At a young age I remember telling my parents, “I’m absolutely not going to college”. The idea of sitting at a desk provided no appeal as I only wanted to work outside. Thankfully, my parents disagreed and after a slow start, college was far better than expected. I fell in love with Landscape Architecture and Business and graduated with honors from West Virginia University.
My dream was to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps to own a small business. I always looked up to his accomplishments with a sense of pride. We even stole his company color, orange. My father helped me start Groff Landscape Design – GLD in 2007 – the day I graduated from college. My father helped sell and install projects and establish the foundation of the company. It was just the two of us – all day, every day. I love him more than he’ll ever know but if we’re being honest, there were days where I wanted to ship him off to his own private island and I’m certain the feelings were mutual. Mom helped with the books and served as our council. You hear frequently how companies and partnerships fail, relationships ruined, and partnerships disband. It was a true testament to our love for each other that our family made it through the early years in one-piece.
We struggled mightily through the first few years. We were in debt, I was trying to wear all of the hats, and we didn’t have an identity. Although our customer portfolio was building, we hadn’t established our company core values and our business plan was essentially written on a napkin. Profits were nonexistent.
My family instilled the belief that you don’t always need the best idea or to be the smartest person in the room. Rather, when you outwork everybody around you, you can accomplish anything – and that’s what I tried to do.
I was fortunate to have a great support system of friends and family surrounding me. I was also extremely lucky to find two professionals and eventually full-time team members. Luiz Ramirez joined our team in year three freeing me up to focus on design and sales. He is now our longest tenured employee of 9 years. When I met Sean Ryan, he owned his own design company. Working together, we built each other’s businesses until we decided to form a professional partnership and Sean joined GLD in 2017 as a full-time team member. He’s not only advanced our design and technology, but he’s afforded me the opportunity to focus on client service, team culture, and business development – my natural strengths.
There have been countless people who helped us grow and develop along the way. Professional consultants, leadership groups, friends, acquaintances, employees, vendors, competitors, life coaches, and importantly – clients have shaped this company. Although our team is proud and confident, we recognize there will always be room for improvement and we know we are forever evolving. We’ve learned as soon as you think you are the best, you are not, so we are on a mission of continual improvement and development. Our core values drive us to provide both the best customer experience and craftsmanship to our Northern Virginia clients and we hope it will afford us the opportunity to be a larger influence and supporter of our local communities.
If we work with you, we hope to create a wholly positive experience and importantly – learn from you. I recently read a book about company culture from a top executive at one of the worlds largest IT companies and he reminded me of a more simplified motto which I think sums up who we want to be in the simplest sense, “Treat others as you would like to be treated”.
I think my grandfather would have been proud of that.
Robert F. Groff
Robert F. Groff
Proud President of Groff Landscape Design