By Becky Kalajian
It’s a Cinderella story: Kid borrows an electric mower and weed whacker from his grandparents in the early ’90s. He ends up building a business that now employs over 40 people, servicing five counties. Although AMO Inc. Outdoor Services’ beginnings were humble, owner Adam M. Orth says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The business started out very, very small; I had to collect a lot of pop cans off the side of the road to pay for gas and equipment repairs,” said Orth, whose great-grandparents homesteaded near Interlochen in the 1880s. “There was no start-up money, no financial backer; just straight up hard work.”
Orth began mowing lawns in his neighborhood and for his dad’s rental buildings in Chum’s Corners. Neighbors noticed and hired him to maintain their lawns, too. Other jobs off Veteran’s Drive where his grandma lived and King’s Court where his granddad and grandmom lived popped up in the same way: He took care of his grandparents’ lawns to help them out, their neighbors noticed, and he was hired. By age 16 he was cutting the common areas at King’s Court and began hiring his relatives and friends to help in the summer.
“I still have my original customer base from junior high and high school from back in 1993,” said Orth, who once considered aerospace engineering as a career. “So, I guess that says something.”
Where did the name AMO Incorporated come from? Well, it’s actually my initials: Adam Michael Orth. It’s kind of funny how the name came to be. In my early 20’s I bought out two businesses that were in the lawncare/snow removal industry. So I was running three businesses with three different names so it got confusing. My accountant told me to incorporate so I had to think of a name. I wasn’t really sure but I had just got done initialing some documents for him so I said how about AMO Incorporated and the rest is history! I then had a graphic designer come up with a logo that I had an image of in my head of an engraved rock that looked solid/industrial to go along with the name. It’s still the logo that we use to this day which is very recognizable on all our vehicles, equipment and promotional materials.
How long have you lived here? I’ve lived here my entire life, my parents grew up here, my grandparents grew up here and my great-grandparents moved here in the 1880s. I graduated from Traverse City Central High School and went to Michigan State University’s Turfgrass Management and Business Program.
How and when did you get into lawn maintenance? I got into lawn maintenance when I was 13 years old doing tasks around our neighborhood and helping my dad with his rental buildings in Chum’s Corners maintaining the grass for him. The neighbors would come over and ask if I wanted to do their lawn, so I would since I have a hard time saying no to people that need my help, I would end up working for them and making money while I was helping out my dad for the other part of the day.
The same thing happened with my grandma who lived on Veteran’s Drive. Then my other grandparents, who lived in King’s Court off LaFranier that I helped cut their lawn. I called my little business “Adams Lawn Improvement.” My slogan was “A Cut Above The Best” which my granddad and I came up with for the business card I made and printed on my parents’ home computer. I was up to 100 accounts in high-school and collage doing lawn maintenance and snow removal (which I did before going to school). I then began to get into bigger accounts due to word of mouth like cutting the common grounds for King’s Court and the old Circuit City and Office Max building when I was about 16.
Through junior high and high school, I had friends and relatives who were always asking for a job, so I let them work with me and I would continue to gain more customers to make sure they had enough work to keep us all busy making money. My cousin was my first full-time employee and I came to realize through many more employees to come that I enjoyed providing jobs to people so they could earn a living and support their families. Having people depend on me for a living puts a huge responsibility and commitment on my shoulders to make sure we are all successful.
By my senior year my teachers asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up and after considering aerospace engineering, which was a couple hundred thousand dollars for an education, I decided I was making pretty decent money already and was enjoying what I was doing.
Over time I added snow removal, landscaping, hardscaping, irrigation, lawn installs, outdoor lighting, tree removal and now I have around 45 employees working for the company. We do full-blown projects now that we design and build with four sales and project managers and our talented field crew.
When I was in high school I needed a place to keep my equipment since I was outgrowing my parents’ garage, so I bought 10 acres off Garfield Road, cut down needed trees, cleared the land and built a shop/house myself with the help of friends, employees, family and my dad. I ended up living there for about 10 years. My girlfriend (Sarah Harrelson), now my wife, and I decided it wasn’t going to be our forever home because my employees were coming and going all hours of the day and night, which made for a rough living environment. So, we decided to get something more permanent. We ended up buying the old Windows restaurant on M-22, tore it down, and built our house there over the course of five years while also getting married and having three children. The project was a lot of fun because we were able to get creative and do a lot of the work ourselves with the help of AMO Inc. employees.
What do you enjoy about it? I’ve always enjoyed cutting lawns; it was something I just always liked. Even before I was making money doing it I would mess around at my parents’ house, trying to get grass to grow with above ground irrigation. It’s kind of funny to look back on it now and see what I have learned since those days.
Describe your services/products. AMO Inc. is a full-service landscape, snow removal and outdoor service company. In addition to landscape design/installation and snow removal, we offer handyman services; irrigation; asphalt/concrete repair and installation; retaining walls; outdoor living spaces, tree/shrub removal, fertilization and general lawn maintenance. We’re huge into the snow removal industry, which is our number one big money maker. We do big parking lots, private roadways, restaurants, developments and any commercial properties. The big summertime items we do would be the hardscapes, retaining walls, and patios. There is no project or scope of work too large, too small, or difficult for us to handle. Our employees are courteous, professional and certified in their respective fields.
What makes you stand out from the others? I believe our customer service and commitment to excellence in tasks performed sets us apart from the competition and has earned us the reputation as one of the premier professional outdoor services company in the northern Michigan area. No matter who you are, we are committed to providing our customers with friendly, professional and timely dedicated service. We are available to answer any questions or concerns that you may have during normal business hours and all messages will be returned as soon as possible. Open communication has been a major component in our continued success of exceeding the expectations and desires of our valued customers.
Is there anything new on the horizon for AMO? A few years ago, I bought the old 24-acre softball fields park on Hammond Road known as Ball World. We developed a mini-storage facility for boats and RVs, with heated and air-conditioned units alongside regular non-temperature controlled units called Hammond Road Storage Vault.
Within the last few years, we bought a dozer, dump truck, excavator, backhoe and recently a big semi-truck to haul our own materials and aggregates along with doing bulk sales of materials on the Hammond Road property. So now we’re getting into trucking, excavation, and development … kind of getting into a whole lot of new things here. It really has exploded in the last five years, I have a very talented and energetic team that has helped tremendously to get us to where we are today and I am very excited about where the next five years will take us. I have always enjoyed pushing myself to try and do new things that I have never done before, it keeps life fun and exciting to build something from nothing!
What kinds of things do you enjoy about living in northern Michigan? I enjoy boating and spending time with my family: my wife Sarah and three kids: daughter Kiahley; daughter Cora; and son Easton. We enjoy traveling and usually take a couple of vacations a year with five to six weeks in Florida during February and March. I work a lot during the busy seasons, so I really look forward to the downtime with my family.
AMO Inc. Outdoor Services is located at 510 S. Garfield Road. To schedule an appointment, call 231-932-7379 or visit amoinc.info.
Hammond Road Storage Vault is located at 403 E. Hammond Rd.
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