were happy with the power boom on the first compact track loader we bought. Once identified as a yes, Mark [McCarty] and Mark [Long] were able to find a way to help us save money, month-to-month by swapping out other machines for JCB products through transitioning to a lease program.”
“We run a legitimate, solid business,” said Andrew. “We're not huge — we're not small, and we work with the best of the best customers here in Birmingham. We make a lot of people happy with our work. We're going to make the best decisions for the best interest of our customers and our people. When people think of Father Nature, they think of innovation, and we're always thinking about how to connect people with their land. We don't just throw some sod and run some irrigation, we take landscaping to another level because we're thinking through the emotional side of what our customers expect. The productivity of our machines and our people are the key to making this happen. The company employs six landscape designers, including two certified landscape architects who deeply care about creating that special place.”