Leadership Class of 2006: Gerry McCarthy, President/CEO of Mac's Landscaping

Features - Leadership Lessons

Catching up with Gerry

August 13, 2010
Bo Gemmell

Gerry McCarthy.
Photo: Brian Smith
What have you been up to since you won your Leadership award in 2006?
The last three years have been really tough. This is the first year we’re starting to feel a little bit of a breather. As far as what we’ve been doing in business, I kind of changed the flow of work. We cut back on advertising.  We’re no longer in the phonebook; we just use Google. 
I’m still doing all the social organizations. I cut back on the leadership roles because of the situation.  I’ve been trying not to extend myself too much because of the way things are.

Have you had any life-changing events that reshaped the way you do business?
I was so happy when I got that Leadership Award. At my age I thought I’d be in a better position, but I’m back into survival mode and growing a little bit. But the jobs make me feel good.
The economy woke me up. May of last year I thought I was going out of business. We just buckled down as much as we possibly could. We stopped all spending and made necessary payments. Obviously number one was payroll and then the vendors. We called the vendors and told them the situation. There was a freeze on everything. I’ve been through it three times in past recessions. It’s like getting stung by a bee – you know how the pain feels.

I knew the recession wasn’t going to last one year and be all over. There’s still pain here. I take one job at a time, get paid and don’t have too many going on or there’s no cash flow. You always have to have cash flow.

What’s your take on business technology?
I’m not as technical as most of the other guys. I do my e-mail. I don’t have a “Crackberry.” The technology hasn’t changed too much other than that I really do notice that everybody likes to be treated by e-mail. It’s annoying because they don’t like to talk on the phone. We’re going to be in trouble if we can start doing landscaping on e-mail.
I’m still doing the exact same thing I’ve done for 35 years. When a customer calls, I go out and see them. I like to meet the customer. It’s almost the same as when you go for a job. It’s not like you just send a resume – you still have to meet the person.

Where do you think the industry will be in 2020?
We’ll definitely be in an upswing. I’ve been through three recessions and this one is the hardest. We’ll come out of this in the next three years. As people get jobs and more money to spend, they’re going to spend it. I think it’ll get better and the technology and equipment will get better. I’m at the point that I’d love to bring a laptop on the job and have a printer right there.

What key issues are you paying close attention to right now?
I think on the environmental part we have to start watching our water use. It’s a very precious thing. In Boston we had a water break in the spring and nobody could use water for three days. We always took it for granted.
The other thing is pesticides – people are really concerned about care of their lawns. There’s always a certain clientele who will spend the money on the herbicides and pesticides. I think as the next generation is coming up they’re getting mindful of all the toxins.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard?
A good friend of mine always said, “Go after the nickels and dimes – the dollars will follow.” Don’t take on too much that you can’t handle. If you get overloaded you can’t handle it and can’t produce then you can actually go out of business pretty quickly. You got to take it slow. Slow, steady and easy is the smartest thing to do. You have to control your costs, your help, and you basically have to take one job at a time, finish it and make the customer happy.