Real Leaders

Shades of Green Permaculture

Ranking: 135

Industry: Sustainable Landscaping

Mission: A sustainable landscape firm that designs and installs productive and vibrant landscapes that respond to nature rather than work against it. Their designs provide organic food, thriving habitats, herbal medicine, natural beauty, healthy and chemical-free soils, and water cycle restoration. Empowering people to be part of the solution to the global environmental crisis.

What 3 words best describe your company culture?

Authentic, Vibrant, Flexible

What quote best exemplifies your company?

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — Buckminster Fuller

How is your product or service having a positive social and/or environmental impact?

We are a regenerative landscape design, build, and education firm located in Atlanta and serving the southeast. Every outdoor space we create contributes to protecting biodiversity; growing food, medicine, and pollinator habitat; building soil, and restoring the water cycle. Your garden, no matter the size, can have a positive impact. As a values-driven business, we create a wonderful place to work, offering health benefits and living wages to all employees.

What is your company’s vision for the future?

SHADES OF GREEN VISION 2020 Roadmap to 2025:

COMPANY OVERVIEW We are a regenerative landscape design, build, and education firm located in Atlanta and serving the southeast. We transition conventional landscapes to become ecologically-sound, healthy ones. Most gardens are designed to be high input systems–water-intensive, chemically-dependent, and high maintenance. Instead, we build health from the ground up. We use permaculture principles to understand a site as a whole system, so that your landscape can flourish in resilience and respond to environmental forces such as drought and flood. By contouring the earth to direct and infiltrate water where it is actually useful in your landscape, we alleviate the pressure on municipal stormwater systems and limited water supplies. We create diverse plant communities that build soil and habitat so that our landscapes are functional, dynamic and self-supporting. By building lasting relationships with our clients through our consult-design-build-caretaking process, we empower them to understand and interact with their landscapes as they become environmental stewards. Every outdoor space we create addresses climate extremes by building resilience; contributing to reforestation; preserving and restoring biodiversity; growing food, medicine, and native habitat; building soil, and restoring the water cycle.

It is the year 2025, and Shades of Green is the leading expert on permaculture design and installation for the southeast. The primary operations of Shades of Green Permaculture are design/installation/education, with office development functioning as a branch which provides revenue to Shades of Green and forwards the company’s purpose. We measure our success by the following milestones:

We have refined our design and install processes, and measure that the landscapes we build make the impact we claim through our long-term relationships with clients and follow-up site visits. We have identified diverse revenue streams, and the most viable streams are operational with associated budgets. We provide strategies and educational resources for people in temperate climates to develop a plan to address some of our most pressing challenges beginning in their own yards. We have mobilized and trained a force of stewards ready to become part of the solution to the climate crisis. We are a company with a triple bottom line — social impact, environmental impact, and financial health — and we are leaders in redefining what success in business looks like. Our company culture uplifts and amplifies our values: we are flexible, kind, stand in integrity, and willing to grow. We have established strategic partnerships with nonprofits, corporations, developers, builders, and architects.

STAFF EXPERIENCE: Shades of Green is a great place to work. We see our staff as real humans with real lives, and our employees love working with Shades of Green. It is palpable that everyone thinks and acts like an owner in the business. We “take care of one another,” as one of our core values, and employee wellness and growth is a key priority at Shades of Green. We offer creative compensation and benefits packages based on open book finances. We offer continuing education and professional development. We have a profit sharing model in place, so when the company succeeds, we all succeed, and get to share in the financial reward. Our staff is salaried, which creates financial stability, and we foster financial literacy through open book management and trainings. We value giving back, and have paid service time so employees can nurture the causes they care about. The staff take ownership of their successes, and know who answers to whom, holding one another accountable to our best work — individually and as a company.

We support growth as an organization that is committed to integrating feedback, and as such we have clear and measurable channels for feedback, rewards, and recognition. We hire and fire based on our collective values, and we actively create opportunities for diverse representation within our staff. Everyone knows their role and gifts, and feels empowered to use those gifts to do great work. We help staff identify areas of personal and professional growth, and support them in their learning. We are a staff with high emotional intelligence and natural curiosity that compels growth and learning. We have hiring and training programs in place to identify and develop talent. From the first time someone shows interest in employment the experience is positive and enriching.

