Daniel Bradshaw

Founder of Riverside Custom Hardscapes

Daniel Bradshaw started his first business,‌ ‌Daniel’s‌ ‌Lawn‌ ‌Care‌, at the age of thirteen, ‌providing‌ ‌lawn‌ ‌maintenance services‌ ‌‌for‌ ‌friends‌ ‌and‌ ‌family.‌ Many afternoons would find Daniel being dropped off at a friend’s home along with a push mower by his mother in the family minivan. He earned his ‌Landscape‌ ‌Design‌ ‌Professional‌ ‌Certificate‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌University‌ ‌of‌ ‌Richmond‌ ‌in‌ ‌2012 and renamed the company Appomattox River Landscapes‌.‌ In 2018, the company expanded to include hardscape design and installation. After earning his Concrete Paver Installer Certification from the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute (ICPI) in 2019, Daniel started pursuing the hardscape industry in earnest. By early 2020, the company focused on hardscapes and comprehensive outdoor living areas almost exclusively and Daniel officially rebranded his company as Riverside Custom Hardscapes, reflecting specialty in designing and installing beautiful and unique outdoor living spaces. Daniel resides just outside Richmond, VA with his wife Kristi. They look forward to growing their business and family in the coming years.

Where did the idea for Riverside Custom Hardscapes come from?

It started as a way for a teenager like myself to make some money. But once I started doing yard work, I found that I really enjoyed it. However I was not content to just mow lawns and do basic landscaping work for a living. My goal was to one day be designing and installing beautiful outdoor living areas. It took the better part of a decade before we reached that goal, but here we are!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Honestly it depends on the day. Most days I start with our construction team on the job site and help them plan the day. Most afternoons are spent meeting with homeowners either doing the initial design consultation or presenting their completed design. There are days that end with me feeling that I was very productive and others when I wonder where the time went and why my to-do list is just as long as it was that morning.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Some of the homeowners I meet with have very specific ideas of how they want their outdoor living area to look. Others rely on me as a designer to come up with something nice because they don’t know what to do with the space they have. Typically I have the space mostly designed in my head before I finish meeting with them. Back in my office, I use a computer design software to create a 3D design for them. More times than not, they are blown away by the design when I present it to them. It is very rewarding to see them get excited about the outdoor living space I have designed for them.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Hardscapes for residential use is itself a fairly recent trend. It has really only been in the last 20+ years that having a patio with landscaping in your backyard has really become a goal for most homeowners. More and more homeowners are getting away from decks and going with the ground level patio.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

We screen our new leads with a phone consultation to make sure that the service they desire is something we provide. We also discuss budget to determine if they have an accurate estimate for what the service they are requesting is going to cost. Once we have completed our qualifying process, then and only then am I scheduled to meet with them in person for their 1 hour design consultation.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be very careful who you hire and be quick to fire people who are dragging the company down. The first few hires I made were disasters and it took about 2 years to learn how to find good team members. There were also people who I kept on the team far too long and who negatively impacted the other team members and the company. Looking back, I should have let those people go much sooner.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

If you consistently do high-quality work, you will attract high-quality customers.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Do little things to make the customer know that you care about them, not just their money.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Network with other quality business owners who take pride in their work and take care of their customers. Having a network of people I can trust with my reputation when I refer my customers to them and in turn they refer their good customers to me is very rewarding. These business partners are also a wealth of information about how to be successful in business and I have learned a lot from them.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Once I rushed into a very large purchase for my business because of a need we had. The purchase ended up being an absolute lemon and at the end of the day I had flushed a significant chunk of money down the drain, not to mention the time and frustration it also cost. From that I learned that no important investment should be rushed into, no matter how urgent the need.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An apprenticeship program that connects business owners in the trades with high school students who want to learn a specific trade/craft. It provides young people with marketable skills by the time they graduate high school and helps business owners with they workforce shortages and train the next generation of tradesmen.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A nice dinner with my wife. We both work in the business and it can be all consuming for both of us. Taking time away from the business to invest in our marriage is time and money well spent.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Structure Studios landscape design software. It helps me bring the outdoor living areas I design to life so the homeowner can visualize how amazing their backyard can be.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey. This is a must-read book for every entrepreneur. It covers so many critical aspects and growing and managing a business and it has been one of the most valuable resources I have used in my business.

What is your favorite quote?

“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

– Zig Ziglar

Key Learnings:

  • Go ahead and dream big. It might take longer than you expect to reach your goals, but you will get there.
  • The people on your team are never in neutral. They are either pushing you to success or they are pulling you to disaster, so choose them wisely.
  • Provide high-quality service and go out of your way to show appreciation to your customers. Do that and you will attract high-quality customers who will help you grow and succeed.
  • Business is important, but don’t sacrifice your family in the pursuit of more success or money. It isn’t worth it.