Family Business: Highland Landscaping brings the clan for work

MacLean Family

Highland Landscaping LLC

820 A Enterprise Place

Southlake 76092

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Ian MacLean never intended to own a landscaping business. Count him as likely one of the few landscape construction business owners with a degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering.

Ian’s father, John, retired from American Airlines after managing a $16 billion annual budget and brokering the largest airplane purchase in aviation history. Ian’s fascination with aviation led Ian to attend the University of North Dakota to pursue a career in aviation.

Then 9/11 happened and his aviation-related degree had lost its luster as pilots were laid off by the thousands. There would be no career as a pilot or instructor.

MacLean had always planned to return home to Southlake and the first jobs he found were in the landscaping industry. After a short time in the industry he told his father, “I could make this my career. We could make this a career as a family.”

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He was in Southlake when Southlake wasn’t cool.

“When I was growing up here in the 1990s, I had to tell people that Southlake was the small town just west of Grapevine,” said MacLean. There are fewer explanations now as Southlake has become a premiere destination for shopping as well as known for its executive lifestyle.

Highland Landscaping began 18 years ago in August with Ian MacLean and three part-time employees. It has grown to include six members of the MacLean Clan, as they like to call themselves.

His father, John, serves as Chief Procurement Officer and Financial Adviser; Ian’s brother, Jason, is  Senior Vice President of Operations & Planning; his mother, Jacqueline, was the initial bookkeeper, issuing handwritten invoices, and she now authors the company newsletter; and Ian’s two sisters, Sarah and Courtney, worked in the family business for close to 10 years each.

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“Clan” is an accurate term for this family steeped in Scottish tradition. For decades, many of them have taken the trip to the MacLean Clan Gathering every five years at the Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull, the ancient home of Clan Maclean. These MacLeans do honor the Scottish traditions, complete with kilts and bagpipes.

“Clan” is also a way of life in this family business. The family atmosphere is authentic and even non-MacLean members in the 48-employee Highland Landscaping feel like family.

Throughout the years, some employees have left for what had been presented as a better opportunity, only to return. They said they missed the family-style culture, the sense of belonging, and occasionally sharing lunch around the table in the conference area.

MacLean men in kilts courtesy photo

Ian calls it “glue.”

“Every business will experience differences of opinion regarding direction, and in many of those cases, frustrated employees depart. With our business, the clan – our family – is the glue that holds us all together.

“We can feel how our culture permeates throughout the company, and everyone senses that we are a second family.”

Jason MacLean notes that when someone leaves, there a 90% chance they will return.

“We have a way of life that gives our employees a sense of belonging. They become part of our MacLean Clan,” he said.

Ian leads the team to focus on excellence, which is more than just a buzzword.

“Highland Landscaping has a higher Google Rating than the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas – just check us out!” He’s correct, as Highland scores a lofty 4.9 out of 5.0 points while the Ritz-Carlton is a 4.7. Impressive.

Highland Landscaping began 18 years ago this month and Ian worked small residential jobs, building a reputation for thoroughness and an eye for design. His first breakthrough occurred when he won the bid for the Chick-fil-A job on Southlake Boulevard.

The franchisee at the time, Mark Guilbert, chose Ian because of his imaginative plan for making the restaurant’s drive-through area a miniature botanical garden, punctuated with seasonal foliage and flowers that were switched out as seasons changed.

Guilbert received so many compliments for the landscaping that he called Ian and offered approval for Highland to display a small sign at the edge of the landscaping. Ian reports that the small 6 X 12-inch sign had an impact that led to millions of dollars of business from impressed patrons of Chick-fil-A.

That small sign also helped lead the City of Southlake to choose Highland to landscape four roundabout intersections. Next came the landscaping project for the Hilton in Southlake Town Square, the Brian R. Stebbins Park in Town Square, and major residential and commercial assignments.

Ian MacLean became involved in the Southlake Chamber of Commerce when that Chick-fil-A client, Guilbert, left to become CEO of the chamber. He convinced MacLean to join, and then to become more active.

Before MacLean knew it, he was chairing the massive Oktoberfest that has drawn 100,000 attendees each fall, and he chaired the chamber twice in 2014-2016.  Southlake Oktoberfest is now rated by Oktoberfest USA to be the No. 1 Oktoberfest in Texas and No. 4 in the nation.

That involvement opened the door for Ian to be approached by the United States Chamber of Commerce to serve on its Small Business Council. Now in his third year on the council, he will chair the Small Business Council starting in October.

The other glue that holds the MacLeans together is their shared faith.

They played a pivotal role in creating and implementing Mission in the Marketplace, a Christian faith community event that has featured former Baylor Bears football coach Grant Teaff and Dallas Cowboy & NFL Hall of Famer Bob Lilly.

Ian MacLean has also helped lead the charge for the Southlake Chamber’s prayer breakfasts, which have occurred virtually each month for the past three months.

He attributes being selected by Mark Guilbert to landscape Chick-fil-A and then working together on the Southlake Chamber as a Godwink – an intentional series of events framed by God rather than be a mere coincidence.

Until this pandemic, Highland Landscaping performed more commercial landscaping than residential. COVID-19 changed that, according to Ian.

“We experienced a common malady with our competitors, as many of the corporate accounts were having cash flow issues. They responded by slowing their pay to vendors like us,” he said.

Highland is fortunate to be located in a robust community where a great number of its residents are of strong financial means.

These executives determined that if they would be spending most of their time working from home – with many situated on their patio or around a swimming pool – they wanted to elevate the experience with dramatically more attractive and inspirational landscaping, according to MacLean.

This pivot in focus has led the MacLean clan to increase the amount of its residential work in the past several months, a trend that should continue into the future.

– FWBP Staff