Kissing Tree Bridge — Iconic bridge that is the entrance to Kissing Tree, which is a community in San Marcos. Veneer limestone quarry blocks were used on the exterior.
Comparing services provided by a contractor to those of a 5-star hotel might seem like a bit of a stretch, but that's exactly how one Austin, Texas, area businessman is positioning his growing company.
Kade Thomas, a partner of WLE (Water, Land, Environment), a landscape construction and maintenance provider, said his company strives to bring "white glove service" to his clientele.
What exactly does that mean?
"We honestly think of ourselves as a 5-star hotel when it comes to the level of service we provide," Thomas said. "We aim to bring sophistication to an otherwise unsophisticated industry."
Thomas is quick to point out ways that his company, which employs 300 people, sets itself apart from the competition.
"First, we are a full-service provider, offering both landscape construction and maintenance," he said. "Secondly, we really do offer a sort of ‘white glove service.' We're all about making our customers' lives easier. We offer proactive solutions. We don't just bid on jobs, we consult with our clients to find answers to their needs. Those solutions include consulting, designing, building and maintaining."
Thomas added that the third way his company sets itself apart from others is the fact that it's completely "turnkey", with all services done in house, under one roof.
"There are very few landscape companies in all of Texas that provide that level of service," according to Johnny McDonnell, WLE's vice president of landscape services.
The Little Things
In additional to stellar customer service, there are some little things that add to the overall experience WLE brings to the table.
"We show up on a job site with premium equipment…all matching," said McDonnell. "From our trucks to our equipment, everything matches."
The company has more than $20 million invested in its fleet of trucks, construction and landscape equipment. That consistency extends beyond just decals and paint jobs.
"We commit to a single brand," said Thomas. "Our trucks are all Isuzus, for example." All mowers are the same brand; all skid steers carry the same manufacturer's logo.
Vermeer is the choice for WLE when it comes to trenching and drilling equipment, Thomas pointed out.
All of WLE's 300 or so employees are full-time, year around personnel, according to Thomas.
That didn't happen by chance or luck.
"Our ‘one team' culture focuses on employee appreciation," Thomas said. Little things, like the company sponsored daily breakfast taco trailer, contributes to its ability to retain quality help, he said.
WLE's headquarters building, designed internally, was created for maximum employee optimization and comfort, Thomas added.
At times, that "white glove service" level differs from client to client and from community to community.
For work in downtown Austin, for example, the company has specifically outfitted crews with battery operated and solar equipment. This creates a quiet, exhaust-free job site, which fits well with the progressive capital city.
WLE's roots go back to 2003, when the company was founded as Weigelt Enterprises in Dripping Springs, Texas. At that time, the business focused solely on residential landscaping and irrigation.
Thomas, along with Bradley Roofner and Logan Brown, purchased Weigelt in 2017. By then, Weigelt had grown to 55 employees, but the trio saw potential for much more growth.
That number of employees has exploded by nearly six times in three years.
"Our goal was to grow and become a major player in south central Texas," Thomas said. "At the time, there was a complacency that existed in the marketplace. We saw an opportunity for sustained rapid growth if we brought something unique to the table."
Technology is a big part of that approach as well, according to Thomas.
"We were able to take on different kinds of clients by streamlining processes," he said. "Not only new processes, but also internally designed technology using fewer people. It allows us to diversify our client base."
Thomas added that its client base includes general contractors, developers, commercial office property managers and the state of Texas.
WLE is a preferred provider for UT Austin, Texas Museum, the state of Texas, as well as a host of central Texas municipalities. At the same time, the company is a major supplier of construction and maintenance services to large master-planned communities. (See Vermeer RTX1250 Answers Call for WLE).
The future appears bright for WLE, and that outlook is shared by employees, ownership and management.
"It is the commitment from our ownership group that has allowed us to grow," said McDonnell. "With their leadership, we have never deviated from our goals." CEG