The Strategic Thinker

At first glance, Tyvon McSwain may seem a bit shy. Quiet and unassuming, he acknowledges the steady stream of visitors in the Cali Green Turf office with a simple smile and a brief hello, taking only a moment to break his attention from whatever task is at hand.

In truth, he’s not shy at all. Just focused.

“I’m a hard worker,” said Tyvon. “I try to make sure this job (this company) can be successful.”

Recently, Tyvon was officially promoted to Head of Operations. In that role, he is responsible for overseeing installers, making sure that orders are fulfilled in a timely fashion, checking over estimates, keeping an eye on costs, and ensuring that every single job is precise and up to Cali Green standards.

That’s true from the job estimate…

“It’s tricky. People think it looks easy to go out there and measure, but if you can’t see a job and know how the job’s going to go and in detail what needs to be done, then you’re not going to really get an accurate cost of the job,” he said. “You can go out there and think, ‘Oh, that’s an easy job. It’ll just take one day.’ But you don’t see that it’s going to be hard right there, it’s concrete right there, we need something to get that concrete. You have to see every little detail.”

…to the install.

“Any guy that ever came here, I sent them home with turf (to) try cutting it,” said Tyvon. “Before you ever can touch a job, show me you can cut turf without being on the job site. We train and mentor. Then we have our head installer (who) works with everybody, talks to them and shows them what to do, how to nail and everything.”

On any given day, Tyvon juggles multiple roles. He’s out on job sites, supervising. He’s in the office, looking over numbers. He’s on the phone with his crew, vendors, city planners, clients, delivery trucks and others, taking calls, addressing problems and concerns, and making sure things run as smoothly as possible. And when they don’t, he makes sure he can fix the problem quickly. Wrong crane delivered? Product delivery behind schedule? He’ll work through it.

Despite the inevitable frustration that occurs overseeing job sites, Tyvon doesn’t show it. He keeps his calm and keeps things moving forward. His guys know not to hide anything from him. Trust means everything.

Setting Expectations

“I look for somebody that’s going to be honest—integrity. If you make a mistake, say you made a mistake,” he said. “All my guys know I’m not going to hold it against you forever. I’ll probably scold you for a second. But (then) what’s the solution? I’m not the type of person that’s going to be mad.”

If honesty and problem-solving skills are what he looks for in his workers, it’s also what they have come to see in him. Cali Green Turf Founder and CEO Edi Santos praised Tyvon for his leadership.

“He has held his ground, worked countless hours, made sacrifices along with his family, because he believes in the vision of Cali Green Turf,” said Edi. “He finds himself and his men accountable at all times and this is truly why Cali Green Turf is succeeding. Tyvon truly cares about making a difference in this world, his family, and just as importantly himself. I thank (him) from the bottom of my heart, for all that he does… He is truly an inspiring individual.”

Tyvon said he’s been able to lead and succeed thanks to the trust and rapport he’s built with his crew.

“I love operations, leading… You have to have respect and have them listen to you but still have respect for you or like you,” he said. “Being a leader isn’t just telling somebody what to do. At the end of the day, when you’re not around, (if there’s no respect), they’re going to say, ‘Okay, he’s not around, let me do whatever I want to do.’ But if they still have that respect for you and they like you, they’re going to still try to get the job done for you.”

He treats his employees with respect, so they work hard to maintain it.

“If I tell them, ‘Hey, I need y’all to get that done by 5:00,’ I know they’re going to push,” he said. “I always keep a healthy balance where they know I’m going to get on them if they mess up. At the same time, I’ve got their back.”

That trust and leadership is largely innate, but it is also fostered in Cali Green Turf. When Tyvon came on board a year ago, it was all about trust.

Buying Into the Vision

Edi had just moved into the complex in Lawndale where Tyvon lived. They met in the driveway and Edi started talking about a company he was starting, said he needed an employee or two to help him out. At first, Tyvon thought he sounded crazy, but within a couple of days a truck showed up. A few days later, it was wrapped with the company name: Cali Green Turf.

