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Growth Oriented
Bamboo Pipeline makes landscaping more efficient for contractors

By Mark Madler
San Fernando Valley Business Journal Staff

Matt Fay and Mike Cornell of Bamboo Pipeline
President Matt Fay, left, and Executive Vice President Mike Cornell.

The lack of plants at landscape distributor Bamboo Pipeline is a good thing. 

A near empty distribution center on Wood Road in Camarillo is a sign that the company is living up to its goal of quick turnaround with the shrubs, bushes, flowers and trees it supplies to builders and remodelers of upscale homes. 

“We want to own plants for hours, not days or weeks,” said Mike Cornell, the executive vice president. 

Bamboo Pipeline is different from other green materials providers in several ways. 
For one, the company does not grow its own plants. For another, it sells no plants retail or on a will-call basis for contractors. Finally, the company developed its own software to rank the 800 growers it buys from in California, Oregon and Arizona to zero in on the best material sold to its contracting, landscaping and architectural clients. 

All this adds up to efficiency not typically found in the horticulture industry; efficiency that translates into more profitability. 

When a contractor or landscape professional doesn’t have to deal with multiple growers, keep track of multiple invoices and arrange for multiple deliveries there is more time to give to selling and managing projects. 

“As far as my time management, I am much more efficient with my time, which in the end saves us money,” said Brian Diamond, owner of Diamond Landscaping Inc., in North Hollywood. 

With an office staff of just one, Bamboo Pipeline is made to order for Jeff Tobias, president and CEO of Landscapes by Jeffery in Westlake Village. 

Previously, Tobias had handled all the ordering and delivery arrangements himself. As his landscape business grew Tobias needed more time for other priorities and went to Bamboo Pipeline for ordering his material. 

“It helps me stay in the field and do what I need to do,” Tobias said. 

The process used by Bamboo Pipeline to not only order the plants but deliver them to job sites puts them a step above the average grower, Diamond said. 

Logistics is critical to the success of the company and is another area where inefficiencies get eliminated and clients realize cost savings by not spending on gas for pickups. 

Either coming or going from a distribution point, the company’s fleet of trucks is always full. After making deliveries, the trucks retrieve a new shipment to bring back to the distribution center for assessment and rating. Then the plants go to their final destination. 

Bamboo Pipeline trucks delivered $14 million out of the $15 million in sales last year. 

Recognizing a Need 

Cornell and business partner Matt Fay met at business school at UCLA and stayed in touch as they followed different career paths. Cornell was a consultant and Fay was head of an irrigation distribution company that he helped grow from two branches to seven branches. 

The time at the irrigation company exposed Fay to the nursery side of the industry. The inefficiencies, fragmentation of suppliers, lack of sophistication with technology and variability of plant materials inspired Fay to come up with the idea of Bamboo Pipeline – to aggregate nursery supplies and use technology where it hadn’t been used before. 

An online presence has been important to the company since getting its first customers in 2001. Fay claimed Bamboo Pipeline was a pioneer in using the Internet as an ordering and research tool for landscape professionals. 

Those were high flying times for the online world, when practically anything that could be sold was available from one website or another and business-to-business exchanges were predicted to replace brick-and-mortar stores. 

Fay and Cornell’s decision to follow a different path paid off when websites offering plants and landscaping materials fizzled as the tech bubble burst. 

“We held on to our beliefs you have to own the distribution,” Fay said. “We could have raised money earlier if we said we would be (a business to business) exchange.” 
Originally located in Santa Barbara, the company moved to Oxnard before settling in Camarillo. Deliveries are made in most of California and into western Nevada. One-quarter to one-half of its business is done in the San Fernando Valley or markets adjacent to the Valley, Cornell said. 

Direct marketing and visits to landscape professionals brought in the first customers but now Cornell and Fay rely primarily on word of mouth. 

Personal visits to Tobias and Diamond resulted in both men becoming clients. 
Barry Garfield was on a job site in Thousand Oaks when a Bamboo Pipeline rep approached to give a sales pitch. 

At that time Garfield was not aware of what the company offered but now considers their ability to bundle different orders of plant materials to be invaluable. 

His staff can on any given day have a job to install a Japanese garden in one part of the Valley, a desert garden in another part, and a tropical garden in yet another, said Garfield, owner of Garfield Landscape Design in Northridge. 

“They work directly with the supplier and thereby enable the landscape designer to essentially have as close as their computer keyboard access to thousands of different kinds of plants,” Garfield said. 

Harnessing Technology 

Computers figure into the Bamboo Pipeline business plan in two ways. 

For the customer, the company website presents detailed information on 15,000 varieties of plants; photos, cultural background, where the plant thrives, etc. 

With the Green Links application, a landscape client can e-mail that same information to their customers to make it that much easier for them to know about the plants they are choosing. 

“The feedback on that has been fantastic,” Fay said. 

Internally, the company uses SAP Business One software on top of which is proprietary software called the Buyer’s Workbench giving real-time access to plant material available at 800 growers and manages customer relations. 

When plants arrive at company distribution centers, horticulturists rate them for quality and those ratings get integrated into the buying system. 

Knowing which growers consistently provide the best plants in turn brings peace of mind to the purchasers. 

“They are doing the quality control for you, which is a big burden off me,” Diamond said.

SPOTLIGHT Bamboo Pipeline
Year Founded: 2001
Revenues in 2006: $10.4 million
Revenue in 2007: $15.1 million
Employees in 2006: 70
Employees in 2007: 90

 

 
We Are Bamboo Pipeline

I’m Christine. I am an Account Specialist with Bamboo Pipeline.

I work to supply the highest quality plant material in California and Nevada for your landscape projects. We offer the broadest and best selection of landscape materials delivered direct to your jobsite.

 

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