The Brickman Group, Ltd.
The Brickman Group, Ltd.
Founded: 1939 as Theodore Brickman Landscaping Company
Sales: $550 million (2007 est.)
NAIC: 541320 Landscape Architectural Services; 561730 Landscaping Services.
In the green industry, few can top The Brickman Group, Ltd.’s beautiful landscape designs and their top-quality landscape maintenance services. Founded in 1939 in a suburb of Chicago, Brickman is one of the nation’s largest and most respected horticultural firms. Brickman offers clients a wide range of services, including landscape architecture plans, enhancements to existing landscapes, sports field turf design and upkeep, tree care, irrigation, and lawn and landscape maintenance services. With annual revenues exceeding $500 million, Brickman Group continues to provide award-winning designs to clients large and small throughout the United States and Canada.
The precursor to today’s Brickman Group was founded by Theodore W. Brickman, Sr., as Theodore Brickman Landscaping Company. Brickman started the company in Glenview, Illinois, in 1939 to serve the horticultural needs of Chicago and its burgeoning suburbs. As an employee of the Chicago Park District, Brickman had gained valuable experience and knowledge of northern Illinois’s plants, trees, and shrubs. Paramount to Brick-man’s early success was his belief in the “Golden Rule”: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, applied equally to his personal and professional life.
The Golden Rule served Brickman well. By the 1940s he had a growing list of residential clients and commercial properties in and around Chicago. During the latter part of the decade and into the early 1950s, Ted’s son Theodore, Jr., known as “Dick,” completed his secondary education and headed for college. Dick earned a degree in landscape architecture and joined the family business.
Dick Brickman brought many ideas to the firm and one was the concept of “design/build” landscaping. The company had previously provided various landscape or horticultural services, but not landscape architecture. Dick helped the company segue into the design of landscaping plans, which encompassed “building” or installing the plants, bushes, trees, walkways, and retention walls needed to accomplish the design plan.
Dick began running the company in 1957 as Brickman expanded throughout the Chicagoland area. In 1959 Theodore Brickman & Company was incorporated in Long Grove, a suburb of Chicago. Residential jobs in the suburbs of Chicago were no longer the company’s biggest accomplishment, however, as it had earned a reputation for transforming the “concrete jungle” of the city itself in the 1960s. Dick’s landscape designs took the often harsh and ugly reality of city living and created oases of lush greenery complete with atriums, walkways, trees and flowers, fountains, and precisely cut hedges and shrubs. In addition to gaining notice, the company began winning landscaping awards from various groups and organizations in the Midwest.
The 1970s proved a turning point for Brickman as the firm not only made its first acquisition, a tree-trimming service, and expanded outside the Midwest to the East Coast. It was also a time of growing environmental awareness, and Brickman was on the forefront of environmentally friendly landscaping practices. Yet the biggest development of the decade revolved around Ray Kroc, the owner of McDonald’s Corporation.
Brickman & Company earned a rare distinction in 1971 when Ray Kroc signed the company to provide landscaping designs and services for McDonald’s Corporation’s new headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. While the design/build contract was prestigious, it was Kroc’s second demand that changed the future of Brick-man: Kroc wanted Brickman & Company to design, install, and maintain McDonald’s landscaping. Brick-man was well versed in landscaping designs and installations but had not provided maintenance services for its clients. Kroc’s insistence forced Brickman into the lucrative though lesser known segment of the green industry.
The McDonald’s contract proved a major success, impressing Kroc and Brickman’s landscaping peers. Not only did the company win several awards for the property, including the Grand Award for landscape maintenance from the Professional Grounds Management Society and Grounds Maintenance magazine, but the Environmental Improvement Grand Award from the Professional Landcare Network. Additionally, Kroc signed Brickman to provide all landscaping services, including maintenance, for the life of the property.
Brickman had become the largest landscaping services company in the United States by the early 1980s. The firm had expanded into states throughout the Midwest, East Coast, and Southwest, and had even provided design/build services for clients in Hawaii, on the West Coast, and Canada. Reincorporated in Delaware in 1986, The Brickman Group, Ltd., became the parent company of several operating units including Brickman Industries, Theodore Brickman Company, and Maple Leaf Nurseries.
The company hit another milestone in 1986 with the arrival of Scott Brickman, the third generation to join the family business. Like his father Dick, Scott had earned a degree in landscape architecture; he began his Brickman tenure as a project director. Revenues for 1986 reportedly reached $100 million, with ambitious plans underway for the future. Over the next several years as Scott Brickman worked his way up the corporate ladder, the company decentralized its corporate structure to allow regional managers to “bridge the gap” between local branches and corporate executives.
In 1989 Brickman celebrated its 50th anniversary yet also suffered the loss of its founder, Ted Brickman. At the time of his death, Brickman continued to dominate the landscape and horticultural services industry and had offices in Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and several locations in and around Chicago.
Throughout the early and mid-1990s Brickman continued to expand through acquisitions and new branch openings in the Midwest (Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin); ventured south to Florida and North Carolina; and increased its presence in Texas. The Brick-man name had become synonymous with ingenious landscape designs featuring bright, vibrant colors, elaborate fountains, and beautifully crafted paths and walkways. For its efforts, the company earned accolades from a myriad of green industry magazines and associations.
