St. Anthony: Marketing executive partners with beer giant to build Twin Cities landscaper
Steve Mura gave up a six-figure career several years ago and found the grass was greener on the other side.
The Richfield-based owner of Barrett Lawn Care and Signature Pools has profitably doubled the size of the business since 2017.
“There is no demarcation between my personal and professional life,” Mura said. “I have to take that call, even when I’m coaching a kids’ baseball game.
“But it doesn’t feel like work most of the time,” he added. “I also love changing people’s lives. We’ve doubled the income of some of our employees through our success and adding profit sharing and health care and a 401(k) retirement plan. ”
Mura’s 20-plus-year career in business began as an event marketer, trucking baked goods to Sara Lee-sponsored tournaments and festivals. This was followed by a 12-year run with what is now beer conglomerate Molson Coors.
A successful sales rep, he was promoted to Director of National Accounts in 2013 and Vice President of Global Innovation in 2015. He became a head office guy.
“I was pulled from the front lines, dealing with store managers, Buffalo Wild Wings, Kroger and Walmart, our biggest customers,” Mura recalled.
Mura became nervous when his boss, a bit of a maverick who had also advanced Mura, left in 2016. Mura was assigned to another boss and said he would have to move from Minneapolis to Denver and then to corporate headquarters. of Molson Coors.
“I realized my last job was to keep the executives and the board happy,” Mura said. “Pleasing the boss was more important than…running the company. The layoffs were accepted as necessary, as opposed to the failed leadership that he is. I can’t tell you the last time I saw someone ‘one in the leadership to retire on their terms and with dignity.’
The traditional beer industry was shrinking. Consolidators like Molson Coors, along with dozens of brands, acquired and merged to reduce costs, including people, and increase revenue.
Mura knew he could be fired at any time.
Jackie Woodward, who was Mura’s boss at Miller Coors from 2010 to 2013, recalled Mura as an outspoken and talented marketing executive who worked with her to successfully launch online advertising and other digital tools at a company that was slow to adapt.
“Steve was an entrepreneur in the corporate world who raised his hand to do new things,” said Woodward, now chief marketing officer for North Carolina-based Bojangles Restaurants. “He ran our digital properties. He could zigzag when the others were just zagging.”
Anyway, Mura was made as the headquarters jockey. He also wanted to end the trips separating the family. He hired Sunbelt Business Advisors to help him prospect.
“I watched truck stops and stuff,” Mura recalled. “I wanted to do something new. I wanted equity and I wanted to be a CEO.”
He bought Barrett Lawn Care in 2017 from a husband-wife team that was unwilling to invest in taking the business to the next level.
It worked for Mura.
He paid about $2 million for Barrett in 2017 and about $1.5 million for Signature Pools last year, with most of the funding coming from two loans guaranteed by the US Small Business Administration through Bank Vista, a small SBA oriented lender.
“We’ve doubled the size of the business to about $7 million in revenue this year,” Mura said. “Essentially, we developed it for free. We created something bigger and more valuable.”
Mura, who is 49, has invested in technology that has helped make the business more efficient. But the secret sauce is to hire and retain good people, he said.
Planting, mowing, digging and building is hard and dirty work. The minimum wage is $18. Most assembly line workers earn $23 or more per hour. It is supplemented by profit sharing, bonuses and pension contributions. Some line workers have been promoted to managers over $50,000.
“I pay more because they do more for the company,” Mura said. “I respect our hard-working employees. I run the business and provide good equipment. I make sure we do quality work. And the key to success and customer retention is committed employees who do a good job.”
David Kuehn, a laborer who was promoted to head the fertilizer division last year, said Mura helped him grow after other jobs, including selling cars, didn’t last. .
“I also don’t mind getting my hands dirty and working hard,” Kuehn said.
Peter Hatinen, a Minneapolis residential client for whom Barrett provides lawn and landscaping services, said he was impressed that people who consulted on a landscaping project “have also come to work on the project. . And I also got the impression that the employees are treated well by the management. It was a happy team.