CLIENT EXPERIENCE: Our method of working with clients lives beyond the life cycle of our involvement in the project — we train and empower our clients to become the stewards of their visions. Their visions become their gardens, which they know how to take care of, harvest from, and refine. We have a long-term relationship with clients who share our values, as we continue to support them in their own learning journey to reconnecting to land and place in a meaningful and life-giving way.

LEADERSHIP: We have a leadership team which has a defined decision making structure, with Brandy firmly planted in her role as Managing Director, driving profits from a bird’s eye view of the organization, working closely with department heads and the leadership team to craft strategy, budgets, and innovative solutions for the changing economic landscape. Brandy holds the final decision making power and the leadership team is empowered to make decisions and give counsel, which is held in high esteem.

THE BEEHIVE: We own our physical space, and it is a beehive of activity, learning, and community. Abundant gardens host many visitors, including students, clients, and passers-by. We showcase the technologies, strategies, and approaches we design and build, so all who visit feel inspired and empowered to participate in the solutions in whatever capacity they have available to them. The office buzzes with creative energy. It’s colorful, vibrant, and full of natural elements that blur the lines between the indoor and outdoor environment — plants, tons of light, fresh air, natural materials. The staff are happy, and enjoy working with one another. You hear laughter and the clicking of keys. You see awards from our affiliates displayed for all to feel a sense of pride in our exemplary and outstanding work. Outside, we harvest rain and use it to irrigate our stock nursery of plants awaiting their “forever homes.” In the meantime, the pollinators are drinking their nectar. The stockyard stores ethically and locally sourced materials ready to bring a landscape to life for our clients. There are many outdoor spaces, with usable breakout areas, places to play and sit and enjoy, and gardens to delight in. There are a range of ecosystems where we conduct research and collect data to enhance and progress the work we do — from woodland edges, to forest, to orchard, to meadow, to lawn. The activities of the Beehive generate revenue for the company, be it through rental space, farm/garden activities, or other identified revenue streams. The physical space serves the needs of the company’s operations, with areas to manage waste from jobs, store tools and materials, and park the fleet. Additionally, the Beehive is a community asset with innovative and fun offerings such as a “free store,” public gardens, tool library, or otherwise.

Our scale is only as big as it needs to be to reach our goal, taking care that each team member is working at their full capacity while still able to enjoy their lives outside of work and pursue other things that feed them. We grow with intention and each new venture, product, team member, and expansion is thought through, aligns with our goals and vision, and is a proactive move to bring us toward our vision. We have investigated our operations, and have an understanding of the budgets we need to achieve the work, while meeting our long term financial goals. We have identified emergent enterprises that forward our progress toward our goal, and have assigned timelines and budgets to those enterprises.

ORGANIZATIONAL SNAPSHOT: By 2025, we have a gross revenue of $1.4M. In order to do so we are at full capacity for design, install, and education. We have identified the ways in which scaling the company achieves our bottom line. We increase our daily billings for install through higher team capacity (from $3850 to $6000/day) and hyper-efficient operations. By 2025, our income is as follows: $1.1 M Install; $150K Design; $150K Education; and $20K Consulting.

We have identified and implemented tracking for important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and regularly review these KPIs to stay on track with our targets, and adjust our strategy preemptively if needed.

The Atlanta office has fully functioning design, install, marketing, education and leadership departments running at optimal efficiency. Each department has a clear leader, and the right size team to support the work. As demand increases, we respond with the next right step, and we have systems in place to evaluate growth opportunities against our evolving company vision and position. We have the funds and expertise to pursue diverse streams of revenue and opportunities as they arise. We have done the work to plan ahead and create a cushion of 12 months operating expenses, equalling nearly $500K, and we anticipate the changing needs of the company, and plan for them.

We have diversified our revenue streams, with relevant offerings at every price point. With our complete palette of offerings, we have a competitive edge that positions us as the leader in our industry. We offer customized design, full service installation packages, climate resilience packages curated to go straight to install with one consultation, paid online educational content, conferences, speaking engagements, long-range consultancy. We refine our operations by evaluating and utilizing appropriate technology as our organization grows.

