May 15, 2014

A summary of the interview with Chris Speen, General Manager of Twin Oaks Landscape, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for drainage and storm water management by the professional publication Landscape Management. (original publication, see

Chris was looking for a differentiator, as there many landscape businesses in our area and they all offer the same type of services. He wanted to not only stand out from the crowd, but offer a unique service that could drive additional revenue. So he set out to find what was lacking in our area—and what he found was a need for drainage solutions and storm water management, with and without the installation of a landscape project.

“A plumber goes as far as taking care of the internal problem and getting the water outside, but what happens after that?” says Speen. “That’s where we come in.”


Pavers ruined due to improper drainage of downspouts.

The undertaking was no small feat, and Speen had to team up with a civil engineer to offer the service properly. The civil engineer can do drawings, answer questions, and of course puts the certified stamp on official plans. Since the job involves roadways, drainage ditches, and retention ponds, there’s a lot at play.

“We look at it and tell our clients it’s an opportunity to protect their asset or infrastructure,” explains Speen. “In the past, people may have ignored the retention pond for 20 years, and then have to put a ton of money into solving a problem. We talk to them about a maintenance program where they’re paying a smaller fee for an ongoing service, and often prevent those problems in the first place. Our goal is to get the  environment back to a proper state. If we can do a little bit of work each year, it’s much easier for a group like a Homeowner’s Association to budget for that, than to wait 20 years and have to fix a huge problem that wasn’t budgeted for.”

While the work got started with HOAs, Speen has also contracted with municipalities on a larger scale, as well as doing work on a smaller scale for individual residential properties that have storm water management issues. In terms of investment, the largest was the partnership with a civil engineer. “All of the tools you’d need are pretty basic,” says Speen. “We already had an excavator, a bobcat, and a loader, as well as an underground camera with scope. The resources were already there so the question was—how do we get the equipment we already have to do more work for us?”

“Our company is not focused so much on price, but on value. If we have a prospective client that only cares about price, we probably aren’t the right company for them. We offer high value by conducting the service the right way, and ultimately saving them thousands by managing their storm water runoff properly and in good timing.”


Storm Water Management System

Storm Water Management System

Retention / Detention pond - Before

Retention / Detention Pond Problem







Under the Road Culvert

Under the Road Culvert