The Taheny kids learned the value of work at a young age. Ryan and Colin helped out around the house and also at their family’s two businesses, one being a law firm and the other a construction company. Learning the value of commitment to hard work and the benefits that come with supporting your family provided them a strong foundation for when they would eventually grow up and strike out on their own.
That time came when Ryan and Colin started Ryco Landscaping (Ryco) in 1996 out of the family home in South Barrington, Illinois. (Ryco is a mix of the two brothers’ first names, Ry- and Co-). A couple of years later, their sister, Shannon O’Neil, joined them in running the business, and she rounded out the team with sharp management skills.
“Contribution was always the expectation in our family,” said Ryan, who is president of Ryco. “As kids we were in charge of the ‘outside.’ We were expected to take care of the yard; cut the grass, blow the leaves, trim the bushes.”
“Our parents were great. They helped give us different opportunities to let us determine what our true interests and strengths are,” Shannon added. “And they were supportive, open and encouraging,” Ryan confirmed.
A quarter of a century later, Ryco is celebrating its 25th year in business, and its success is a direct result of the values its founders learned as kids.
“It’s fair to say that growing up, the three of us had a strong understanding of what’s important and what it takes to build a strong work ethic,” Ryan said. “And then when you start work you take that into business.”
Ryco Landscaping serves mostly larger homes and higher-end businesses with expansive yards and manicured finishes in the northern, northwest and western suburbs of Chicago, stretching upwards to the greater region surrounding Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The company sees an even mix of residential and commercial customers and specializes in landscape design for architects, contractors, municipalities and homeowners.
Ryco runs the business from two locations: one in South Barrington and another in the village of Lake in the Hills, where Ryan and Colin typically meet with clients to discuss their landscaping vision and needs. Ryco’s culture is positive, open to feedback and welcomes new ideas to help the company reach the ultimate goal of providing the best possible service to its customers.
“We’re open-minded, so we can adapt quickly,” Ryan said. “Hearing from our staff in the field is incredibly valuable. They’re really the ones out there making it happen. You must listen to what their positions are, what they’re hearing, what they’re feeling and what they are sensing. It’s not just one individual, it’s every individual.”
Shannon agreed, adding, “We’re really big on ‘team.’ It takes all of us. We place high value on our conversations as a team and the ideas that come from those conversations. We’re really trying to create an atmosphere in which people have a voice. Everyone is a spoke in the wheel.”
Ryco employs around 90 staff members. Its design-build department mainly handles residential customers, while its maintenance crews cater mostly to commercial clients. The company emphasizes the value of continued learning to its staff and encourages them to further their education through courses and certifications in the landscaping industry.
Ryco also runs a veteran's program, and some of the vets that the company hires become its most valuable employees. Ryan credits this to their discipline and great organizational skills. Vets and seasonal workers often train each other, sharing their unique experiences and enriching each other’s work with new abilities.
“It comes down to the 4 P’s: People, Process, Progress, Profits. And there’s a reason people are first on the list,” Colin said.
Ryco used to have a lawn care fleet that consisted of many brands of equipment, but in 2014 the company overhauled its machinery portfolio and worked to make changes with local Gravely dealer Halloran Power Equipment (Halloran), which is based in nearby Palatine, Illinois.
“It was just too much to manage,” Ryan said of working with multiple brands. “Different manufacturers, different parts, different widgets. We started talking with Gravely to streamline our fleet. Over the course of a few months, we restructured everything. It became a lot easier to maintain and repair equipment, and to train people to do it. Parts turnaround times became a lot faster and the process was smoother, too.”
At that time, Ryco also worked with AriensCo to “kaizen” its lawn equipment management. Kaizen is the Japanese term for “change for the better,” a business philosophy that engages all employees to continuously improve processes and operations.
“The team at AriensCo looked at the way we did things, reconfigured operations and then assembly-lined it. That’s what we did together. It really helped us a lot,” Ryan said. “That reaffirmed our decision to work with Gravely. Because now AriensCo is part of our company and part of our success.”
Ryco works with both grass and snow products. All of its snow blowers are Ariens machines, and all of its mowers are Gravely. The business also owns two Gravely Atlas JSV units that are popular among its staff. Colin attributes part of the success of the partnership to AriensCo’s “great product development.”
“Something to be proud of is that over many decades, the Ariens family continues to adapt to meet market demands, and people love their products,” he said. “The great usability of Gravely’s mowing equipment actually reflects on an operator’s body. Our landscapers feel less fatigued at the end of the day. It helps them get through the seasons. There’s also a big focus on safety from Gravely, which we obviously appreciate.”
Ryan also sees Ryco’s business partnership with Halloran, its Gravely dealer, as crucial to the company’s achievements in recent years.
“Halloran’s values of exceptional service and customer satisfaction align with ours. They own the work, they work hard, they’re upfront and they’re truly proactive. They come to us to suggest the Gravely products that will help us improve our business. Like, ‘Hey, they’re coming out with something new that could help you be a little bit more efficient.’ It comes down to Halloran knowing our business, and Gravely knowing the market to offer better solutions. Halloran comes to us not just trying to make a sale, but actually trying to help us be a better company.”
Shannon said it’s about knowing the people behind the different aspects of Ryco’s business.
“Relationships are very important,” she said. “Relationships with our employees, our vendors and our customers. We realize the importance of having a good relationship with our Gravely dealer, as well as the manufacturer. We’ve invested a lot of money in Gravely equipment over the years, and we want to know who they are — whether they’re good people and if they run their company well.”
Looking back, 2020 was a good year for Ryco, but it was also a very challenging year, the Taheny brothers said. Ryan recalled that the landscaping industry in the area was hit by four major tests.
“First, we got such heavy downpours that flooded most of the Midwest, then we had COVID-19 hit us all throughout the year. We had to deal with labor shortages, too. Then we had a dry spell. We had four major obstacles thrown at us and we persevered. And it was all because of teamwork.”
Ryan said his team came up with clever ways to deal with the multiple crises. One example was how it got around the hand sanitizer shortage that afflicted consumers for several months.
“We had employees come to the table and say, ‘Hey, we know how to make hand sanitizer. These are the basic ingredients,’” Ryan recalled. “So as a collective force of team members, we went out and found each one of the ingredients to make sanitizer in bulk form, both for our company and our employees’ families.”
Ryan said he and his staff also pulled together to help those who needed food and other supplies.
“We built an assistance program inside our company. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones. I’m sure other companies did that. So that was a great feel-good moment during these trying times.”
And through all the difficulties of 2020 and early 2021, Ryco has been able to get the parts it needed for its mowers through Halloran.
“There haven’t been any backlog, manufacturing or distribution issues. We always got the parts we needed. And we got them quickly and promptly,” Ryan said.
Ryco approaches its customers just as it does vendors and partners: by focusing on nurturing healthy relationships that help everyone in trying times.
“We have customers that are thriving and customers who are just hanging on, and we want to be there for all of them,” Shannon said. “I think it gives them peace of mind to see our crews out there consistently, following CDC guidelines, spraying this, cleaning that. I like to think that gave our customers the feeling that life will go on. It gave them a little bit of hope and light amid all the uncertainty.”
The team at Ryco Landscaping celebrates 25 years in business.