Organic growth: The Secret Garden blooms in Mequon


The Secret Garden

Last updated on April 28th, 2022 at 12:48 am

Among the giant landscape companies in Milwaukee and Ozaukee county there was a sapling that took root. That sapling has grown and matured, and this year The Secret Garden celebrated its 21st anniversary.

The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden

Its operations began in 1994 with an initial focus on garden maintenance and small landscape installations. Mike Bohlen, their founder, felt the time was right. The market at that time was strong and there was a niche to be filled. He and his staff of professionals continually strive to provide the highest quality garden construction and maintenance products and services to their customers. Their goal was to cultivate long-lasting professional relationships with their clients while maintaining their properties. Those who are planning a large landscaping project may need a Commercial Dump Truck especially if excavation is required for the project.

Over the years, The Secret Garden has won multiple awards for residential landscape design and construction from the Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association. Its employees have worked hard to cultivate its niche in residential renovations, while expanding into new home landscape installations. Recently, The Secret Garden completed the construction of a new shop/office in Mequon which has improved efficiencies and employee morale; in addition, it improved its visibility in the community. It is now positioned to branch out and grow just like the grass trimmed by experts.

Prior to the founding of The Secret Garden, Mike Bohlen worked for a renowned landscape contractor who instilled in him a design sense and a great attention to detail. Mike’s ultimate goal has always been to enhance the emotional and physical living environment of his clients. He has always had a passion for gardens—both the structure and living components. His desire was to bring that passion to his clients by creating and maintaining beautiful and functional outdoor spaces at their homes and businesses.

Over the first five years, The Secret Garden staff expanded to three crews and developed a stronger presence in larger residential design/install projects. It currently operates six crews during the peak season, three maintenance crews and three construction crews. In recent years, it has added tree/shrub pruning services, snow removal services, and landscape and holiday lighting. The Secret Garden’s growth has been a challenge because Bohlen did not want to sacrifice quality. Finding and hiring qualified staff has also been an ongoing challenge.

The Secret Garden has elected the organic growth strategy over the alternatives of merger or acquisition. This strategy has allowed it to experience controlled, rather than rapid uncontrolled, growth. It has fine-tuned its staff, its processes, and standard operating procedures to ensure it maintains a high level of quality. This controlled rate of growth allowed leaders to instill their values and culture in their staff, as well as develop a clearly defined organizational chart.

The company’s greatest strength continues to be its team of motivated managers, foremen and technicians, many with multiple landscape certifications and licenses. This team regularly produces referrals by delivering “white glove” service, quality products and creative solutions its customers need. Customer referrals are its primary source of new business.

The seasonality of its business will continue to be a major challenge, specifically in the winter months. In response to this challenge, The Secret Garden has elected to move into counter-seasonal services, such as snow removal, roof raking and holiday decorating, to fill that void. In order to continue to grow the business over the next five years, new strategies will need to be developed, vetted and implemented.

The Secret Garden’s success is based on its strategy of controlled growth supported by a high level of customer service and a team of experienced and well-motivated employees. Mike and his staff consult regularly with their customers from the design stage to the installation of their trees, shrubs and plants, which are sourced from the finest local growers. The owner and his manager both regularly interact with their landscape and maintenance teams to ensure a high level of quality.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

He was a senior professor at DeVry's Keller Graduate School in Wisconsin. Cary has published articles in periodicals and on the Internet. He recently published first book with Dr. Larry Waldman, "Overcoming Your NegotiaPhobia". Cary holds MBAs from L I U’s Arthur T. Roth School of Business. Cary has a BA from CUNY, Queens College. He has certificates in Negotiation from Harvard’s PON and in Labor and Employment Law from Marquette University.

No posts to display