July 4, 2022
Landscape Ontario Member Profile:
LandArt Landscape Contractors
Tucked into the heart of wine country in Beamsville, Ont., you’ll find the masters of craft and artistry of LandArt, a design/build company dedicated to high-end residential landscapes.
This multiple-award-winning enterprise services the Niagara, Greater Hamilton, and Burlington areas. Marketing and sales manager Devon Kleinjan explained that although they take on projects of varying size and scope, their speciality is larger, multi-year design/builds.
“That allows for a certain level of creativity within the craftsmen who are implementing the project,” Kleinjan said. “We call ourselves full service, but that doesn’t mean that one or two people are doing everything.”
Craftsmanship and masteryInstead, LandArt brings in sub-contractors for electrical and gas work when necessary and employs expert crews in critical disciplines. “We have a masonry crew that sets up for all stone work,” Kleinjan explained. “They don’t touch any landscape components. The carpentry crews, they specialize in the carpentry items, as well as lighting, They know their craft and they’ve been trained and certified in the different pieces that we’re taking on. Our design team is focused exclusively on design and don’t take on administrative or sales pieces.”
When it comes to design, Kleinjan says: “we’re creating beautiful spaces and renderings of how that would come together. We really don’t limit ourselves with the design capacity.”
He describes how, as the project moves to construction, the crews take ownership of the vision on the job site.
“It’s always really neat to see them come up with a new way of reinventing a standard installation to make it that little bit extra and bring things to the next level, whether it’s carpentry, masonry, landscape, all of those have different pieces that they bring to the table,” Kleinjan adds.
Mack Peacock is one of the construction lead hands. He appreciates LandArt’s commitment to quality.
“I’m doing our armor stone and our garden slab steps and it’s very meticulous,” Peacock said. “You have to be very precise with height and with the appearance of the step, making sure everything fits perfectly together and make it look like it’s always been there. That’s my favourite part.” LandArt co-owner Richard Wynia (middle) with team members Matte Crossman and Devon Kleinjan.
Dedication to trainingMastery doesn’t happen by accident. It’s made possible through proper training and practice, so LandArt encourages continuous education and skill development.
Kleinjan says each team member has a training budget to spend on books, courses, webinars, or other methods for learning, and LandArt covers the costs of writing professional exams for accreditation. He also said staff is encouraged and paid to attend Landscape Ontario’s events, such as the virtual Landscape Designers Conference and Congress Conference, where individuals pick and choose from various webinars related to their interests.
ApprenticeshipAnother training opportunity LandArt takes advantage of is the Horticultural Technician Apprenticeship Program. The program features a combination of on-the-job and school training that leads to Red Seal certification.
“As we grow as a company, we want all of our employees to grow as well,” Crossman said. “I do feel that all of our students that have taken the Red Seal are more equipped and feel able to answer our clients’ questions. And it gives them a fundamental base to know what their sector is, what they’re installing.”
Crossman added, “That’s why we offer the Apprenticeship Program. We’ve only heard positive things from our employees that take the course.”
Peacock is one of those fortunate employees who joined LandArt after working in an unrelated field. “Being very new to this and not having any prior experience in landscaping or in trades whatsoever, they signed me up for the Apprenticeship Program,” Peacock said. “I know that that really helped to provide me with the tools and what was necessary to complete my job fully and give me the confidence to do so as well.”
Knowing his employer invests in his professional development, Peacock is excited to work his way up to foreperson and said: “I definitely feel like a valued member of LandArt, our team. I’m on the right track and I’ve gained a lot of the necessary tools and skills being at LandArt to go to the next step.”
Having completed the Apprenticeship Program, Peacock favours working in construction, but is glad he gained exposure to all the other aspects of the trade.
“It’s so broad. It’s not just construction; it’s plants, it’s plant biology. It definitely gave me more of an appreciation of that aspect,” Peacock said.
Guided by core valuesThere are four core values guiding the LandArt team: beauty, collaboration, transparency, and commitment. “We hire, we fire, and we promote based on those core values,” Kleinjan explained.
First is beauty. “We pride ourselves in creating beautiful landscapes and doing that at a level and a quality that we can be proud of. And it goes beyond making sure that the end product is beautiful,” Kleinjan said, adding that beauty also extends to clean uniforms and keeping job sites pristine.
From the construction perspective, Peacock said beauty means “making sure that everything fits the theme of the landscape.”
Collaboration comes next. “We believe that we’re part of a bigger team here,” Kleinjan said. “Each person has their specific role, but at the end of the day, we are a team and we’re going to pull together to make these things come together.”
As someone who has advanced through the ranks from labourer to management, Crossman enjoys the team effort. “If it’s needed, I’ll jump in the trenches and grab a shovel and then get my hands dirty. I started in the field. So that’s one of the main reasons why it’s a big part of our core values is we like to collaborate as a team.”
Building trust within a team requires communication and transparency. Crossman explained: “one of the most important things is being open and honest. We show our clients everything or we have an open and honest dialog within the company from our senior leadership team all the way down to our field staff.”
This includes fiscal transparency so everyone has a sense of budgets, profit goals, overhead requirements and so on. Employees can expect direct communication to address performance expectations and skill development.
“We do a lot of reviews,” Peacock said. “It’s a lot of open communication here, just making sure that everybody is on the same page, on the right track and we’re all headed in the same direction.”
Transparency extends to clients. “Our pricing is completely exposed,” Kleinjan revealed. “We tell everybody what our profit percentage is. There’s nothing that’s hidden on our contract. The price at the beginning is the same as the price at the end.”
That level of communication is essential for building relationships. Naturally, this leads to commitment, the fourth value.
“Commitment is doing what we say we’re going to do,” Kleinjan explained. “Being on time. Making and meeting appointments and deadlines. We’re transparent with our schedule through construction. And if there’s anything that comes up, we’ll make sure that’s communicated across the board.” LandArt owners Rich and Christine Wynia planned to be interviewed for this profile, but their new baby had other plans, arriving on the day of the interview. Thank you Devon, Matte and Mack for stepping in, and congratulations Rich and Christine from the LO team!
In it for the long haulTo nurture peace of mind for the client, LandArt’s commitment goes beyond the initial project.
“We really focus on maintaining a long term relationship with them,” Kleinjan said. “We really believe that the landscape should look good when it’s done but it’s an evolving process that gets better with time. We really love to see and experience our properties beyond that first year and well into the future.”
Part of the evolution includes separate maintenance and enhancement crews. While maintenance might include grass cutting and seasonal cleanups, the enhancement crew continues to add value. Kleinjan described this as getting the property “in great shape before a big event, a wedding or a family party at their property. It could also be bringing in urns or planters to really dress the place up.”
Creating positive experiences for clients is rewarding for the LandArt team.
“It never really does get old,” Crossman said. “Seeing the smile on the client’s face of the wow factor on the very final day when the sod is down, the gardens are in, the stones are all laid out — it always brings a sense of being proud of what you can do that I don’t think you can really get anywhere else. It’s quite something special. Yeah, that’s what makes me happy here at LandArt.”
For Peacock, he finds satisfaction within the team itself, saying he has never once regretted the career change thanks to the people at LandArt.
“Everybody is nice. We all work very well together and there’s open communication. I would say that’s definitely the best part is that people have chosen that this is where they want to be and where they want to work.”
In the future, LandArt is looking to expand their service area and take on more complex projects. The team has noticed a significant uptick in interest of cottage-at-home projects that tie interior spaces more closely with the exterior. “We’re excited for what the future holds there,” Kleinjan said. “I’m a dreamer and a number of us here are dreamers as well. And we’re always looking for that next challenge.”