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5 Questions: Bill Melzer

May 6, 2022 -  By
(Photo: Ryan Higgenbottom)

(Photo: Ryan Higgenbottom)

Bill Melzer

Owner, Pinnacle Maintenance Systems, Mesa, Ariz.

1. How did you get into the industry? 

My career was mostly in retail and importing items for retailers to sell. After years of extensive travel, being around the world and gone all the time, I decided it was time to pull back and stay closer to my family. I took a job for my church; along with that, I didn’t make a lot of money. So I started doing a little commercial landscaping on the side. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I learned. Then I got a few people working for me. I retired about five years ago, but I’ve kept doing the landscape business to stay active. It’s a good, steady business and it keeps me in shape. We’re about 70 percent commercial, 30 percent residential, primarily maintenance. We do some small enhancement projects as well.

2. What is something you wish you could change about the industry? 

We are always asked to bid on things. I always ask, “Why?” if people are just looking for a lower price. I look at the property, and if it’s well maintained, I won’t even bid on it. They’re just looking for someone to do it for a few dollars cheaper when the contract is up. Establish a relationship; it’s better for you and the customer because it’s based on trust. They know they can count on you, and you can count on them. 

3. What trends are you seeing in Arizona? 

The Phoenix area is well managed, water-wise. Saving water is going to be paramount, on the commercial side in particular. On the residential side, we’re seeing a lot of artificial grass installations here. That changes things. People think if they put that in, they don’t have to do anything. They still have plants and shrubs. That grass doesn’t last forever. It’s a growing market here — it’s growing like crazy. And there are more people working from home now. They look out in the backyard and they say, “This could look better.” But they don’t want to do it. I’m amazed at some of the high-end homes we take care of, and they have teenage kids. I mowed the lawn for my dad. I learned how to work. But people today want someone else to maintain their property. As long as the economy continues to be good, they’re going to pay for it.

4. What is your favorite tool to get the job done?

The older I get, the more I like to sit on the riding mowers. We use Walker mowers — those are the best tools in the world. There’s less fatigue; they’re amazing machines. A lot of the landscape we have here is xeriscape. When you have an opportunity for a small property with grass, it looks so much better. My second favorite tool is a 40-inch Echo hedge trimmer. It trims faster and better. Things grow here 10 months out of the year, so you’re constantly trimming things back. The best equipment is well worth the investment.

5. How big is your family? 

I have nine children, 23 grandchildren and so far two great-grandchildren. How about that? We also raised four of my sister-in-law’s children; they were killed 40 years ago in a plane crash. Their four children joined our family. Now you can see why I wanted to spend more time with my family. With nine kids, they vary greatly. But they all get along and I’m so happy with that. They’ll jump to help each other in a heartbeat. 

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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