Like many green industry professionals, Clark Tomlinson’s path toward owning a lawn care business wasn’t a straight one. From high school on through grad school, he spent ten years working summers on the greens of Lancaster Country Club with soon-to-be co-founder Dave Bomberger, who served as assistant superintendent at the course. Meanwhile, he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in counselor education, started a family and began a career as an elementary school counselor. Then in 1981, he and Dave co-founded a small lawn care business.
What Clark considered at the time to be “side work” would soon outgrow his highest expectations. And in 1984, after three years of dedication, Clark and Dave quit their jobs, took the leap and poured every ounce of energy into making Tomlinson Bomberger a best-in-class, full-service lawn and landscape company. And they did.
“Tomlinson Bomberger is buttoned up. Their shop, their offices, everything is professional. Their building is landscaped to a T… their vehicles are in great shape… and they really take care of their employees,” says Darrin Batisky, the Bayer area sales manager covering Clark’s region. “That’s where they shine. It’s hard work, but they’re good to their people.”
For Clark and Dave – who retired from the business in 2009 – doing great work and building trust are central to Tomlinson Bomberger’s mission to create and maintain beautiful, worry-free environments and lifelong relationships. But that’s not possible without great team members.
“We’re not successful without our co-workers,” Clark says. “It’s how we answer the phone, execute a work order, work on the job, follow-up… There are a lot of moving parts.” Success, according to Clark, comes from great co-workers who are fully committed to offering the best possible service to clients at every touchpoint. And it’s why each one of Tomlinson Bomberger’s 8,200 customers, spread across more than 100 individual routes, is assigned an account manager – who the client can call any time.
“Integrity is one of our core values,” Clark notes. “It’s really critical we’re always honest with our co-workers and our clients. That’s the key. Part of our mission statement is long-term relationships.”
And those lifelong relationships that Tomlinson Bomberger cultivate aren’t just in the client and co-worker spheres.
“The relationship that Tomlinson Bomberger has with Bayer pre-dates me,” Darrin says, noting a business relationship of more than 25 years. “For me, it’s really about being there any time they need something or might have a technical question. They’re always trying to get better and do better. And their customers are loyal to them, because they’re really good.” Relationships, says Clark, are at the heart of why and how business is done. “It’s been a great relationship, and Bayer has a really good reputation,” Clark says. “Bayer reps have come in and done educational training on products for our technicians, and there’s been a great partnership there. Bayer has been excellent with us.”
But according to Darrin, taking the extra time to really understand what customers need and to deliver against that isn’t going above and beyond – it’s just part of the job.
“We want to be that company that you have a good emotional experience with. And the only way to do that is to truly want to help. You can’t fake that,” Darrin says. “I’m a firm believer. I believe in these products. I believe in this industry. We create products that give our customers better conditions and a better green space.”
In addition to Armada® fungicide and Specticle® Total herbicide, one of the products Tomlinson Bomberger relies on most is Merit® insecticide for grub control. In fact, they’ve actually launched an acquisition program that uses Merit applications as a way to attract new customers.
“When we have ideas or promotions, Bayer has given us good counsel there,” Clark says, noting that although there are other grub control options available, “with the value they’ve brought us, we’re not changing.”
When it comes to relationships, Clark notes it’s not just about solving problems, customer retention or team morale. It’s also about identifying the strengths of those around you and helping to ensure they’re doing what they’re great at and truly passionate about.
“I surrounded myself with people who were much smarter than me,” Clark says. “Find people better than you and let them do their job.”