It was Marin County in the 70's. Four years after the summer of love - The Grateful Dead moved from San Francisco to Marin County; Cyra McFadden's wildly popular series "The Serial" was published in the Pacific Sun. And, Gardeners' Guild was born.
Alan Weiss and Adam Blackwelder founded Gardeners' Guild of Marin. Their small operation provided residential landscaping services to homes in the county. Enter Linda Novy. In 1975 through a serendipitous introduction she was offered, then accepted an opportunity to work at Gardeners' Guild. By 1980 she was its sole owner.
By virtue of Linda's vision, passion and guidance, Gardeners' Guild evolved to be the innovative and widely respected landscape contractor that it is today.
A Growing Concern
Linda had a big vision for Gardeners' Guild. Part of that was to grow the business' commercial accounts in San Francisco. Getting her contractor's license gave Gardeners' Guild more credibility and it helped win new business. By 1981 the company had six employees; it was a tightly knit group. It was also growing and developing a loyal customer base. This necessitated more structure and systems of organization. Linda hired a consultant; developed a business plan and sought counsel from leading mentors in the industry.
A Culture of Ownership
Linda recognized talent and hired good people. One of those was Kevin Davis, now GGI President. Through Kevin she met Andrew Guliaeff, another GGI veteran and our Operations Manager. A few years later Mike Davidson, now Vice President, began his employment with Gardeners' Guild gassing up trucks. Soon he bonded with the team and was working 14 hour days. Linda knew instinctively that fostering a culture of collaboration, fairness, innovation and empowerment would brand Gardeners' Guild as unique in an industry known for high turnover. Operating as a team, first and foremost, was the first step in its ultimate ESOP culture.
A Commitment to the Environment
Linda wanted to take the company's landscape management services to a higher level of horticultural knowledge and professionalism. A severe drought in the late 70's became a turning point. As Linda pondered the potential of serious water shortage she involved the company in local environmental issues. Never motivated by profit alone, Linda saw GGI as an environmental innovator. Water management became a essential component in the company's service line and was soon a recognized leader. In the mid-80's GGI hired an entomologist who assisted GGI in developing an Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM). The company was soon educating customers to the benefits of utilizing beneficial insects instead of chemicals to manage pests. Organic fertilizer was being substituted for synthetics. GGI expanded these activities to include internal practices of recycling and reusing. Colleagues and the media praised the company's pioneering work.
Transitioning to Employee Ownership
Linda had transformed this one truck contractor to a leading professional landscape management company. It had found its niche - full service specializing in sustainable programs and a number of its clients were high profile commercial buildings in San Francisco. By the mid-nineties Linda began to formulate a succession plan that led her to transition GGI to employee ownership in 1997. Linda remained at Gardeners' Guild until 2003 when the company became 100% employee owned.
Up to the Present
Since that time Gardeners' Guild has continued to evolve its sustainable landscape management program. In 2008 we named it LivingSolutions and over the last four years we have successfully converted an increasing number of clients from conventional practices to the LivingSolutions program. We moved from our headquarters from San Rafael to Richmond, increasing our space and expanding our business into West Contra Costa, Napa and Solano Counties while retaining our presence throughout Marin, the North Bay and San Francisco and south. We were fortunate to have weathered the economy of recent years. And finally, we continue to be appreciative of Linda Novy's spirited guidance; laying the groundwork for our progressive corporate culture which is what keeps many of us here, year after year.