As Ken Coverdell remembers it, his inauguration was vastly different than the one his son experienced.
Earlier this month, Ken swore in his son, KC, as the president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association, a position the elder Coverdell held in 1989. Ken, who is currently the association’s vice president, said the event had a much different atmosphere than in years past. Instead of a live crowd of 200 people, Ken sat in KC’s kitchen as the two of them went through the process with the board of directors on a Zoom call.
Although the event felt different for the Coverdell family, it was yet another moment that epitomized their family’s relationship and their work on the Coastside. Ken started the landscaping firm Blue Sky Designs Inc. in Half Moon Bay in 1978. Now, as KC is transitioning to take the reins of the business, his father can reflect on the process of working alongside family and a team he considers a second family.
KC began working at Blue Sky five years ago after relocating to Half Moon Bay from San Francisco. He says there was never pressure from his father to follow in the family footsteps.
But, for KC, landing the job didn’t mean he was taken under his father’s wing. For two years he worked part time at Blue Sky while also taking classes in landscaping horticulture and design at Foothill College.
“There was an underlying knowledge of how things work because of growing up with the business,” KC Coverdell said. “Blue Sky is part of our family. It wasn’t like I was stepping into uncharted territory. Knowing the guys, they’d seen me grow up basically since I was a baby. The connection was already there with the crew.”
Still, it took time to figure out how to develop a working relationship. He had to learn on the job, while Ken Coverdell adjusted to working alongside his son and balancing new feedback after 40 years in the business.
“There is a little difficulty there when it’s your son, but you also want to make sure you’re not being unfair in those decisions because you’re related and love that person,” Ken Coverdell
said. “It’s a little bit easier with someone who isn’t a part of your family because you can make it an objective relationship. You can say, ‘This is exactly how it has to be done.’”
Over time, the son demonstrated that he was more than ready to lead the business. There are many factors contractors need to consider. KC Coverdell showed his father and the company he was a stellar mechanic, planner and coordinator. His father now anticipates his son taking on more managerial responsibilities. And with “so many more layers to doing jobs than there ever were” these days, Ken Coverdell is excited about seeing KC develop into someone he trusts to not just continue the work, but to add some youthful energy and help growing the company.
“There’s a whole other side of human relations and making sure people are treated fairly,” he said. “The endurance aspects, making sure we’re fully covered in case the worst happens to us. The aspects of filing papers on time, tax firm, monthly statements. Those kinds of business aspects are the things that are starting to fall into KC’s lap now.”
Last November, Blue Sky took home several awards from local and state competitions. Some projects recognized by the California Landscape Contractors Association’s Trophy Awards Ceremony included landscape renovation and residential estate installation. An Ocean Colony residence took first place in the xeriscape category, a landscaping style that conserves water and irrigation.
While father and son acknowledge that award shows provide nice recognition and the chance to see other good work, they both believe part of the excitement in getting awards is sharing them with their staff who put their time and labor into projects that are widely recognized for quality work.
“For us, it was a celebration. We like bringing the awards (in) and telling the team, ‘That’s you guys. That’s what you guys did,’” Ken Coverdell said.
“We wouldn’t be able to build the quality of work and beautiful projects we’re able to build without them,” KC Coverdell said of the team. “It’s not just my dad and me out there digging the ditches and doing the stonework. The crew is family, the whole company is a family.”