• Jonathan Goldhill

Do You Want to Be Famous or Rich?

Updated: Apr 16


Famous or Rich

P.S. A Family Business Might Just Be Your Answer

By Jonathan Goldhill


Famous vs. Rich

Famous vs. Rich is an interesting concept. Which one do you want to be?

Did you choose to be well known in your community, your industry or association or perhaps just an indispensable, most valued person (MVP) resource to your customers, employees or industry peers? That’s famous.


- OR -


Did you choose to build wealth through owning a company focusing on (long-term) value creation over (short-term) capital gain – perhaps from a venture capital raise – or personal gain from popularity? That’s rich.


Keith Cunningham, the author of Keys to the Vault and a speaker at T. HarvEker, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins and Robert Kiyosaki events has a saying, “Great Operators GET TIRED. Great Business Owners GET RICH!”


So, which one are you? A great operator or great business owner?

For more than a decade, I have worked with many business owners involved in the landscape industry. Some are “craftsmen” types, involved mostly in residential design-build construction of customer’s backyards. Others are “mountain climber” types, intent on building a commercial maintenance landscape company that has a recurring revenue business model and is a more sellable business. While still others are “freedom fighter” types preferring to be both famous and rich as they build a company that has a mix of residential and commercial construction and commercial maintenance. These business owners ultimately want freedom with options to choose whether to sell, hold, pass on to family, etc.


I have had the privilege to meet hundreds of owners of landscape businesses and work with scores of them to grow their business and find freedom in the process. If I were to characterize the industry at-large, the vast majority of owners of landscaping companies in the US do not set out to become wealthy from their businesses. They are neither great operators nor great business owners. Most are largely craftsmen – at least the older generation of owners. The younger generation seems more keenly interested in both business and wealth creation. Perhaps because they are not a product of the 60’s.


BrightView Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:BV), the largest landscaping services business in the US is a $2.5b company formed from the merger of two $1b companies – Brickman based in Rockville, MD and ValleyCrest based in Calabasas, CA – in June 2014. Four years later on June 27, 2018, the merger was complete and the companies went public thanks to the backing of KKR, the private equity firm that took a 73% stake in the company along with MSD (Michael S. Dell) Partners who owned a 17% interest. (The stories behind each of these two family-owned companies is a great one. Read Game Changer in Lawn & Landscape magazine).


Many people got rich from the events of the merger, sale to KKR and public offering. And, the acquired landscape companies who got acquired over the years probably also got rich. But, since the merger, many more business owners of small and medium sized landscape companies were acquired, probably making them rich too.


On November 21, BrightView acquired Heaviland Enterprises Inc. in San Diego, CA – another multi-generational family, was founded by Tom Heaviland with his late father Ron and growing with the help of his son, Christian. He employed 150 skilled team members serving a diverse commercial portfolio throughout San Diego County. The acquisition of the company was among 8 acquisitions made in the past few years of family-founded and run landscape maintenance companies including: Marina Landscape Maintenance, The Grounds Keeper, and probably others.


Justin White, the young 30 year old CEO of K&D Landscaping and a client for almost six years, seems to embrace both rich and famous. He is scaling up his family business and becoming a great business owner. He is becoming famous in his community, association, and his industry. And, he’s building wealth and creating freedom for himself. Justin is what I call a Disruptive Successor, the name of my forthcoming book for next generation leaders of family businesses looking to drive growth in their business and freedom in their lives.


To learn more about famous vs. rich, I am promoting a new 35-page e-book by John Warrillow, the author of Built to Sell, called “Famous or Rich: 9 Ways Value Builders Prioritize Wealth Over Recognition”. You can download that e-book here and gain access to more information on the value creation process in businesses.

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