Enhancing the American Landscape since 1939, Brick-man is a leader in the commercial landscape industry. With locations in over 20 states, every Brickman client, large or small, benefits from responsive local service, backed by abundant nationwide resources. Brickman’s proven, systematic approach to maintenance assures we deliver consistent, value-based service no matter what your budget. Founded on a family tradition of service, Brickman is driven by a passion to delight the customer, consistently exceeding their expectations.
There were two significant occurrences in 1998: the appointment of 35-year-old Scott Brickman as chief executive (his father Dick remained chairman) and the family’s decision to sell a stake in the company to outside investors. The increased funding was key to Brickman’s growth as the green industry became fiercely competitive.
In 1999 Brickman celebrated its 60th anniversary with revenues of about $180 million. The business had succeeded well beyond its mainstay operations of build/design and landscape maintenance to include tree care, irrigation, and even snow/ice removal services for the winter months. Brickman had locations throughout the country, and had finally expanded to the West Coast with offices in San Diego, California.
In the new millennium, Brickman continued to acquire landscape firms and open satellite offices in underserved areas. Revenues for 2000 reached over $220 million and climbed to $272 million in 2001, helped by the purchase of Duke Realty Corporation’s landscaping division and Brickman’s segue into the athletic field market. Brickman’s new SportsTurf Services unit was formed to provide both design and maintenance services for athletic fields throughout the country.
By 2002 Brickman was contending with aggressive competition from the TruGreen Companies, Davey Tree Expert Company, and ValleyCrest Companies. According to Landscape Management magazine’s annual top 100 landscape services firms for 2002, TruGreen brought in $1.5 billion to ValleyCrest’s $620 million, while Davey Tree’s $325 million was slightly ahead of Brickman’s $323 million. TruGreen had the most branches/franchises at 300, with Brickman next at 96, trailed by ValleyCrest’s 92 and Davey Tree’s 65 branches.
In 2003 and 2004 Brickman continued to earn its reputation as one of the nation’s preeminent horticultural firms with a professional staff able to handle virtually any landscape-related need. Available at any time were horticulturists (with experience in both regional and local plant life), licensed landscape architects, “seasonal color” designers (with degrees in horticulture and/or design to guarantee the most vibrantly colored flowers and trees), sports turf specialists (covering football fields, ballparks, and more), and irrigation specialists (to provide expert watering for all climates). Additionally, there were production specialists, educators, national account managers (for nationwide clients to insure consistency), regional managers, and branch managers, all serving the needs of Brickman’s clients. Brickman’s ongoing growth and profitability was reflected in revenues of $349.4 million in 2003 and $383.6 million in 2004, and earnings rising during the same period from $1.2 million to $9.2 million.
In the middle and following years of the first decade of the 2000s Brickman gave back to the community by donating funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina, as well as donations of time and money to Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House, Lambs Farm (Illinois), Girls Hope/Boys Hope (Ohio), Camp Horizons (in Connecticut), and many more. In addition, Brickman continued to buy landscape firms, strengthening already established markets in the Midwest and East Coast, and gaining a foothold in areas dominated by competitors. To continue financing its expansion (there were 135 branches in 23 states by early 2007), a majority stake in the company was sold to Leonard Green & Partners LP, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm. The Brickman family and other small investors held the remaining interest in the company.
- Theodore Brickman Landscaping Company is founded in Glenview, Illinois.
- Ted Brickman’s son Dick joins the family business as a landscape architect.
- Theodore Brickman & Company is incorporated.
- Ray Kroc signs Brickman as the landscaper for McDonald’s Corporation.
- Scott Brickman, representing the family’s third generation, joins the company; company is reincorporated in Delaware.
- Company celebrates its 50th anniversary; Ted Brickman passes away.
- Founder’s Day is unveiled as a memorial to Ted Brickman.
- Scott Brickman is named chief executive of the company.
- Brickman helps victims of Hurricane Katrina.
- Scott Brickman is named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
As Brickman approached its 70th anniversary in 2009, the company was still going strong and practicing founder Ted Brickman’s sage words: “We are in business to serve and satisfy our customers by listening to them and responding with services that meet and exceed their expectations.”
Davey Tree Expert Company, Inc.; Griffin Land & Nurseries, Inc.; TrueGreen Landcare LLC; ValleyCrest Companies.
Berberich, Steve, “Building a Landscape Firm Brickman by Brickman,” Gazette.Net, December 2, 2005.
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Gibson, Sue, “Acquisition Expands and Strengthens Brickman’s Reach in Midwestern Markets,” Landscape Management, September 2001, p. 16.
Heard, Jacqueline, “Landscape Architect Theodore Brickman, 82,” Chicago Tribune, August 4, 1989, p. 10.
Hopp-Peters, Elizabeth, “Brickman Reaps Growing Profits of Landscaping,” Chicago Tribune, October 5, 1986, p. 1.
“LM 100: Big 50 Companies,” Landscape Management, July 2003, p. 24.
“McDonald’s HQ Site for Sore Eyes,” Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1988, p.1G.
Patta, Gig, “Landscapers Unaffected by Slowing Economy,” San Diego Business Journal, August 20, 2001, p. 17.
Stahl, Jason, “Winner: Landscape Contracting—Bruce Hunt,” Landscape Management, November 2000, p. 20.