Making dad and mom proud

October 1, 2010 -  By
Steven Jomides

Photo: Steven Jomides

Steven Jomides never had the opportunity to fully repay the $15,000 his father loaned him in 1988 to found Lawns By Yorkshire.

“I made one or two small payments to Dad in ’88, but later that year he died of lung cancer at age 56,” shares Jomides, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, as he fights back tears. “Mom died two years later, at 53, of brain cancer. I was orphaned at 27. I grew up in a hurry.”

Today, the 48-year-old Jomides says he honors his parents daily by placing family first, while working hard to grow his dad’s $15,000 loan into a $10 million-plus business by 2013 — the 25th anniversary of the founding of Lawns By Yorkshire.

Seed of hope

Little did Jomides or his parents know then, but that $15,000 starter loan would represent the seed of hope for a 25-year-old only child about to lose both parents.

“Looking back, it’s very fitting I named the business Lawns By Yorkshire,” Jomides notes. “My parents absolutely loved, and for years bred, Yorkshire terriers. I’m not a small-dog guy, but it’s never been just about me. This business is as much Dad’s and Mom’s as it is mine and my associates.”

Jomides is a self-purported graduate of “The Green School of Hard Knocks.”

“When I was 17, I made $3 per hour mowing lawns and picking weeds for a friend,” Jomides reminisces. “I spent most of my daily earnings on breakfast and lunch. That was Lesson No. 1: Control expenditures now; rewards come later.”

Three years later, Jomides received a reward: a 33% bump in pay when he went to work for another landscape contractor.

“I earned $4 per hour — but, again, it was very hard and humbling work,” Jomides notes. “Tasked with transporting crushed blue landscape stone up a steep hill, I lasted only one week on that grueling job.

“But I learned another critical business lesson that week: The sizable gap between labor and material costs and project pricing — the ‘net’ — really caught my eye, and eventually my heart and my parents’ faith,” Jomides adds. “The seed to start my own landscape business was planted that week, with that job loss. Five years later, with help from Dad and Mom, I struck out on my own.”

No small dog

After attending his father’s funeral, Jomides returned to work that afternoon. And, for the most part, he hasn’t looked back since.

“I only have two regrets: 1) That my parents never met my beautiful bride of 16 years, Andrea, and our children, Zac and Noa; and 2) That Dad and Mom never saw what became of their $15,000 — how their little Yorkshire has grown into a pretty big dog.”

Lawns By Yorkshire has grown its annual revenue two hundredfold — from about $40,000 in sales in 1988 to a projected $8 million this year. The company’s operations, meanwhile, have expanded from one small home office to its Westwood, NJ, headquarters plus three satellite locations.

The company’s “Green Team” provides landscape and tree installation and maintenance; lawn, plant and shrub care; integrated pest management; design/build services; erosion control; and irrigation and storm water management solutions. The Green team accounts for half of the company’s employee roster, yet typically generates about two-thirds of the business’ annual sales.

Lawns By Yorkshire’s “White Team” comprises about 250 associates providing snow and ice management services. With an arsenal of 40 trucks, 30 plows, 75 snowblowers, 15 salt spreaders and more than 40 skid steers with plow attachments, the White Team is tethered to headquarters and one another via smart phones, a system of controlled circuit TV cameras and GPS devices. “Technology helps us ensure safety and efficiency in even the most brutal of Northeast storms,” Jomides adds.

Lawns By Yorkshire serves an array of clients — from homeowner associations, multi-family dwellings and senior-living facilities to hotels,
restaurants and retail/shopping centers, to school and corporate campuses to municipalities and industrial complexes — throughout New Jersey and New York.

“How do we grow every year? We work our butts off to bring in and keep business,” Jomides says. “Sometimes, our industry forgets we need to keep our customers happy to keep them. Other times, we forget we need to keep selling to keep growing. We need to do both very well to survive and thrive in this business.”

Giving back

Jomides says he feels a strong tug to give back to the Green Industry, which has given him, his family and his family of associates so much. That’s why he shares his time and leadership talents with the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association (NJLCA) and the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

“Steven’s dedication to the Green Industry, network of industry professionals and addictive enthusiasm has been a welcomed addition to NJLCA’s Board of Directors,” says NJLCA President Jody Shilan.

Jomides also is an active member of PLANET, helping to drive membership in the national association as well as serving on its Executive Forum Committee.

“We have an excellent group of core managers at Lawns By Yorkshire, which affords me the peace of mind needed to leave base camp and give back more to our industry,” Jomides notes. “We’re about halfway up Mount Everest. As we close in on the summit, I’ll turn over more to our talented management team and give back more to the industry.”

After one of his rare looks in the rearview mirror, Jomides earlier this year decided to further honor his parents while giving back to the industry.

Jomides and Judy Guido, his chief marketing officer, are working closely with PLANET staff to establish an annual scholarship in the names of Jomides’ parents, Morton and Sandra. The goal is to each year award one landscape/horticulture student $1,000 for his or her education as part of the planned $25,000 scholarship endowment.

“This annual PLANET scholarship honoring Dad and Mom will be around long after I’m gone,” Jomides says, smiling. “I wasn’t afforded the time to pay back my father during his short stay here, but I can repay Dad and Mom by paying it forward.”

LM Staff

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