Meet Austin Hall, President and Owner of Greenwise Organic Lawn Care & Landscaping
Get to know Austin, a new member of the EFBC.
Location: Evanston, IL
Tell us about your career leading up to where you are now.
I grew up in family business, which greatly influenced my desire to own my company. Our family owned a lumber and building products distribution business in Indianapolis for nearly 40 years, and my grandfather, his partner and my father operated the company. Growing up, I loved being around the business. I spent a ton of time at our yards, in the office and knew many of the employees. I spent many summers working there. In a way, small business is in my blood, and even just out of college I felt a real pull towards working in a small business. Our family’s business was sold in 2008, so purchasing a company was a way for me to do that.
I attended Indiana University and studied Finance and Spanish. I graduated in 2010, and after college, I spent the first four years of my career in the financial services industry. I spent two years with an investment bank in New York City and focused on M&A transactions with industrial companies – primarily aerospace, defense, government services and packaging companies. It was a tough job, but the experience taught me a lot of foundational business skills. I moved back to the Midwest in 2012 to work for a Chicago-based private equity firm and worked there for two years. There I learned a lot about due diligence and structuring transactions. I worked with a lot of business owners and CEOs, and I wanted to be on their side of the table. So both of those experiences really pushed me in the direction of small business and operating a company. I applied to a handful of business schools and was lucky enough to be accepted at Harvard Business School where I spent two years. It was a wonderful place. I met some great friends and learned a lot about leadership and general management along the way. I started business school knowing that I would ultimately search for a business to acquire after graduation, and I started that search in late 2016. I searched full-time for a company to buy, banging down the door of anyone who would talk to me! Over the course of those two years I looked at roughly 500 companies in some depth. In the second year of my search, I evaluated a number of landscaping businesses and developed a real interest in the industry. In November 2018, I purchased Greenwise Organic Lawn Care. The transaction took about nine months from start to finish. I’m three years into the purchase and operating the business day to day. Greenwise is located in Evanston and we service the northern, northwestern and western suburbs and have a sizeable presence in the city as well.
What do you like most about what you do?
Landscaping is a fun business. I often get the chance to be outdoors at our clients’ properties. We’re an organic lawn care business and our clients value the safety of their children and pets and the environment. They choose us largely because of the materials we use and the peace of mind that comes with our products being safe and non-toxic. Locally, we’ve helped push forward a movement around sustainable landscaping, and it’s inspiring to see how our reach and impact is growing. Our folks working in the field are extraordinarily hard-working, and that’s inspiring to see as well. Overall, leading a team to build a great business is the best job I can imagine. There’s always a problem to solve and opportunities to grow and improve. I love helping people grow and develop in our company and supporting them to build something special.
How did you hear about the EFBC?
Jeff Conner is a friend and mentor of mine and introduced me to the EFBC in 2016. I was lucky to spend a summer working for Jeff in his business, Liners Direct, while I was in business school to evaluate if I really wanted to pursue a career in small business. Jeff spoke often about his forum and how he had grown over the years with the folks in his group. I also know Darrin Shillair (Specialty Sales Inc) who more recently joined the EFBC - He also has wonderful things to say about his forum. So between those two endorsements, it was a no-brainer!
Why did you join, and what do you hope to gain from your membership?
I was looking for a group of folks who could help me develop as a leader and an individual while also contributing my perspective to help others grow. I know a lot of younger people that have purchased small businesses. Candidly, I was looking for a group of business owners with more operating experience so that, as a younger business owner, I could learn from their successes and failures. I have a lot to learn as a leader and was seeking both peers and mentors. Having worked in the M&A and private equity businesses, my hope was to be able to offer my experience on topics like purchasing and selling companies, raising capital and structuring transactions to my forum. I’m new to my forum and I’ve been overwhelmed by how the group accepted and supported me right from the start. I feel very fortunate to be part of the group.
Join us in welcoming Austin to the EFBC community. Members can log in and connect with Austin via the EFBC Member Directory.