Tyvon saw that Edi was serious. He also really liked his vibe. Edi’s a visionary, with big dreams and a can do attitude and Tyvon was drawn to it. The timing was right. His youngest daughter was getting ready to start preschool. He’d been staying home, taking care of her, while also working as a caretaker for his mother-in-law. A second job was just what he needed, and the commute, as he said, was “easy … beautiful.”

Tyvon sent over his resume, and they immediately started working together out of Edi’s in-home office. There was a leap of faith to be sure. The job was initially commission based, but they weren’t even bidding for jobs when he started. No matter. He saw the potential and trusted the energy that was there.

“We hadn’t built our name, our brand yet. It was just me and Edi,” he recalls. “We started at Edi’s house, probably I started at 8, 8:30 in the morning, and there’s nights I didn’t even leave his house until 11 p.m. The majority of the time, we were thinking about the business… The other employees, they’d all leave about 5 … but me and Edi were still there ‘til 10, 11, still strategizing, still thinking about this, still working on product meetings with people, meetings with vendors.”

Together, they made a perfect team: Tyvon, the chess player and perpetual strategist, and Edi, the risk-taker and visionary.

“Edi and I work as a perfect team, because he’s big picture and I’m more details,” said Tyvon. “I liked to jump in and take care of the details and allow him—free him up—to be the big picture idealist. And look at us now.”

Tyvon’s stellar memory helped keep Edi on track. Tyvon could recall discussions at all of the meetings with vendors and he quickly learned what to look for in a quality product and how to analyze pricing. He also researched the industry and the state of the drought and water rights and usage in Southern California.

In addition to his work in Operations, Tyvon also has his hands in sales. He can’t choose one over the other. Leading a team in operations, mentoring and training his employees, and solving problems is wonderfully gratifying, but so is spending time with customers.

Putting the Client First

“I love meeting customers,” he said. “I love shaking their hands. I love talking to them. I love making that connection.”

He weaves the knowledge he gleaned from the company’s early days of product research and studying up on the drought into interactions with customers today, in a no pressure atmosphere.

“We have the most integrity and we’re genuine and for real. We’re coming to inform,” Tyvon said of the Cali Green approach to meeting with potential customers. “We don’t try to sell them the product. We’ll inform you if you go with us or not. We inform you to death about everything about the product—everything we use, everything people should use, so if you go with a different company, make sure that they handle it this way. We’re not pressuring people only to go with us.”

He knows clients appreciate the informative way he and other sales staff approach them, and he is grateful for that time to really get to know a person. Spending that extra time with a potential client and going the extra mile to inform them of the process and details of installation often pay off.

“I just closed this deal this week where the lady said, ‘There’s somebody who was $500 less than y’all, but I like y’all. Can you get me a little more discount? Like, you don’t even have to break it down to that price point, but can you give me a little bit more of a discount? I’d rather go with y’all,’” he said. “I love that connection I know I built with her where (she’s saying), ‘I’ll spend a little bit more for the company I like.’”

He smiles recalling the feeling. It’s like that of a proud dad, watching the company flourish and grow after countless hours of hard work. In fact, he said that looking through his phone, the company gets at least as much play as his fiancé and his three daughters. Photos of job sites and the crew sit alongside pictures of his girls in dance recitals and performances, evidence of a man who puts his whole heart, soul and pride into the people he loves—on and off the job.

(Ed. Note: This is the first installment in a series about the employees who make Cali Green Turf such a special organization. We value honor, courage and commitment, and are proud to have assembled a team of professionals who exhibit these values day in and day out.

Tyvon was Cali Green Turf’s second employee. From day one, he has been instrumental in building the company and always maintains the customers’ best interests at heart. He loves his job and he’s excellent at it.)

About Cali Green Turf

Cali Green Turf is veteran owned and operated. Our turf is American-made, and we promise to match or beat competitors’ quotes for a similar quality install.

We’re always keeping an eye open for a few good people to join our team. If you have excellent customer service skills, experience in landscaping or turf installation and a passion for helping Californians save money and water, shoot us an email at or call 310-648-8346.

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