Our Summer Growth Summit at Mariani Landscape in Lake Bluff, IL was the HOTTEST landscape event of the year!

Over 3 days, we had 26 speakers covering inspiring and cutting-edge topics to help any attendee grow to their next level of success.

The Summit concluded with a discussion between Jeffrey Scott and Frank Mariani regarding how Mariani Landscape grew from 90k in 1973 to 59 million in 2020.

Then they discussed what has happened since making a private equity deal in 2020 and where the company is headed now.

Frank and Jeffrey were like two old friends talking around the fire pit. They also covered the pitfalls of the 4 day work week, how to solve the labor issue, and how any company could pursue an acquisition growth strategy.

Many companies brought their teams, and the energy was palpable.

Here are 7 takeaways to get your mind thinking:

1. World class organizations foster a culture of feedback and continuous improvement.

It was clear that both Frank and Jeffrey are focused on continuous improvement.

Every company in the industry should be soliciting feedback from customers and using the data to improve customer loyalty and drive additional value.

Dave Richards, Director of Customer Insights at Mariani Premier Group, recommends surveying customers at least once and no more than 2 or 3 times per year.

They use the “Net Promoter Score” where they ask customers “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our products or services to a friend or colleague?” followed by “Why?”

Act Immediately

Once you receive the customer feedback, it’s important to act immediately to address any specific complaints or issues.

  • Share the feedback with the front line and develop specific actions to improve those areas.
  • Implement training and processes to measure improvement in those areas.
  • Systematically gather ideas for improvement and implement the best ones.

Bill Blodgett, Chief Operating Officer at Mariani Premier Group, told us that 75% of process improvement should be customer facing, driven by the outcomes of these surveys and employee input.

He stressed the need to recognize and reward the team members who generate the best ideas.

2. Make more data-driven decisions.

At Jeffrey Scott Consulting we teach how to manage by the numbers. It’s important to limit decisions driven by feelings.

Here are two examples how Mariani does this.

Gina Goldberg, HR Director at Mariani Landscape, shared how Mariani uses a headcount analysis to determine the number of team members needed for each month. They know what their target service mix is and how many man hours it will take to reach their target revenue for each service.

Lucas Melograno, Territory Director of Production, and Kevin Engbrecht, Enhancements Production Manager, showed us how production and efficiency are measured on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis:

  • daily over / under reports on install jobs,
  • weekly wages, hours, and overtime,
  • and monthly comparisons of actuals and budgets on revenue, key expenses and wages.

Mariani succeeds because they are making real time decisions using this data.

3. Budgets should be completed early in Q4.

Bob Pagorek, CFO of Mariani Premier Group, stressed the importance of starting the budgeting process early, but waiting for 8 months of current year actuals before doing so.

Before you budget, you first need next year’s goals set and the strategies defined; only then can you set the budget. That’s a lot of proactive planning reminded Jeffrey Scott!

Once the budget is finalized, you should attempt to stick to it at all costs.

Budget re-forecasting could actually be called “re-strategizing” because the budget should ideally never change, but the strategy might.

Successful companies know they won’t hit their budget, they understand why, and they put strategies in place to help get back on track.

4. Use autonomous mowers to drive profits.

Mariani has deployed about 300 autonomous mowers. Tim Blinten, Production Manager, showed us that by using auto mowers, they can increase gross margins by 6% to 20% depending on the market.

Clients are happier because the lawns look (and are) healthier and “every day is Friday” meaning the lawn is always the perfect length.

It’s a triple win: better for the lawn, the company and the client.

5. The early bird makes more sales

Two different presenters reminded us that speed is critical for sales.

Mariani Business Developers (Eliazar Arebalo and John Kerstein) told us they aim to call back leads within 30 minutes.

Justin Queen, Founder of Sales Engine, told us that because most prospects can talk to you and your closest competitors in under 40 minutes, the longer your “time to first contact” of new leads is, the lower your closing ratio will be.

The slower you are, the more “missed opportunities” you will incur.

6. Don’t just train your people, develop them.

There comes a point where you cannot be intimately involved in everything your company does. You must let go, but first have confidence in your team. (We have a second in command peer group that is helping our clients do just that.)

Jeremy Sabin, Chief Human Resources Officer, taught us the Japanese word ikigai and how it relates to people development: you align people’s passions and inherent skills with the company needs and what brings value to the client.

Sabin stated that many managers don’t develop the people around them because they feel they don’t have time, but it’s important to recognize that by developing your people, you will gain time.

A key tool Sabin uses for developing people is a 360 review. By soliciting anonymous feedback from 8-12 people that work closely with an individual, you can gain a well-rounded assessment of their strengths and areas for improvement.

7. Growth requires change

The new President of Mariani, Todd Jones, was very clear, “What worked for Mariani at 30M doesn’t work anymore at 100M.”

The same goes for you (the reader) as you grow your company from one level to the next.

How will you reach your next level of growth?

Your Challenge: Expand your view on what is possible.

The following feedback from my good friend, Anthony Olender, founder, Ocean View Landscape, NY, sums it up:

“I was impressed with how Mariani ran things, and what they live by as a company, for being as large as they are. My impression of Frank was that he never forgot what was important, no matter how large they grew.

After deeply reflecting on all I learned, I am inspired to an even larger goal than I’ve ever had! I am very confident that we can get to 50M in the next 10 years.

Our team will likely have a mix of inspiration and disbelief as I share this with them. Some may think I’m crazy, which would fuel me even further. Either way, I can’t wait to tell them!!

I can’t thank you and your team enough for organizing this and opening the Mariani doors to us.”

Personal Thanks!

We would like to say thank you to everyone at Mariani and to our team: Corine Koornhof, Loriena Harrington, and Sean Baxter for making this a spectacular event!


Written by Jeffrey Scott and Mitch Katz, Director of Operations

Jeffrey Scott and Frank Mariani closing out the program.

Almost 500 people learning and growing!

Team Jeffrey Scott with Sean Baxter, Mitch Katz, Corine Koornhof, and Loriena Harrington

Walking through the yard at Mariani Landscape; there were 14 learning stations!