Burt Demarche, The LaurelRock Company
Burt Demarche grew up around the landscaping business, but not so much in it. His father, Dickson, was a landscape architect and had his own firm. So growing up, Demarche didn't have a company to help mow lawns for. "I did get paid to clean the office," he says with a chuckle. "Dad never pushed us kids to get into the landscape architecture business, though."
In search of his own way, Demarche went off to college to pursue a degree in marketing. When it was time to declare a major, he started having second thoughts. He saw the long list of business classes he'd have to take, leaving no room to pursue other interests.
"I switched my major to horticulture and made marketing my minor," Demarche says. "My dad had always talked about adding landscape design/build to his existing architecture business. I knew I wasn't going to be a great designer, but I liked the areas of production management, customer service, sales and team building."
Demarche joined his father's business upon graduation. Then the economy softened in the early 1990s. "My dad had a partner, and things had gotten so tight that I had to be laid-off," Demarche tells. "I went to work as an assistant manager for an area nursery. A couple of years later, my dad and his partner parted ways. So we decided to start the company we'd been talking about: a high-end residential design/build/maintenance firm."
What started as a three-employee operation in 1993 now employs roughly 50. Demarche is now the sole owner of The LaurelRock Company in Wilton, Connecticut. His dad retired in 2012.
After just a few years in business, Demarche joined the NALP. "I already had a good foundation of business education from college," he says. "But that didn't compare to what I began learning from other NALP members I met at the annual Leaders Forum. I always attend that event."
The connections Demarche has made through NALP have been instrumental. "I remember hearing Frank Ross speak at a conference about budgets," Demarche says. "I remember thinking, 'Hey, he's talking to me. This isn't just for the really big companies; I can learn a lot here.' Then I remember Kevin Kehoe talking about personality types. I met Jim Paluch and Bob Coulter from JP Horizons who helped us with organizational issues."
Now as one of the industry's seasoned veterans, Demarche continues to seek out new connections and learning opportunities. "I met Ken Thomas from Envisor Consulting," Demarche says. "They've helped us work on our processes, that critical third leg of the stool (people, profit, process)."
Demarche has also been on the other side of those peer-to-peer connections. He has served as a Trailblazer (mentor) for half a dozen or so companies. He encourages NALP members to take advantage of this program. It's a wonderful way to learn from other companies that have gone through the same challenges as you. "Pick a Trailblazer that matches your own business model," Demarche recommends.
"Go to the Leaders Forum," he continues. "It's great to be around larger companies. They are very open to sharing and you can learn so much. Do not be intimidated. It's a very relaxed atmosphere and you can jump right in."