Clay Herron and Abe Muniz of Twin Oaks Landscape Management in Liberty, South Carolina, have each been in the landscaping business for 20-plus years. They’ve worked together for six of them. To say they’re on the same page is an understatement.
“The biggest thing is we’re both family men,” Clay says. “We work five days a week, and that’s all we’ll take on. We’re home every afternoon to take care of our kids and our families.”
“We work as much as we need, not as much as we want,” Abe adds. “You can always work more, but you can never get more time. Time is good.”
Time is also a good thing to save on the jobsite, especially when attention to detail is what separates your company from the competition. Inefficiency gets in the way of quality, and that gets in the way of achieving the proper work/life balance.
“I love what I do,” Abe relates. “When you love it, you can see what needs to be done when you’re on a property. Our goal is never to blow through as fast as possible. Good work takes time.”
The Walker Mower has played a big role in helping Clay and Abe save time, which has afforded them the ability to spend more time on the finer details of maintaining a property. Whether they’re collecting grass, mulching grass, or vacuuming up leaves or shrub clippings, the duo agrees that providing five-star service on a 9-5 schedule could never happen without their two Walkers.
Clay Herron (left) and Abe Muniz of Twin Oaks Landscape Management in Liberty, SC.
Their experience, pride and passion have a little to do with it, too.
Two Landscaping Paths Lead to Liberty
Clay Herron’s landscaping career started more than two decades ago when he lived in Alabama. After graduating from college, he initially took a job with a construction company. He didn’t really enjoy it, though, and ended up joining a landscape maintenance company. He worked there for about three years.
“I really enjoyed the variety that came with landscape maintenance through the different seasons,” Clay says. “I liked cutting grass in the summer and cleaning up leaves in the fall. I also liked the little break we got in the wintertime before starting all over again the next spring.”
Clay must have really liked it, because he started a landscape maintenance company of his own when he moved back home to South Carolina in 2003. He reached out to a homebuilding contractor he’d worked for in high school. Clay worked for that contractor for seven months while mowing lawns and building up a customer base at night. Then the day came when he felt comfortable making lawn maintenance his full-time job.
Like Clay, Abe Muniz’s landscaping roots extend many miles beyond Liberty, South Carolina. Abe’s father was a landscaper in California. “I used to help him out on jobs as a kid,” Abe tells. “I started landscaping as an actual occupation when I was 20. I had my hands on both the installation and maintenance sides. Then I moved to South Carolina around 2013 and got a job with a landscape installation company there.”
That company is where Clay and Abe first met. The company decided to start a maintenance division, and merging with Clay’s company seemed like a logical way to do that. So they merged. Abe ended up running one of the maintenance crews.
In less than two years, however, the recently merged companies decided on an amicable divorce. The goal had been to rapidly grow the maintenance division by playing off of the natural synergies with a construction division. But staffing difficulty on the maintenance side proved to be an insurmountable challenge.
“Fortunately, I had structured the merger so I could keep my equipment and accounts without any interference,” Clay says. “Abe and I had both recognized the writing on the wall. So he and I spoke. I told him how much I loved the work he did, and that I would love to have him come on with me. And that was it.”
With all of the experience Abe had, he could have found a job with a lot of area landscaping companies, but getting a fresh start with Clay sounded very appealing.
“What it really came down to was the accounts I brought with me,” Abe points out. “Those accounts were a lot of my hard work. I’d put my heart and soul into those properties, and I hated to see them just go away. Clay told me his plan. If he kept his accounts and I kept some of mine, we could make it work.”
Clay and Abe recall a rather smooth transition. Their customers were already familiar with them and the type of service they delivered. Today, Twin Oaks Landscape Management has around 45 accounts, mostly higher-end residential properties of varying size and scope. Customer turnover is almost nil, which is just the way Clay and Abe like it.
“Our route is full, and we have to say ‘no’ a lot more often than we say ‘yes’ when new inquiries come in,” Clay points out. There isn’t a shred of arrogance in that statement, either. It’s just the way it is—the natural byproduct of a shared obsession to efficiently provide superior service to loyal customers who value it.
Two Guys with Two Walkers
Clay Herron first used a Walker Mower 20-plus years ago when working for a landscape company in Alabama.
“I didn’t use it a whole lot, but the quality of cut really enticed me to want to produce that same quality of work if I ever started my own company,” Clay says. “I didn’t have a Walker when I first started my own company in 2003, simply because I couldn’t afford it. About four years into it, I bought a used Walker. Now I usually put about 1,000 hours on a new machine and trade it in. Once you’ve used a Walker, there is just no going back.”
Clay Herron added a Model B to his fleet a couple of years ago.
Clay has long been an avid fan of the Model T for its collection and striping capabilities. Within the past couple of years, he has also begun using a Model B with a 48-inch mulching deck. “The B is becoming my primary mower now,” Clay says. “It has saved us a lot of time and effort on some of our accounts where we have no way to dispose of the clippings.”
In addition to mulching and striping well, Abe likes the Model B’s ability to handle slopes. He also spends quite a bit of time on their Model T. He has come to appreciate the maneuverability and ease of operation of both machines. That wasn’t necessarily the case in the beginning. Abe first used a Walker Mower prior to joining forces with Clay.
“I remember my first day with that other company in South Carolina,” Abe says. “I came to this property we’re on today and learned how to use a Walker. I had run zero-turns before, but the Walker was all new to me and took a little while to get used to. Let’s just say the lines didn’t look like they do today.”
Abe got the hang of things quickly, though, and operating a Walker has become second nature. It’s also second nature to Clay, as is the concept of providing a seamless landscape management experience for customers. Clay’s philosophy is to focus on what he and Abe do best, and partner with other contractors who are the best in other areas.
Abe Muniz first learned to use a Walker Mower six years ago, and his skill on a Walker has come a long way.
“I joke that I’ve got a guy for everything,” Clay says. “I have a tree guy, an irrigation guy, and an installation guy. That appeals to some clients, while others don’t like it. But as a whole, our clients appreciate what we do and don’t get upset at having to use other contractors. They know those other contractors are people we trust and will do a good job. Plus, we take care of scheduling everything to make their lives easier.”
Making a person’s life easier is something both Clay and Abe appreciate. Striking that proper work-life balance is something they’ve emphasized from the first day they broke out on their own. They’ve never worried about being the biggest landscape maintenance contractor, just the best in the eyes of their customers.
“My motto has always been ‘small by design,’” Clay relates. “We do as much as we can do and focus on quality. If we ever do lose a client, the phone always seems to ring.”
If a call comes in after hours, though, Clay might let it go to voicemail until the next morning. After all, afternoons and weekends are family time.