April 10, 2012
MEMPHIS, TENN. (April 10, 2012)… Kenny D. Crenshaw, owner and president of Herbi-Systems, Inc., in Bartlett has been named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce. The presentation took place at the organization’s monthly membership luncheon meeting Tuesday, April 10 at the Bartlett Performing Arts and Conference Center, 3663 Appling.
Crenshaw becomes the 6th recipient of the award that honors an individual who has made a noticeable contribution to the local economy and who has been recognized by the community as someone who makes a difference in how business is done, according to Bartlett Chamber officials. Crenshaw has been a Bartlett Chamber member since 2001 and is a former board member and legislative representative.
“Kenny is a hard working, no nonsense kind of guy with a healthy sense of humor and a desire to know all the facts before making a decision,” said Bartlett Chamber President John Threadgill. “He has been an active member of the Bartlett Chamber, having serving on our board of directors from 2008 – 2010, and has been a major sponsor of the Bartlett Business EXPO. His passion for life is reflected in his love for his family and his dedication to making Herbi-Systems the best it can be.”
As a home grown business, locally owned and operated since 1984, Herbi-Systems was lauded for its impressive growth in becoming the second largest lawn care provider in the Greater Memphis Area – – second only to national company, TruGreen. “The fact that Herbi-Systems is the largest locally owned lawn care provider in the Memphis market says a great deal given the extreme competitive nature of the business,” Threadgill added. Crenshaw began his business with one used Ford truck, which he bought for $4500, to currently 30 trucks costing upwards of $40,000 to $100,000 each. He saw employees grow from zero to 30 and clients from zero to nearly 8,000 plus industrial business from zero to 15,000 miles of roadside.
Herbi-Systems’ unique and unconventional marketing/advertising methods were also noted as “thinking outside the box.” Crenshaw’s signature line, “Lemme Kill Your Weeds®,” is regularly broadcast in TV ads and widely recognized by Mid-South audiences, making Crenshaw the face of Herbi-Systems and lawn care in Memphis. He also was applauded for his community involvement and civic support.
Crenshaw is no stranger to the entrepreneurial accolade. In 2009, he received the Solveras/National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Business Champion of Tennessee award. NFIB/Tennessee State Director Jim Brown described Crenshaw as “a tireless supporter of small business, well-informed, articulate and passionate about preserving free enterprise.” An NFIB member for 18 years, Crenshaw was one of the founding members of the Memphis Area Action Council of the NFIB where he has served as chair for the past six years. He also is on the state Leadership Council of NFIB.
In service to his community, Crenshaw has participated as a “champion” or leader in the Arlington National Cemetery Renewal and Remembrance project in Washington, DC since 2003, joining about 500 other landscape professionals across the nation in a day of mulching, cabling of trees, pruning, planting and aerating the grounds. Crenshaw organizes and directs 300 volunteers, applying crushed limestone pellets to raise soil pH for healthier grass. The labor of love occurs each July and is valued at more than $200,000. “I do it because it gives us a chance to give back to people who have served our country,” Crenshaw said. He usually takes along four of his employees – – one being Iraq war veteran, U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Tim Price. Crenshaw’s Uncle Ken Kruger, who served in the Navy, also is buried at Arlington.
Herbi-Systems also was named Memphis Business Journal finalist in the Small Business Awards, May 2005 and received a National BASF (Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik – German chemical products company) Pendulum Award in 2001, placing third place in the area of Marketing of Services for the company’s work with MyMemphisHome.net (featuring appearances by Crenshaw on a Saturday morning gardening show broadcast on CBS affiliate WREG-TV Ch. 3).
A lifelong resident of Northeast Shelby County, Crenshaw has from childhood chased the entrepreneurial dream and made it his mission to become a business owner. From running his own lawn mower shop at age 12, to laying an academic foundation, earning a bachelor of science degree in agricultural engineering technology and business from Mississippi State University (1984), he had the ambition as well as skill, intellect and business sense to take on the reins of his current position as president and owner of Herbi-Systems, Inc.
As the boss, Crenshaw believes in delegation rather than micromanaging. His motto is “Hire good people and then get out of their way.” Throughout the company’s history, Herbi-Systems has had very little turnover and some of Crenshaw’s employees have been with him for 20 years. “It is often said that the quality of a person is reflected in the attitude of those closest to him,” Chamber President Threadgill attested. “The fact that Kenny has assembled and retained a dedicated and loyal team of professionals speaks volumes to his style of management and is a major cause for his success.”
According to Crenshaw, the key to Herbi-Systems’ success is personalized customer service. What sets them apart from the rest is the personal callback. Herbi-Systems is the only company of its kind in the country to make individual follow-up calls to every customer after every application. In one year, Customer Service Rep Robin Wallace made 60,000 phone calls to current and potential customers. Further, the company’s technicians work the same routes, year after year, and get to know their customers. “The big companies don’t make these personal calls. “We figured out how to do it and still grow into a large company,” Crenshaw said.
The company experienced double-digit growth in the late 80s and 90s and steady 10 percent growth since that time. Today, even in the midst of a recession, Herbi-Systems grew about 5 percent in 2011.
Herbi-Systems serves homeowners as well as industrial, governmental and commercial industries. The company specializes in weed control and fertilization of turf and ornamentals, as well as industrial and right-of-way weed and brush control. Herbi-Systems operates out of a custom-built facility meant to protect the environment as well as allow the company to control costs by designing, servicing and maintaining its own equipment. The entire facility is constructed to allow immediate and thorough chemical cleanup and also allows the company to recycle water. In addition, Herbi-Systems provides the latest technology to assure that its herbicides are applied according to the stringent rules set forth by the EPA. All of Crenshaw’s employees have state certification in horticulture, lawn and turf. Crenshaw is a licensed herbicide applicator in six states.
Crenshaw also is a member of Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), national association of lawn care and landscape professionals; TVMA (Tennessee Vegetation Management Association) past board member; MVMA (Mississippi Vegetation Management Association) past board member, former president (1999 and 2007), and a member of PLCAA (Professional Lawn Care Association of America).
Bartlett Chamber Entrepreneur of the Year candidates are voted upon by the 600-member general membership, representing a market area of 250,000 persons. The candidates are narrowed to a short list of finalists, and a committee made up of BACC staff, board members and volunteers from the general membership selects the recipient.
The Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce is Northeast Shelby County’s largest business membership organization. The Bartlett Chamber’s primary function is to sustain and grow the economy of the region by representing the interests of its members, develop and implement programs that assist in the growth of existing businesses, market the community’s assets and attract new capital investment. (For more on the chamber, visit www.bartlettchamber.org)