For Randy Whitfield, family is more than the last name on a business card — it’s a mindset. As the founder of Whitfield’s Lawn & Garden Specialist (LGS), Randy has watched his business grow from a family dream to a multi-generational operation. And, thanks to his son and successor, he’s seen it evolve from relying on manual labor to using the latest equipment technology to get jobs done.
Quite the return on investment considering the family’s current footprint in the community of Des Moines, Iowa. From day one, Randy Whitfield instilled a family-first mindset in every area of his business. In fact, the first company vehicle also served as the family minivan. And, one of its first “employees” was his 12-year-old son, Catum Whitfield, who, now out of college, runs operations.
As the business has grown tenfold in the last 20 years, the focus on family is still impressed upon all employees, even those who don’t share the Whitfield name.
It all started in 2002 when Randy registered the business for a mere $6, which he still laughs about today, saying, “It was the best six bucks I ever spent.”
“We’re a family-first operation. Whatever our employees are going through, we encourage them to share it with us, so we can celebrate their wins and support the hardships,” Catum states. “Ultimately, we want to be there for our employees any way we can.”
But families can have respectful differences. Randy, a self-proclaimed “wheelbarrow-and-shovel kind of guy,” and son Catum view the modern jobsite a bit differently. Catum uses his degree in agricultural engineering from Iowa State University and a trusted fleet of Bobcat® machines to find optimal efficiency between the company’s commercial and residential projects.
“Adaptability and technology are huge to me,” Catum says. “We do a lot of things online, such as Google Ads, and a lot of our communication is via the internet — things like that. So, continuing technology and trying to better ourselves every day is a goal.”
Randy can be credited with introducing Bobcat to the business by acquiring a Bobcat S185 skid-steer loader almost 15 years ago. Beyond that, he mainly relied on manual labor until Catum began adding other Bobcat machines. Now, Randy is a believer, and he will give this advice to his grandsons, who are starting the third generation of the business: “You are only as good as your equipment. Now knowing what I know, you must have up-to-date equipment that is maintained and going to run … Bobcat is keeping us working.”
It may have taken time for Randy and Catum to agree on machinery’s role in the business, but among playful banter about work philosophies, one thing is immediately certain — family is everything. As Randy proudly points out, “Many mom-and-pop operations aren’t fortunate to have their children work for them. I’m blessed because I have three of our four children in business with me.”
Moving to the next level with Bobcat
Randy bought the Bobcat S185 skid-steer loader from Capital City Equipment Co. in 2007. Since then, Catum has added an E35 compact excavator, T66 compact track loader and MT85 mini track loader. What they don’t have, they can rent, and that includes an array of attachments for any type of work. “I rely on these machines every day for every job,” says Catum, whose business works year-round and offers services ranging from landscaping to snow removal. “I won’t go to a job without a piece of Bobcat equipment. Even if it’s a small job — I’ll just bring a smaller machine.”
The right machinery is an essential part of their business, and not just to do the job at hand. “Especially in today’s labor market, it’s hard to find help, so we must make sure employees aren’t breaking their backs,” says Catum. “Our Bobcat machines can do the lifting and carrying — whatever we need them to do. These machines keep our business moving.”
Efficiency is a large part of Catum’s philosophy, and it’s why he’s followed his father’s footsteps as a loyal Capital City Equipment customer. He says, “The service at Capital City Equipment cannot be beat. Whether it’s maintenance, rentals or parts, the guys are quick to get us going again. Downtime is very minimal. They take great care of us. And that’s important because it helps us keep going, keeps us finishing jobs and keeps usBobc profitable.”
Randy’s slow ride into the sunset
As the patriarch of a successful family business, you may expect Randy to put his feet up and give orders from an office, but that’s not how the Whitfields are wired. He still orchestrates the annual Christmas cookie delivery to their customers and makes sure every client feels like family.
In fact, Randy and Joe Cox at Capital City have been working together for so long that Randy has plans for the two to become “professional pond fishermen” when they both retire. But as long as the original Bobcat S185 keeps running (which has shown no signs of slowing), you’ll still find Randy picking up a few grading projects here and there. He says, “I only wear one hat these days, and that’s to do what I’m told.”
While Catum and the family may not entirely agree with that assessment, the future certainly looks bright for this family business. With a strong family foundation and fleet of tough Bobcat machines doing their jobs, the sky is the limit for Whitfield’s Lawn & Garden Specialist.
And, to Randy Whitfield, success and growth are all about relationships. “Your customers, your crew, your equipment dealer — that’s what I call ‘family.’ It takes a lot of pieces to keep this thing together.”
Modestly put by the founder of a 20-year-old, soon-to-be third-generation family operation, who may not be pond fishing anytime soon.
Customer: Whitfield’s Lawn & Garden Specialist
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Industry: Landscaping, garden and lawn services
Contact the Dealer:
Sales contact: Matt Ross
Phone: (515) 243-3353