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Northern Landworks: A one-man-show

The Door County company brings different approach to landscaping business

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August 10, 2023

DOOR COUNTY – When Andrew Fox moved to Door County with his wife five years ago, he said he felt like a transition into a new career was needed.

“(My wife) grew up here and we were ready for a change,” he said. “I had been in corporate sales for 14 years working at Coca-Cola, Briggs and Stratton and other sales jobs. So, when we moved up here, I worked for an excavation landscape company.”

While very different from the corporate world, Fox said he was familiar with the landscaping industry, working various landscaping jobs in high school and college as a way to earn some money.

Though, he said he had no idea that it would be the field he would return to later in life.

“My dad was in sales and it was the direction I thought I was going to go in life – climb the corporate ladder and do the sales thing,” he said. “But something just wasn’t fitting. The jobs were great, the people were great, but it was always like something was missing.”

After 10 different sales jobs in 15 years, Fox said he decided to transition back into a career that had been a part of his earlier life.

“We moved up here and it was time to get back into it,” he said. “That’s when I went to a (local) landscape company and put a little time in there.”

Andrew Fox

It was through that job and Fox’s previous experience that he said sparked the desire to pursue his own landscaping business.

“I saw that there’s a good need for it,” he said. “Some of the things that were lacking with other companies, you would hear over and over from different customers. We took that leap I had been talking about doing for a while. One day, I came home, and my wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘It’s time.’ I found some holes in the system, and (wanted to) try to fill it.”

Fox started Northern Landworks LLC in 2022.

“We’re a small excavation company based out of Sturgeon Bay, which is where most of our work happens,” he said. “We’ll go as far north as Washington Island, and we will do some work in Green Bay.”

Fox said not only did his experience in the industry serve as inspiration to branch out on his own, it also helped mold his business approach.

“When you talk to enough customers, you get an idea of what you want to do,” he said. “I kept hearing over and over that people weren’t getting returned calls. Meetings were being missed. Deadlines were being missed. I think part of that comes from being a larger company. You’ve got a lot more moving parts, and a lot more employees and turnover. You’re just kind of juggling a lot more things, which is why I wanted to go solo.”

One-man show
Outside of administrative assistance from his wife, Fox said he runs the business from top to bottom.

“You can give that customer service and you can work directly with the customer,” he said. “You’re not relaying work instructions down to employees or anybody else and you manage the whole thing, start to finish. I have that ongoing relationship with the customer.”

One of the most important aspects of running his business, Andrew Fox said, is providing good customer service. Submitted Photo

Fox said he believes his company fits a particular project need in the Door County region.

“What we saw when we started out was that there are a lot of large companies up here, but there’s kind of those projects that fall between ‘not-too-big’ but ‘not-too-small’” said Fox. “It’s just bigger than what a homeowner can handle themselves. So that’s why we built the business around one man in a skid steer and a bunch of attachments.”

So far, Fox said working as a one-man-band has been a success.

“It really has worked to our advantage,” he said. “People love the idea of getting just me (on a project). You call me, I’m the one doing the work, and we have the relationship. There’s no middleman – I’m not sending a team out to do the work or hoping that it’s going to get done the way you want it.”

Despite making a 180 career turn, Fox said he’s been able to apply his sales skills to Northern Landworks.

“Being able to take what I learned in my sales jobs – such as organization and customer service – and translate that into this industry, is a little unique,” he said. “I hear it almost every day, such as a ‘thanks for answering the call,’ which is something so simple. These are things that are just ingrained in me now, and I can translate that over to an industry that might be lacking some of that.”

To ensure that he’s working best within his business approach, Fox said he is particular about the projects he takes on.

“I set the expectations with all my customers,” he said. “I set realistic time frames, and I don’t get into projects that I know are going to be over my head. I have a network of people that I know up here, and I’ll pass work on if it’s something that is not in my wheelhouse or it’s just too big for me. I’d rather give out a referral to a customer for someone I trust to work with than just try to get it done myself when I don’t have the capabilities.”

Personally, Fox said he has found his business approach to be fulfilling for him.

“There’s no one to complain to when you are your own boss,” he said. “You’re picking the jobs. So it’s rewarding. Every day is different, and every day is busy.”

Offering a niche service
One of the main machines Fox uses is the skid steer mower, which he said has allowed Northern Landworks to tap into a different landscaping service that isn’t as common up in the peninsula.

Andrew Fox, owner of Northern Landworks, said his skid steer mower allows him to tap into a more niche side of the landscaping business – such as working with gravel driveways. Submitted Photo

“There are a lot of landscape companies up here and a lot of people doing what we do,” he said. “But our main focus is gravel driveways and other gravel work. We don’t veer too much from it. We’ll do some other things during spring and fall to fill the schedule before the season really kicks off, so we’ll do some other stuff too. But we try to stick to our core and be really good at what we do.”

The amount of work available in Northern Landworks’ coverage area, Fox said, is constant.

“In Door County, there are endless gravel driveways up here,” he said. “So I would say that’s our bread and butter. We’ve bought all the tools and attachments to make the business thrive and set us apart from some of our competition.”

Though Fox has found his company to be niche with his solo approach and selection of project sizes and choices, he said he still offers different services within his excavation landscape work.

“When you start looking at all the different things that a skid steer can do, it’s kind of endless,” he said. “Every attachment I buy is a different business avenue, whether it’s pulling stumps, removing brush, or even cutting trails.”

With Door County as his business’s backdrop, Fox said he knows there should always be a need for the services he offers.

“There’s so much need in Door County,” he said. “People want to be outdoors, people want to use their land and it’s just tailoring our equipment and tools to get their property in the way that they want it.”

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