“Like father, like son,” is a phrase that in many ways could be applied to this years Illinois Landscape Contractors Association Man of the Year. The honor that is being accorded, however, recognizes an individual that, while continuing in the family landscaping business that his dad launched back in 1951 and serving – as his father had – as a president of the ILCA, 2017 Man of the Year recipient Bill Davids has made his own mark on the company he now leads – and on the industry it serves.
Though Bill followed to a large degree in the footsteps of his father, company founder Clarence, each man had a distinct vision for the company, which they applied in steering the business – an enterprise which has won more than 200 awards on state and national levels for achievement in landscape design and maintenance. Recently, in 2015, the company was recognized with four awards in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Association’s Curb Appeal competition.
“We worked together many years,” relates the son, in recalling the familial collaboration. For his part, Bill Davids would pursue the design-build process, introducing a service offering that he believed was “necessary to go along with maintenance.” Today, the company is a full-service contractor offering a wide array of services from maintenance, design-build, installation, lawn care, snow removal and tree pruning to creating seasonal flower displays and providing holiday decor.
“Design always interested me,” says the younger Davids, who studied horticulture at Michigan State University. He conveys that in business such as the one in which he grew up – and grew into, “There’s a lot to learn.” He also acknowledges the senior Davids’ appreciation of this requisite to success. “My father thought education was important,” he relates. The current company president, in turn, carries the same outlook when it comes to developing employees. “We support further education,” he says. “As we’ve been blessed as the company grows, we bless other people with key positions.
A great example
The company also maintains a focus on environmental consciousness and sustainability, as well as expresses a commitment to providing a safe work place for employees, its customers and the general public. Impressive, too, is that fact that Bill Davids can name some big-time commercial clients that the company has maintained from the contractor’s early ventures into this market – an accomplishment that can be credited to company leadership.
Bill’s business leadership style has not gone unnoticed. Industry colleague, Jim Melka, who as founder of Melka Landscaping & Garden Center in Mokena, Ill., is another south suburban contractor observes, “The one word that comes to mind when thinking of Bill is ‘professionalism.’ It radiates throughout the entire company.”
Clarence Davids & Company has also maintained a long-time relationship with ILCA, a relationship that Bill values strongly. “ILCA has meant a lot to us over the years,” he says, citing learning opportunities the affiliation has afforded. He also expresses an appreciation of the affiliation with what he sees as some of the “most knowledgeable and largest landscaping firms in the United States.” It appears that fellow ILCA members have a mutual appreciation for Bill’s service to the association.
Preceding Bill as president of ILCA was Kenny Gallt, founder of Foliage Design Systems, Lombard, Ill. Gallt: “Bill is one of those quiet supporters of ILCA and the landscape industry. Through Bill’s leadership, he has grown Clarence Davids landscaping business into one of the most distinguished companies in the country. While doing this, Bill has found time to give to others in the community, and to ILCA as a past board member, office, and president.
“But more important, the association has always been able to call on Bill and his company for his support for talent for ILCA committees and participation in the ILCA programs,” Gallt continues. “Bill through his leadership sets a great example for anyone in this industry.”
A steady hand on the rudder
Frank Mariani, who leads Mariani Landscape in Lake Bluff, Ill., served on the ILCA board with Bill, and shares some observations of Bill’s manner. “What I enjoyed most is his steady and consistent hand on the rudder. He always took the time to think before he spoke and for that reason his words carried a lot of weight,” relates Mariani. “I also admire Bill as he took over for this father Clarence, who was a well-respected legend in our industry and one of the founding members of ILCA. Those were big shoes to fill and Bill was and still is up to the job!”
Also serving on the board with Bill was Scott McAdam, president of McAdam Landscaping, Forest Park, Ill. “What I always remembered was that he was a quiet leader,” recalls McAdam. “He had a calm demeanor about him and was very thorough in his thought process. He always had the best interest of the industry, even before his company, no matter what issue was before the board. He was also very humble and well grounded. He was quite passionate about the industry and what the association could do to help move us to be a more professional organization.”
Perhaps Melka sums up why Davids is being recognized with the Man of the Year honor for 2016-17. “Bill has set the bar to provide the highest quality of service and integrity in the landscape maintenance industry,” declares Melka. “I am proud to be involved in a profession that has such as a dedicated and reputable individual like Bill Davids.”
NOTE: This article appears in the January 2017 edition of The Landscape Contractor. It was written by Barbara Dutton.