Profiles in Excellence with Jeff Berghoff of Berghoff Design Group
Jeff Berghoff has always had a vision to do things differently. This vision has enabled him to reinvent the concept of custom home gardens so they are not just attractive landscapes, but an experience that is alive with spirit and personality.
More recently, Jeff celebrated the premiere of his conceptual photography exhibit Visions of Garden Life where he merged his three loves – Architecture, Garden Design, and Pop Culture – into a creative scenescape where reality is heightened and transformed by living, natural beauty.
We asked him about his own vision as a custom landscape designer, how he defines it, and how his vision helps to elevate the imagination of his clients so their vision becomes their reality.
“The fun thing about what we get to do at Berghoff Design Group is create our client’s vision by planting these beautiful gardens. Hopefully they are going to be there for generations to tell a story. These trees will then become heritage trees and grow into beautiful works of art that will literally have a patina or authenticity to them as they age and transform into something even more beautiful than we ever imaged.”
~ Jeff Berghoff
President and Founder of Berghoff Design Group
VISIONS OF GARDEN LIFE
HOW DID VISIONS OF GARDEN LIFE COME TO BE?
I’ve always been inspired by fashion, art, and popular culture. As we photographed our portfolio for Berghoff Design Group, we created a really great relationship with our photographer. One day I said to him, “Look, I see these ideas in my head to create a hyper realistic lifestyle scene set in these gardens. He and I then started to work out the logistics.” From there, it all came together.
Because of Visions of Garden Life, I think people now get to see a side of me that usually my family only gets to see. I think everybody gets put into a box, and people often don’t always know what really makes you tick. I think when people discover that special talent or passion that someone has hidden away, it really surprises them. I don’t think I’m any different than anybody else. I think everybody has these hidden gems of talent that they don’t always get to display or show or talk about.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION AS A LANDSCAPE DESIGNER?
I’ve always had a vision what I wanted this company to be. Not to be silly with the phrase, but my vision is similar to Visions of Garden Life – I’ve always been driven to be different, to do things differently, and to not just be your typical landscaper. Through my background and my education I knew I would have a different twist to how I would run my business.
Most people in landscape design/build firms do not take the route I went. My parents placed a heavy emphasis on receiving a college education, so I knew I wanted to go to school to focus on becoming a better designer and to hone my craft. During my college experience I took as many multi discipline classes as I could so I could fully understand the design process. Most graduates have high aspirations of joining large firms to shape the world. With working on resorts, golf courses, urban planning and all the things the landscape profession is really known for.
Creating gardens for homes is what I was passionate about, so that’s why I pursued it. I could be creative. I wanted to be the guy in town who had a different approach. Even if there are other landscape firms out there to choose from, I always want to be the one clients come to because of my business philosophy, how I train my men, the specific way we install our irrigation systems, how we craft our maintenance, and our horticultural practices.
All these things were visions that I wanted to create and do. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to be able to do that and build the team around me to actually see these visions become a reality. It’s taken 20 years, but by the grace of God, we’ve been able to build this business and make it happen.
WHAT DRIVES YOUR VISION?
I was one of those kids that always asked why. Why does it have to be like this? How do you build this and why?
Something I have in common with Team DSC® is that we think there’s always a better way that things can be done or improved upon. I prefer to take mini steps and look at a system and ask, “How can I make this more efficient? How can I make this better? How can I develop a better process or standard or hold my men accountable to something beyond just the standard quo?” To me, it’s cliché, but good isn’t good enough. When we hire people, we want to hire great people.
It’s about doing things right. I want to add some sophistication to what we do. I try to look at other businesses and apply things that they are doing to our business. For example, I’ve always been an early adopter of new technology. I’ve spent quite a bit of money to devise our own in-house customer routing and procurement, like a CRM, that our team has in the field. On their iPhones they have an app and that app takes them to the program. I’ve adopted that technology to allow us to know what’s going on in these projects, where things are at, and to keep everybody on the same page. You have to invest in your business and embrace new things to make yourself better.
Finally, we are known to execute and finish our projects. We deliver. A lot of people start things, but they don’t always finish them and they don’t always finish them well. I think that my vision for execution, trying to get projects done, get them done on time, and get them done right, are all things that motivate me every day. It’s our culture at Berghoff Design Group. This is the heartbeat of what happens here at the firm.
HOW DO YOU MEET THE VISION OF YOUR CLIENTS?
To meet the vision of our client, we have learned to be very good listeners. It all starts with a trust that is built through getting to know the client and listening to them. I believe over 20 years I’ve perfected my craft, my trade. I’m creative and understand design and the principles of design. I’m going to take all my years of experience and apply it to this client’s desires and wants. To get there, I’m going to really listen to what it is that they’re saying when they say it.
You have to know how to ask the right questions to get them to talk so you can listen. Then you have to be part detective and really listen in between what they’re saying to also know what they’re really saying. The underlying principle is that this isn’t about me. This is about them. I’m not building this garden for me. I’m building it for them. This project is beyond me. This is their home.
Jeff Berghoff with “Visions of Garden Life” Photographer Wesley Johnson
BERGHOFF DESIGN GROUP AND TEAM DSC®
I think all Desert Star projects are memorable. From being very complex, mountainside jobs where we’re trying to bring in cranes to hoist trees or boulders on the side of a cliff and pull off the impossible, to projects where the clients are doing things that are just so unique like El Chorro Lodge.
It’s like every job with Desert Star brings is a career-defining type of project. The first architect who used that terminology was the late architect George Christensen. I remember being a student in his class, and George would talk about these projects like, “This is once-in-a-career type of job.” Getting to do that caliber of work by partnering with George Christensen on Desert Star projects to this day blows my mind.