Complete Landscaping and Michael’s Complete Lawn Care to share work space

WICHITA — Complete Landscaping Systems owner Laura McMurray was looking through tax lien notices when she saw competitor Michael’s Complete Lawn Care.

She also saw an opportunity and called co-owner Michael Ackerman Jr. to brainstorm how the two businesses could help each other.

“We have two companies that are struggling,” McMurray says.

She has extra space at her company’s headquarters at 1727 E. Second St., so McMurray proposed they combine work spaces – without combining business.

“We’re not merging … but we will be operating out of the same facility.”

McMurray, who says the move means a savings of at least 60 percent annually for each company, says it’s an approach that other landscaping companies are taking nationally.

“It’s just completely thinking outside the box to try to save overhead costs,” Ackerman says. “I would have never thought this would happen.”

Ackerman, who owns Michael’s with his parents, Connie and Mike Ackerman Sr., has 11 full-time employees and anywhere from 35 to 60 employees during peak season. He leases 15,000 square feet of space in three buildings at 2320 S. Mead.

McMurray, who has 23 full-time employees and about 100 during peak season, has two 7,000-square-foot buildings, one of which she’ll continue to use and one that Ackerman now will use. He says he especially likes that there’s lots of exterior space, which helps for all of the company’s large equipment.

The two businesses also will begin using each other as subcontractors.

Complete Landscaping will subcontract its chemical treatments, fertilization and weed control to Michael’s.

“That’s going to add at least $100,000 if not more of sales to my company,” Ackerman says.

Michael’s is going to subcontract irrigation work to Complete Landscaping, which Ackerman says should mean an extra $100,000 or more in sales for McMurray’s company.

“We’re helping each other out,” Ackerman says. “It’s just working out very well.”

Both companies are struggling with financial issues, some of which are related to the lack of snow – and the need for snow-removal services – over the last couple of years.

“It’s the most profitable division of our business,” McMurray says.

She says snow removal, which her company does nationally, accounts for 50 percent of her business. Ackerman says it’s 20 percent of his.

Ackerman owes about $150,000 in state taxes.

McMurray is in litigation with Bank of America over what she contends was the bank’s fraudulent sharing of her company’s information with competitors. That’s resulted in legal issues with her subcontractors that McMurray says she can’t resolve until the situation with Bank of America is over.

Even though Complete Landscaping and Michael’s will be sharing space, they’re also still competitors.

“In fact, direct competitors,” McMurray says.

That was something to consider when contemplating sharing space.

Ackerman says he went from being “a little bit hesitant in the beginning” to realizing he had no choice but to make the move.

“It’s something we pretty much have to do to make things work,” he says. “We’ve got way too much invested in this. We just have to make sure we can survive.”