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Mariani motivation

November 11, 2015 -  By
Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri

If you ever have the chance to visit Mariani Landscape, do it. And if you’re considering joining a peer group, give that a try, too. Both will motivate you. I promise.

I had the opportunity to do these two things last month, when I shadowed one of Jeffery Scott’s Leaders Edge Peer Groups as its members conducted their meeting at Mariani Landscape. The company, which does about $40 million in annual revenue, is focused on high-end landscape maintenance, architecture and construction.

The meeting, which spanned four days, included the peer group sitting in on live company meetings, touring the facility and interviewing key staff. Typically, the peer group members go through this routine at one another’s shops. But at Scott’s request, they made a guest appearance at Mariani to learn from one of the standard bearers in Chicago’s competitive landscape market.

CEO Frank Mariani, President Fred Wacker and the entire team were generous with their time and knowledge. They opened their books and their minds—for mutual benefit.

Italians are known for being passionate people, and it’s a fitting description of Mariani. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more driven CEO. His intensity is infectious.

He says his wife, Sherri, jokes that his tombstone will be two-toned green, like the company’s trucks, and it will read, “I should have spent more time at Mariani Landscape.”

It’s morbidly tongue-in-cheek, but it makes the point. Even today—with 42 years in the business—Mariani works 60- to 70-hour weeks. He sits on a local bank’s board, belongs to networking groups and still goes on sales calls. And he does things like open his doors to a peer group he doesn’t belong to. There’s no doubt he did so to give back to others in the industry, but that’s not the only reason.

“We have to run faster,” he says.

Mariani’s drive goes back to 1973, when he took over the company from his father, who died of leukemia at age 45. Mariani was just finishing high school. As his health deteriorated, Mariani’s father began instructing him about how to carry on the business. “Don’t ever take on a partner,” “Get rid of this customer and this customer,” his father shared, among other advice.

“I can still see it in his eyes,” he says. “He was worried about how this kid would be able to handle it all.”

Mariani was scared, but he had to provide for his mother and siblings. That fear still drives him today, he acknowledges, despite the formidable business he’s built, the talented team he’s assembled and the pride they express for the great work the company does.

“The flame is always this close,” Mariani says, gesturing an inch from his face. He recalls a time when he was questioned about “wanting every job.”

Mariani’s response? “Is this a trick question?” Of course he wants every job.

Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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