Nurture Landscapes may have been founded on April Fool’s Day 10 years ago, but the company boasts some serious growth. Through both organic and acquisitive development, Nurture Landscapes now has a turnover of £35m; this remarkably excludes
its latest acquisition, the highly reputable landscape company Gavin Jones, which adds an additional £30m turnover to The Nurture Group. As the company’s 17th acquisition, and with nearly 100 years of history, Gavin Jones is arguably the pinnacle of Nurture’s acquisition history since the company was founded in 2008. To reflect this, Gavin Jones will remain a separate business entity, retaining its Royal Warrant and rich history, rather than being incorporated into Nurture Landscapes.
For Nurture, however, Gavin Jones brings with it more than just history. Along with £20m worth of grounds maintenance, it also has £10m of commercial landscaping, for which it has built up a reputation over the years. “It’s not an aspect which Nurture has had historically, but commercial landscaping is a side that we are very keen to offer, as more and more of our corporate clients are asking for large-scale, one-off projects on their sites,” says Nurture’s managing director Peter Fane.
“We at Nurture don’t have the expertise or direct contract management and staff to be able to fulfil those, so by having this commercial landscaping arm at Gavin Jones, we now have the capability.” Traditionally, Nurture Landscapes has focused on the corporate landscape maintenance market and winter gritting – an offering which makes up an impressive £8m of the overall turnover. In February of this year alone, the company carried out £2.7m of winter gritting and snow clearance. Another reason for keeping Gavin Jones separate from Nurture is its difference in focus – it is involved in some fields that Nurture is not, such as Royal Parks, Royal Palaces and MOD contracts. It also has an in-house arboriculture service, which is something that Nurture has subcontracted in the past.
As such, Peter says that they will tender for work under the brand that they think is appropriate for the specific contract. Though the operational teams will be separate, the back office is being centralised, with one sales team, one compliance team and one finance team for both companies. Grounds maintenance company Turfsoil, which Gavin Jones bought nearly two years ago, has been ‘hived up’ into the larger company. Clifton Nurseries, meanwhile, which was bought by Gavin Jones around the same time, has been acquired by two of its directors, Martin Mogford and Will Clarke; this acquisition includes The Plantation Nursery, which will now become part of the Clifton brand. The vast majority of the 450 Gavin Jones employees have joined the Nurture family, with the office team moving to join Nurture’s head office in Windlesham, Surrey. In an interview with Pro Landscaper last year, following the acquisition of Frosts Group’s landscape maintenance operations, Peter said: “One of the benefits of acquiring a company is that talented individuals always come with them. We like to nurture them as best we can, and make sure they are still with us in 10 years.”
This remains the case: Nurture proudly boasts Gold IIP, as well as a personal approach to its employees, which has been maintained despite the ever-increasing size of the business. The company is also focused on developing
its staff and integrating them into Nurture when a company is purchased. Nick Hills, for example, joined Nurture as an operative when the company acquired Park View Landscapes in 2012; he is now director of the northern region, which has a turnover of around £9m.
Each of the company’s six geographical regions – Scotland, the North, the Midlands, the South, the South West and London – are run by a director and a management team, all of whom have shares or share options in the business, totalling 18% ownership of the company. With strong regional coverage and the staff in place to look after it, the focus for future acquisitions is less about geography and more about the type of business: “We have the geographical coverage, with nearly 400 vans, over 1,000 employees, and numerous depots spread across the UK,” says Peter. “Now, it’s about ‘bolt-on’ acquisitions, which can be quite large, but they have to be the right type. “We won’t be buying in the commercial landscaping sector; we will only buy in the landscape maintenance sector, for that continuity of income.”
Nearly 17% of Nurture’s overall £69m turnover is commercial landscaping, but with the fluctuation of the economy, this is the aspect of the business that could be most at risk in the event of an economic downturn. With this in mind, Peter tells us: “I’m not looking for it to grow, I’m looking for it to continue – for us to carry out great projects with an excellent reputation and for more of these projects to be for our existing grounds maintenance client base.”
Grounds maintenance is the aspect of the business that Peter is keen to expand. When we spoke to him last year, he believed Nurture Landscapes would be turning over £50m in three years – a target it has already surpassed in less than a year. He is now looking at additional acquisitions later in 2018, but is also focused on the organic growth of the business. “Over the next 12 months, from 1 April this year, we’d expect to win £7m worth of business a year – £5.5m grounds maintenance and £1.5m gritting – in addition to acquisitions. We could happily grow £10m a year – we have that momentum now, and the reputation, which is enhanced by Gavin Jones.” Following 10 hugely successful years and a continued focus on growth and staff development, it is no surprise that Nurture Landscapes won the Grounds Maintenance category at the inaugural Pro Landscaper Business Awards, and it will no doubt continue to be a company to watch.