Father and son team grows business on reputation.
Before the recession hit in the late-2000s, Charles Glossop ran a company that provided custom tillage and planting services to farmers in western Minnesota. With a degree in agronomy and soil science, Glossop emigrated from England to the U.S. in 1976.
Glossop initially managed a large farming operation before branching out into other ventures, including one that excavated fieldstone and transported it to the Twin Cities by the truckload. An offshoot company provided a service performing controlled land burns, and also did wetlands restoration for the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources.
He also owned a landscaping business in the Twin Cities, but sold it in 2007 with the idea that he was going to devote more time to his international consultancy, which includes advising metropolitan airports on snow removal.
But when the recession hit and work slowed, Glossop started to look for a new opportunity, and found one with his son, Alex, a 2009 high school graduate who had gone on to receive formal training in heavy equipment operation.
Hantho Farms began in 2011 providing traditional landscaping, smaller excavation, and snow removal services.
Alex supervises day-to-day operations and serves as an equipment operator, while Charles Glossop bids on jobs, attends client meetings and helps choreograph the work. Revenue has more than doubled over the last two years to $1.7 million in 2013. With about 22 employees, the goal is to grow the business, but not the number of employees.
“The one thing we are not doing is trying to compete with the larger landscaping companies,” Charles says. “We do no advertising, and everything is word-of-mouth. Primarily, we are growing this business on reputation.
I have been in the marketplace for over 30 years, and have a lot of contacts. And oddly enough, the phone is ringing off the hook—we turn down more work than we actually do.”
Hantho takes on technical work that others can’t or won’t do, such as building limestone rock retaining walls in challenging settings, or digging out footings as part of soil remediation for a homeowners’ association.
“The larger construction companies are too busy and don’t have time for that kind of work, while traditional landscapers might lack the technical know-how,” Alex says. “With my background and my dad’s expertise, we are happy to do it.”
Hantho also provides drainage solutions to commercial entities and private homeowners through a partnership with the CBS consulting firm in the Twin Cities.
“We are doing something that a lot of companies don’t want to do—we are partnering with companies that have resources and assets that we do not have,” Charles says. “And that, for us, has proven to be extremely successful. We don’t want to be everything to everybody.
“Today, we could grow our mowing and landscape maintenance business and triple it in the next two years,” he says. “But so does everybody else—the big players want to be out there at $18 to $20 an hour. We are doing some of it, but it’s at the right margins, and it’s for relationships that we already have.”
Hantho Farms is building its future with Cat equipment, and the dependable service it counts on from its Cat dealer, Ziegler.
“In the past, we had always owned another brand,” Alex says. “That’s what my dad knew how to run. But since we purchased our 257D Multi Terrain Loader about a year ago, that’s all we’re going to run now is Cat equipment. It’s a far superior machine, and the service we receive from Ziegler is best in class.”
Snow is a fact of life in Minnesota. On average, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul receive anywhere from 50 to 54 inches of snow annually.
During the snow season, Hantho Farms services more than 20 accounts, ranging from small, one-acre commercial parking lots, to 110 acres of parking lots and 53 miles of road at the 3M main campus in Maplewood. The company also shares responsibility for snow removal with a strategic business partner at the Cargill Inc. headquarters in Hopkins.
Hantho Farms utilizes a fleet of Cat® 257 Multi Terrain Loaders along with four to five pieces of larger equipment, including a 908H2 Wheel Loader and a 930G High Lift Wheel Loader.
“Last winter, we rented about six pieces of equipment from our Cat dealer, Ziegler, and we ended up buying some, and returning some pieces,” says Alex Glossop, who co-owns the business with his father, Charles. “It’s a great program, and it works really well for us because sometimes we don’t know if we are going to need more equipment, and we get contracts at the last minute and we have to find equipment.”
As the brains behind the operation, Charles brings an international pedigree to the art of snow removal, as he consults with airports in Minneapolis, Vienna, Switzerland and Salzburg, Austria.
The key, he says, is to have a keen understanding of the work you’re bidding, and determine what your production rate is based on the size of the lot or road, and the amount of snow covering it. By utilizing various pieces of equipment in coordinated fashion instead of using traditional plows mounted on pickup trucks, the amount of time can be cut in half, Charles says.
“So instead of doing it in 10 hours, you do it in five hours,” he says. “Then the goal becomes to sell additional work right next to that property and allocate those four or five larger pieces of equipment to perform that work. That’s how you make money in the snow business.”
Last winter, Hantho Farms switched from another brand of equipment and made a major commitment to Cat equipment.
“We used to run some other brands, but never got the great service that we really needed,” Charles says. “Now that we have been through a hard winter, I can categorically say that we have never had such superb service in the 30-plus years I have been in this industry.”