McHale Landscape Design
Since 1981, Kevin McHale and his brother/partner, Steve McHale, have designed, constructed and planted gardens throughout the mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Northern Virginia. Their design/build firm, McHale Landscape Design, which encompasses landscaping, masonry, carpentry and maintenance divisions, constructs pools and spas, cabanas, outdoor kitchens, loggias, arbors and pergolas, and undertakes home remodeling services and special outdoor events, such as weddings.
Client/service mix: 90% design/ build, 10% maintenance
Business motto: Single-source, design/build, cultivating clients for life.
The company combines landscape architecture, horticulture knowledge and field experience, using a team management approach throughout to ensure the success of the design/build process. “Our strength is our ability to be the single source for the client, ” McHale explains. “As part of the single-source design/build process, we limit subcontractors. From the design to the implementation of the project, clients work exclusively with the McHale Landscape Design team every step of the way. The process is interactive and includes the client as an important part of the team.”
McHale maintains in-house masons who integrate masonry, architecture and the natural environment of the landscape to craft walkways, garden walls, patios, driveways and other hardscapes. The masons incorporate hand-chiseled materials, imported stones and other unique resources into their designs.
A firm believer in the importance of maintaining a professional network, with longtime memberships in the American Nurseryman Association and Landscape Contractors Association MD/DC/VA, McHale’s team, which includes registered landscape architects, certified landscape technicians and certified professional horticulturists, is licensed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Home Improvement Commission.
McHale Landscape Design has received more than 250 Landscape Contractor Association (LCA) awards, 20 National Environmental Improvement Awards and four American Horticulture Society Awards.
PHOTOS: MCHALE LANDSCAPE DESIGN
Proudest moment in business and why: In 1989, when we hired a field manager with 30 years of experience to manage and train our field crews. It enabled me to focus on growing the business and to develop a strategy for marketing, organizational makeup and sales. It freed me of the day-to-day things and positioned me to be an entrepreneur rather than a small business manager.
Biggest business challenge today: Low-ball competition. Some companies in our market are afraid to lose the job. They often present irresponsible pricing for high-end design/build work. It is a lose-lose situation. Usually, contractors will lose money or their clients get a poor-quality project because they are trying to cut costs to protect themselves from their low prices.
Best sources of landscape design/build inspiration: Oehme van Sweden influenced our plant pallet back in 1990. We installed a few of their projects and learned a lot about the value of perennials, grasses and uderused native plants. Our hardscape design was learned through risk and experimentation. We employ 15 masonry crews in-house, and it enables us to experiment with different applications and new materials.
Favorite plant or plant combination: We love to use native plants. Almost all of our projects include some of them. They perform well and in coordination with ornamentals and really contribute to the aesthetics of a garden. Some of our favorite native trees are sweetbay magnolia, white fringetree, redbud and bald cypress. We also use native shrubs including itea, clethra, bayberry and bottlebrush buckeye. Our favorite ornamentals are crape myrtle, drift and carpet rose, daylily, Perovskia, nepeta, Caryopteris and boxwood. We use native grasses and perennials too. Panicum, hibiscus, black-eyed Susan, sea oats and spartina are favorites of our designers.
Monday morning motivation: My motivation comes from my responsibility to my family (my wife and three adult children) and to my employees (200). We have some tremendously talented, hardworking people in our company. They are the reason for our success. I am obligated every day to be a responsible leader and keep the company heading north. My brother, Steve, and I are partners. Both of us now have children in the company. It is our responsibility to teach, train and mentor them and the leaders of the company so the company is prepared with sustainable leadership for the future.
Business worry that keeps you up at night: Cash flow, immigration and workers’ compensation are our three biggest challenges aside from low-ball competition. Cash flow and managing our bank relationship is crucial to the success of any business. Although we have a great financial staff, I am involved with cash flow management on a daily basis. Immigration and workers’ compensation are both very broken. Neither system rewards a company for doing things the right way. Immigration reform, and a system that rewards good people and identifies the bad, must be put into place very soon or many industries will be impacted.