From trying to stay afloat during a recession to pioneering the use of nontoxic, eco-friendly services in Florida, Mettauer Environmental has followed a path to success. It has been a trail full of weeds and algae, but also of flowers and clean water.
After Chris Mettauer launched Mettauer Environmental in 2001, he and his wife Christina (Chrissy) Gleason had to go back to the drawing board after the 2008 recession that almost depleted the company.
“It was a pretty large company, but it was very construction-based, and we did a lot of development work for big developers in Lee County. In 2008, we went from almost 40 employees down to two employees and my husband,” she said. “It was just a matter of cutting back, cutting back and cutting back. The business was still going, just smaller.”
Surviving the recession, Gleason officially joined her husband working on the business in 2012. With an avid sales background, she saw the lack of customer service in the industry and saw a different avenue Mettauer Environmental on which could embark.
“One of the things I noticed when I started trying to build relationships with private clients was that I couldn’t find a lot of customer service coming from our industry,” she said. “It was pretty different for me because I was used to a higher level of customer interaction, and that’s what has been my passion with this business.”
In 2015, Gleason became the president and majority owner of Mettauer Environmental.
“As the company began to slowly come back, rather than build it back up for heavy construction, we started looking at the government contracts and reoccurring private contracts for vegetation, aquatic and stormwater management,” she said. “When I came in, we rebuilt it and pretty much changed its direction.”
Now, Mettauer Environmental is a market leader committed to restoring Florida’s environment for the next generation through lake management, erosion reversal, exotic vegetation removal, and stormwater systems.
To make the company even more customer-centric, Gleason acquired her construction license, making Mettauer Environmental a one-stop-shop for her clients.
“A lot of outdated practices were causing problems for our customers and because I have the construction background, when we were getting called to repair problems, I could explain to them why they were getting the problem,” she said. “Then help customers change the way they’re maintaining their lakes and ponds.”
Keeping a Competitive Edge
Innovation, skill, eco-friendly services, and cutting-edge technology all set Mettauer Environmental apart from the rest of their competitors in the industry.
“Our team is trained in best management practices and follow our company’s mission to preserve and restore this great state’s environment,” she said. “We use innovative products that are going to be the gentlest on the surrounding flora and fauna and use alternative products to traditional fertilizers for vegetation & turf management near lake and pond shorelines.”
Above all, Gleason believes their biggest advantage lies in their ability to offer a multitude of different services to their customers.
“Most of the time you’re going to find a lake company, a wetland company, a stormwater company or a construction company. You’re not going to typically find someone who is everything in one,” she said. “Because we can offer everything at one time, we’re priced pretty competitively, and our employees are trained in so many areas that help them see problems ahead of time.”
Overcoming Challenges and Looking Toward the Future
“A lack of my knowledge, in the beginning, was a big challenge,” Gleason laughed. “I definitely learned through trial and error, learning how to write the proposals and all the details that went into them.”
Aside from that, Gleason most obvious challenge was completely changing the direction of an already pre-existing business.
“It was like trying to steer a big ship, but we’re going to make it,” she said. “When I came in, our trucks had no logos, we had no company uniforms and no website. It was like we were this hidden company. We had a great reputation within the industry we served, and our lead source was 90 percent referrals, but when you’re trying to build a service company, people should know we’re here.”
Gleason explained that the internal transition of the company began with educating the clients she had.
“It started within our customer base, informing them of all the things we do because they would have us doing one thing, not realizing that we could do the other,” she said. “Informing people about all of the different services and who we really are and what we do now that was definitely a challenge.”
Looking toward the future, Gleason hopes to keep Mettauer Environmental on the growth path of becoming a dominating company in the area.
“My goal is to create long-term career paths. In our industry, especially in vegetation management, people have been conditioned that this is just a job, and I want to develop careers,” she said.
“When new employees come in, it’s my goal to help them see what they can achieve and keep adding long-term career structures in our industry. What they do is not easy, it requires skill and talent, so I want to see the company be able to provide long term, satisfying careers for them.”
What it’s Like to Work at Mettauer Environmental
If you were an employee at Mettauer Environmental, you’d be welcomed into a company culture that Gleason has built centered on compassion, integrity, positivity, self-improvement, and character.
Employee retention is among the highest in their industry, which Gleason credits to treating everyone like they’re on an equal playing field and ensuring they feel their voices are heard.
“My company culture has a very open-door mentality, and I consider the opinions of all of my employees,” she said. “For instance, at our team meetings, it’s not a dictatorship. It’s important for me to get feedback from my team to help develop strategies and systems based on what’s needed, not just what I think is needed.”
As a Zig Ziglar coach, Gleason uses her training to motivate her employees and encourage their well-being.
One way she does that is by providing her employees with various training and growth opportunities inside and outside of the office.
“We provide employees the opportunity to attend the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University to help them manage their income and debt, among other offer safety training and certifications,” Gleason said. “I want to help develop personal goals and company goals within my employee base.”
What it Means to be an Honoree
Being selected as a 2019 Florida Companies to Watch honoree this year was extremely motivating to her and her team.
“When you know you’re working hard, then suddenly you get confirmation that it’s paying off, it’s validation that we’re making progress,” she said. “Everyone was excited, and it gives us pride in what we do and let’s us know we’re really making a difference.”
Chris Mettauer agreed.
“Winning GrowFL is really fitting,” he said. ‘We are growing as a company. And we are growing Florida in an eco-friendlier way.”
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
For entrepreneurs following in her footsteps, Gleason advised them to learn from the inevitable mistakes and never lose sight of what’s important.
“Learn from every setback.,” she said. “You’re not going to know everything, and you can’t let what you don’t know stop you. You have to trust yourself enough to take calculated risks, and if they don’t work out, now you know, you adjust, and you go at it again.”
“Never let go of your integrity, have good ethics, treat people fairly and always do the right thing,” she continued. “Your employees are going to make mistakes but take care of it with good character, and it will only build your reputation.”
Notable Philanthropic Involvement
Mettauer Environmental is constantly involved in environmental clean-up initiatives. Over the past year, they have volunteered staff, services, boats, and materials to the City of Cape Coral and an ecological company to clean up polluted and toxic water in the Cabott Canal. Through their efforts, the oxygen level if the canal increased from 2 mg-l to 9 mg-l, providing a healthier, normalized environment for plants and wildlife.