Watsonville, CA, August 03, 2015 - Francisco Cortes started his business with a passenger car and a shovel. Twenty-eight years later, he's the owner/operator of a thriving green-certified landscape contracting business with nine full-time employees, Green Environment Landscape, Inc.
But Watsonville-based Green Environment Landscape does more than just design landscapes and plant vegetation. Cortes' concept for the business is to incorporate the design and implementation of the entire outdoor landscape of a home or structure, from plants, lighting and waterscapes to patios, decks, stamped and stained concrete, irrigation, drainage and arbors. And do it while saving water and adhering to certified green landscaping techniques.
Green Environment Landscape is one of the few green-certified landscapers in Central California that can virtually assure a savings of 40-50 percent on water consumption. And to accomplish it without having to turn your green yard or garden into a parched desert landscape.
Cortes is able to accomplish this by using biosoils (which require less fertilizer and pesticides, thus reducing water use), innovative irrigation and drainage design, using more drought-resistant native plants, and incorporating various tried and true xeriscaping techniques such as zoning plants and mulching.
“People panic and they kill their plants. They don't know how to manage their landscaping, so they let it die,” said Cortes about the strict water-tightening regulations imposed by the state during this severe drought. “But we can do a lot of things to save water. We can save at least 40 percent, even more. We just have to be more efficient.”
After starting out doing strictly residential landscaping projects, the last several years Cortes and his company have been busy on the commercial end of the business. But Cortes wants to return to his roots, so to speak, get involved in more residential projects and strike a balance between residential and commercial.
Cortes, 56, was born in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, where tequila originated, but moved to the U.S. when he was 18, to work in the fields around Oxnard, in Southern California.
A few years later he saw an opportunity to get our of the fields and work for himself.
“I started with a shovel and my first project was a yard cleanup,” says Cortes, laughing at the thought. “I didn't even have a truck. All I had was a car!”
Thus was born Francisco Landscaping, which mostly focused on yard and garden cleanup, jobs that could be done by one person. Within two years he had his first employee and slightly bigger jobs came along, but the business struggled. Cortes, whose advertising consisted simply of handing out business cards, putting flyers on car windshields and advertising in the local shopper publication, knew he couldn't take on the truly big jobs that could boost his business.
Bigger projects meant more employees, more paperwork, more management and more complex designs and implementing them, something Cortes was not prepared for at this stage in his career.
“If I got a lot of business I wouldn't be able to manage it,” he says candidly. “So I decided to go to college — Cabrillo College (in Aptos, just south of Santa Cruz) — and saw that I had a lot to learn, so I took a lot of classes and attended a lot of seminars.”
But the hard work and long hours paid off. He was able to hire more employees, take on bigger projects and 10 years ago, expanded his offerings to include green landscaping, water-saving measures and what he calls “hardscapes,” the more rigid and permanent parts of a landscaping project.
“I like hardscaping, working on arbors, waterfalls, retaining walls, patios and working with lighting. It's a challenge,” says Cortes, who also changed the name to better reflect what his business offered. He sees landscaping and hardscaping going hand in hand in the ultimate design and success of a project.
After spending half of his life in the landscaping industry, Cortes' motto is simple, but highly effective: “Do the job right the first time. If the client still isn't satisfied, make it right.” Rarely has he had to redo a project.
“If I do a job, there's not going to be any callbacks,” Cortes says with a confidence built on 28 years of hard work and honesty. “If it's not right, no excuses, I'll take care of it. I will make sure the client is satisfied.”
There's nothing more important in business to Cortes than gaining the trust of his client and doing quality work.“That's one reason I've been in business so long — trust. They have trust in me,” says the plain-spoken Cortes. “Everyone wants to be successful, but the most important thing in being successful is quality. If you always do quality work, you'll never go out of business.” ###