Focus on Florida LAWN & LANDSCAPE

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As the founder of PRO­LAS – a landscape ser­vices and outdoor de­sign/build company based in Freeport, Trinidad – Narase Boodoosingh has made it his mission to advance the sci­ence and professionalism of the landscape industry in his home country and across the Caribbean.

He hopes to bring that same purpose-driven energy to a new network of U.S.-based cli­ents when he opens PROLAS’s planned Tampa, Florida, office early next year.
“The desire for landscape ser­vices and outdoor living in the U.S. is much greater than in Trini­dad, so it will allow us to expand our operations,” explained Boo­doosingh, who founded PROLAS in 1990.
Building a new business model. Boodoosingh launched his com­pany just after graduating from The University of the West In­dies with a degree in agronomy. He feels he was lucky to enter the field at precisely the right moment to help establish and grow the landscape industry in Trinidad.
“When I came into landscaping in Trinidad, it was evolving. You had only three or four major com­panies in the country,” he said.
From the beginning, Boodoos­ingh believed in building his business on a foundation of pro­fessionalism and sound customer service.
“Our customer service is what has generated all of our work for the last 29 years,” he said. “We have never advertised our busi­ness. (People know) our company is based on principals, on quality, and professionalism.”
Over the years, PROLAS’s em­phasis on employee training and professional industry standards has helped them stand out from some competitors in their field, said Nevash Rambaran, PRO­LAS’s business development of­ficer, who has been with the com­pany for roughly five years.
“Landscaping in Trinidad tends to be a lot of people who are gifted around plants, but who are not professionally trained,” Ram­baran said. “Mr Boodoosingh brings an intellectual aspect to landscaping. He models a stud­ied approach to landscaping like someone who would study law or study medicine.”
Over the years, Boodoosingh has been actively involved in several professional associations — including the former Profes­sional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA), the National Association of Landscape Pro­fessionals (NALP), and the In­ternational People-Plant Council (IPPC) – and he feels the relation­ships and knowledge he’s learned through these networks has been instrumental to his business’ suc­cess.
“In Trinidad, there were no pro­fessional landscape associations. There was only a horticulture so­ciety, which was more focused on flowers.
After attending trade shows in the U.S., he realized he had a community that he could commu­nicate with. “I would learn about processes for measuring our op­erations, and then come back to Trinidad and fine-tune them,” he says.
Measuring everything. Adopt­ing a scientific approach, Boo­doosingh began measuring all aspects of his growing business – from daily field operations to fuel use to employee training and proficiency.
“We set benchmarks for our workers, letting them know ‘This is what we expect you to accom­plish,’” Boodoosingh says. “And we set those benchmarks based on data.”
PROLAS also adopted a multi-faceted employee rating and re­ward system to incentivize hard work and professionalism.
“We went through many evolu­tions of bonus and grading sys­tems trying to find the best means to reward workers,” Boodoosingh said. “Work ethic was a big chal­lenge. Early on, the people attract­ed to landscaping were dropouts from school. So, training became a part of our business model.”
To reward and build a culture of professionalism, PROLAS’s employees received bonuses for arriving to work on time, being in their uniforms, having few safety errors, and more.
After a few years, basic em­ployee protocols like attendance and uniform wear became part of the company’s culture and no longer needed to be reinforced, allowing Boodoosingh to focus instead on rewarding on-the-job skills and professional advance­ment for his employees.
“We have a grading system. You come into the company, and if you can do a skill in a certain time, you can be considered a grade 1, or grade 2, or grade 3 employee,” he said, noting that employees have a clear sense of how to advance, as they acquire additional skills within the
agency.
The transformation in his com­pany culture from its origins to to­day has been striking. In the early years, it was sometimes difficult to find employees, since PRO­LAS was known for having “so many rules,” Boodoosingh said.
Fast forward to now, and em­ployees view experience with PROLAS as a boon to their re­sumes since its professionalism is respected in Trinidad, even out­side of the landscape industry.
Expanding to outdoor living. As PROLAS grew throughout the 1990s, Boodoosingh’s scientific, systematic approach to business paid dividends quickly. By 2001, PROLAS had grown to 52 em­ployees, with clients ranging from small residences to large commer­cial and business clients including the Airport Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, the country’s Parlia­ment building and the U.S. Em­bassy in Trinidad.
When the recession hit Trinidad in 2015, PROLAS remained com­mitted to providing high-quality services, even as some high-pro­file clients shifted to other, lower-cost bidders.
“There were companies just in­terested in getting the job done, and that became a disadvantage to us,” Boodoosingh said. “But at the end of the day, we wanted to maintain our brand as a quality-oriented company.”
More recently, PROLAS has added an outdoor living division to its landscaping services, hop­ing to build an entirely new mar­ket for these products in Trinidad. The company’s outdoor living product showroom – featuring on-site models for pools, kitch­ens, patios, pergolas, gazebos and even artificial turf – is one of the first and largest in the region.
“We own a compound that’s about 70,000 square feet,” Boo­doosingh said. “When customers come to our property, they can see something that’s alive.”
“It’s been exciting to bring a new, indoor-outdoor lifestyle trend to Trinidad,” said Boo­doosingh’s wife, Shellene, who manages PROLAS’s front office and business accounts. “We’re promoting outdoor living options for our customers down here. It’s very new here, and it’s rewarding to bring ideas to them about what is possible.”
PROLAS anticipates that its outdoor living division will be a strong part of its business in Flor­ida as well.
Paying it forward. Boodoos­ingh has been proud to see PRO­LAS “set the benchmark for the industry” in Trinidad in its nearly 30 years of operations, he said.
To continue advancing the in­dustry in the country and through­out the broader Caribbean, Boo­doosingh hopes to create an educational and training resource centre in Trinidad so that green industry professionals from the U.S. and other countries can lead workshops there.
Plans for such an active inter­national partnership are one of the driving factors behind Boodoos­ingh’s decision to expand his op­erations to Florida in the coming months.
“The idea is to send my em­ployees from Trinidad to Florida, and back and forth, in sort of an exchange program, to see how operations work in both coun­tries,” he said.
Both Narase and Shellene Boo­doosingh plan to move to Florida to help establish their new of­fice. Their oldest son, Naveen, who helps with social media and marketing for their company, is preparing to enrol in college in the U.S. to potentially study land­scape architecture.
Already, PROLAS has had calls from prospective landscape clients in the Florida market and has begun building partnerships with U.S.-based outdoor living companies, Boodoosingh said.
“I believe outdoor living and landscaping go hand in hand. We believe one can coexist with the other,” he said. Further, he feels that by diversifying his busi­ness model, he’s helping insulate PROLAS from any potential fu­ture market recessions.
After opening the Tampa of­fice in early 2020, Boodoosingh hopes to open another office in Palm Beach within the next two years or so.
“The whole idea is to expand in order to get competitive import prices for our products,” Boo­doosingh said.
“We’ll be buying for the Ca­ribbean islands and buying for our U.S. stores.” Eventually, Boodoosingh has plans to open a landscape superstore in Trinidad.
“It’s not just about generating income,” he said. “It’s about gen­erating income in an area where we believe we are profession­als, in an area where we feel we can help educate the market and where we feel very competent in our staff members’ ability to do the job.”