Atlanta is our design/build headquarters, and the reach of this office is throughout the southeast, on a case by case basis. We are recognized as the best at contemporary permaculture solutions for the urban/suburban context. Our work is the best example of functional and beautiful landscapes producing food, medicine, habitat, soil, and restored water cycles. We sell relationships, not landscapes, and these relationships create resilience within our communities and ecosystems. We are a learning and evolving organization, committed to our core value of “do better always.” We overcome challenges by collaborating to address them as they arise. We’re a pleasure to work with, and whatever your touchpoint is with the company, it is positive and enriching.

DESIGN: Our Design Department is robust, and we have built resilience into the fabric of the sales process. Our team is equipped with the tools and expertise to be able to craft custom project scope and approach proposals that meet the client’s budget and needs and that uphold the integrity of the work we do, and feed seamlessly into our identified products and services. We have identified the essential ingredients that make a successful project and we exceed the client’s expectations of timeliness and professionalism, while creatively responding to a variety of scales, sites, and project types. We manage quality through extensive tiered training, evaluation rubrics, tried and true plant palettes, and designing for our strengths.

INSTALL: Our Installation Department is calm, collected, well planned, and executed with precision and expertise. Our goal for our installation department is that our team is well trained and operating as a well-oiled machine, able to respond to challenges with minimal stress. We measure our impact with research and data, and we tell the story far and wide. Our metrics are: acres converted to organic management, trees planted, gallons of water infiltrated annually, number of pollinator plants planted, and number of edible and medicinal plants planted. We continually refine our install practices and strategies based on data from projects we’ve done. We continue with the schedule of four days/week to maintain health and wellness, mitigate burnout, and allow for appropriate planning. We work on a human scale, and thoughtfully manage waste as a resource. Our sourcing builds our brand story, and supports local organizations and vendors with ethical and regenerative practices, enhancing the regenerative economy in our region. We offer maintenance to existing clients to help them do the heavy lifting and to understand how to work with their landscape over time, but ultimately, we empower clients to do their own maintenance, rather than offering to take care of their land for them, as a means to forwarding our vision of creating connection and stewardship, as well as self-supporting ecosystems.

EDUCATION: We have created well defined educational products and services that reach beyond the southeast, and we are positioned as a thought leader through our online offerings, classes and custom workshops, conferences, speaking engagements, and written content. Our education department contains clear processes and automation which allows for passive income and efficiency. We are devoted to “training the trainer” so the impact of our work has infinite reach. At the intersection of education and design, we develop a consultancy with municipalities, regional planning organizations, and large scale projects within the southeast, where our broad range of experience can be utilized as an asset to forward thinking and innovation.

MARKETING: Our Marketing Department is on top of their game, driving sales across all of our sectors. We create the trends in the market and our sales are proactive, rather than reactive. We utilize technologies to capture and track our vast network of sales leads. Our website is contemporary and highly professional and drives leads to our company, utilizing a functional ecommerce tool. External audiences feel connected with and have an understanding of the work SOG is doing, both in the entrepreneurial and community engagement space. SOG is regularly creating, capturing, and sharing high quality written and media content about our work. SOG is consistently growing the size and diversity of the community of individuals and organizations who engage with us, both online and offline. SOG has a widely known, authentic, and respected brand across the southeast and in the industry. We have identified and mastered the channels through which we market, so that SOG’s pipelines for all the services and opportunities we offer are full. SOG’s work is seen as exemplary. Local and national press is telling the story of SOG.

We grow our leads from 172 to 275 in 2020. Our conversion will hold strong at 51% from call to consult, 64% from consult to design, and 39% from design to install. We love working with B2B referrals, as they are the highest converting and highest grossing projects. We also have high visibility projects, such as commercial sites and innovative developments that help us achieve impact through increased exposure. Our marketing strategy is innovative and is based on data.

EMERGENT ENTERPRISES: In addition to the Beehive and paid educational offerings, we have identified other revenue streams to begin to diversify our income sources. The primary emergent enterprises we have identified are biochar, nursery, and a book. These will have further exploration and development in our 2021 planning.

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