Strength through Family Ownership
Under the successful leadership of Dr. Louis B. Lynn for the past three decades, ENVIRO AgScience, Inc. looks forward to the future, as Dr. Lynn’s children prepare to take over the respected, family-run construction and landscaping business…
As one of the largest Black-owned firms in the United States, ENVIRO AgScience is well into its succession plan, one which will see long-time and new clients receive the same degree of professionalism and customer service. Sisters Dr. Krystal Conner – who currently serves as the company’s Chief Executive Officer – and Adrienne Lynn Sienkowski, Chief Operating Officer, have their eyes firmly pointed toward the future.
“I can tell my daughters a lot about running a construction business, and even a landscape business, but I can’t tell them about a woman running those businesses, so we needed a succession process to be formal,” says Dr. Lynn. Founding the Columbia South Carolina-headquartered company back in 1985, the doctor has been pivotal in overseeing its continued growth for the past 30 years, but realizes it is time to hand the leadership over to the next generation. Rather than leave succession of the company up to chance, Dr. Lynn and his family announced he would be stepping down, with Krystal becoming CEO, and Adrienne continuing as COO.
With succession plans initiated in 2013, the company consulted a number of experts, such as Georgia Tech University’s Minority Business Development Agency Business Center for assistance with the development and rolling out of the succession plan. While Dr. Lynn will remain available as company Chairman for consultation and guidance, daughters Krystal and Adrienne – along with their brother Bryan Lynn, who takes over as Facilities Manager – will take ENVIRO AgScience forward into the future. “Krystal has been on several panels around the country where she has said, ‘We are the firm that did it by the book,’” says Dr. Lynn of the company, which has been profiled a number of times as a model of successful succession planning.
Construction and Landscaping Services
Although the company is transitioning to the next generation, ENVIRO AgScience’s commitment to its customers remains as strong as ever. Providing a range of construction, construction management, landscape and design services to numerous government and private sector clients, the company was founded on decades of cumulative experience. A graduate of South Carolina’s Clemson University, Dr. Lynn holds a PhD in Horticulture. In addition to serving as Adjunct Professor of Horticulture, he remains a board member of the American Horticulture Society, a Commissioner on the South Carolina Workforce Development Board, and a national board member of the National Association of Minority Contractors. Prior to founding ENVIRO AgScience in 1985, he spent 14 years at agricultural company Monsanto.
For its early history, ENVIRO AgScience was predominantly a landscaping company. About 15 years ago, the company was working alongside another firm contracted to modernize schools from the 1950s. ENVIRO AgScience shadowed the other company for the first number of schools, and eventually grew into the construction field. Today, the company’s services have expanded to include design, construction, construction management, and landscape. With approximately 70 percent of ENVIRO AgScience devoted to construction-related services and the remaining 30 percent to landscaping, the team continues to provide superior construction management and design-build landscape services and grounds maintenance to an array of clients.
Operating with a staff of about 80 during the peak construction period of April to the end of October and approximately 50 during low season, the company continues to set itself apart from the competition in a number of ways. Working in collaboration with all customers, ENVIRO AgScience has built a reputation for trust, professionalism, accountability, responsiveness, and the highest quality work possible. The team remains committed to meeting client needs from the beginning of a project all the way through to safe, satisfactory on-time and on-budget completion.
Working almost exclusively with subcontractors, ENVIRO AgScience self-performs very little of its work, choosing instead to partner with a select team of trusted, highly professional and dependable subcontractors. “We are predominantly construction managers, project managers, and general contractors now, so we self-perform very little,” says Dr. Lynn, explaining that in this way, they can hire others, particularly locals such as painters and roofers, and share the wealth. “That’s where we came from, and we are grateful someone took a chance on us. Even today, when we sell work, we add a workforce development component to it that is either adding jobs with workforce development, or adding capacity of firms.”
Advantages of Family Ownership
Taking on projects primarily in the southeastern region of the Carolinas and Georgia, the company has also explored some international opportunities. “I think as we are undergoing this succession, it is really important for the second generation of ENVIRO to make sure we are on solid footing,” says Dr. Krystal Conner. “Once we know we’re on a solid footing, we will explore those areas and look into doing work internationally and outside of the southeastern region… we want to continue to grow and expand in the areas where we are now.”
Maintaining and building upon their father’s vision, sisters Krystal and Adrienne, along with brother Bryan, share the same cores values which led their father to create ENVIRO AgScience back in 1985. “Even though we are generation number two, we still operate under the same founding principles, and I think that’s one of the things our customers appreciate moving forward – that they are not dealing with somebody completely different.” Along with sharing the same goals and vision, family ownership enables the company to make faster decisions when compared to larger firms. Additionally, Dr. Lynn will remain on the boards of a number of groups and agencies, such as the National Urban League board as a trustee, which will enable the company to access his network of strong relationships.
Taking on a range of construction and landscaping projects, ENVIRO AgScience has built an enviable portfolio over the years. Working for sectors including government, commercial, manufacturing, aviation, education, grounds maintenance, landscaping, design-build and others, the company’s construction projects include Spirit Communications Park, the MCIEAST Pre-Trial Detention Center, Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, and the Catawba Elementary School, to name a few. On the landscaping side, ENVIRO AgScience’s works include the Savannah River Nuclear Site, Spirit Communications Park, the University of South Carolina Colonial Life Basketball Arena, Fort Jackson Soldier Support, and the Clemson Student Center.
“A lot of the contracts that we’re getting now are based on our past performance,” says Dr. Conner of the company and its many satisfied repeat clients. “We’ve built a reputation that we do good work, and we’ve used that to get further government work.” Dr. Lynn agrees, stating, “How we summarize that is, ‘past performance is the best predictor of future performance.’”
In addition to a number of projects for Atlanta Airport, the company is engaged with a significant job at Sprint Communications Park in Columbia, SC. The much anticipated, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex is set to open this April. In addition to being the new home of a minor league baseball team, the facility – representing a joint venture among ENVIRO AgScience, Contract Construction, Construction Dynamics, and national ballpark specialists Barton Mallow Construction – will be the home of 35 full-time and 550 part-time employees.
“Barton has a lot of stadium experience, and we have a lot of sports field experience,” says Dr. Lynn of the project. The first game is scheduled for April 14, and Sprint Communications Park will definitely be open for the inaugural game. And with additional ongoing construction around the stadium, including a hotel, streets, shops and other infrastructure to be built this fall, he is optimistic ENVIRO AgScience will get the contract for some of the other works.
Whether the project is landscape- or construction-related, ENVIRO AgScience has built a strong presence in design/build projects, carving out a strong niche in this area, particularly since the company has landscape, construction, and structural architects on staff. Taking on a number of environmentally sustainable LEED silver, gold, and platinum projects, the team at ENVIRO AgScience welcomes what the future holds. “Part of the vision and strategic planning we are doing now is continuing to grow, and diversification is one of the reasons ENVIRO is still around,” says Dr. Conner.
In the near future, the company intends to grow its staff, expand its service offerings, and diversify as the right opportunities arise. “We are excited about the future, and really looking forward to seeing where the next five or six years takes us.”