Young & hungry

Turnaround Tour - Turnaround Tour

Two New Jersey natives want to grow their start-up into the next Brickman.

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January 31, 2017
William Gruccio & Michael D’Orazi: Gruccio and D’Orazio started their business four years ago and have grown it into a $700,000 full-service company in a highly competitive market. The 28-year-olds have big goals, but don’t know the systems and structures they need to accomplish them.
© Jon Arman

Will Gruccio and Michael D’Orazio stumbled into the landscape industry by “complete dumb luck,” Gruccio says. He was fresh out of an MBA program and D’Orazio was out of work. They needed something to bring in some cash while they looked for something better. Two years later, they still didn’t have anything better to do, so in 2013 they formalized their operation and focused on making Vineland Landscaping a going concern.

Both men were born and raised in Vineland, a 60-square-mile town in southern New Jersey, and their local connections have been key to their growth.

“Growing up there, we know everyone,” Gruccio says.

“We’d grown pretty good, but still not making any money. Artificially, we look like pretty much every other company, doing OK. We want to actually be doing good.” Will Gruccio, president

But those connections have also been a hurdle. Most of the companies and homeowners Gruccio and D’Orazio approached that first year already knew them, and also assumed they wouldn’t stick with landscaping for long. Gruccio had an MBA and a job offer from Barclay’s, and D’Orazio had started a career as a firefighter.

“I want to be home with my family and friends. We both want to live in Vineland and raise our families in Vineland,” Gruccio says.

Their goals for 2016:

Vineland’s goals are to increase efficiency and profitability, specifically getting net profit closer to 10 percent. The company has grown rapidly in five years – $700,000 in revenue in 2016, double what it posted in 2015 – but the duo struggles with cash flow and actually making profits.

Vineland operates out of a shop that Gruccio’s family owns, which eliminates significant overhead and the management team takes very little in salary. He wants to structure the company so it can be high-performing on paper, and in real life.

“We’d grown pretty good, but still not making money. Artificially, we look like pretty much every other company, doing OK,” Gruccio says. “We want to actually be looking good.”

Harvester assessment:

Arman and Laflamme love the connections Gruccio and D’Orazio have built – including with the Vineland mayor’s office – but are concerned that the town is too rural and too spread out to have enough business to sustain a million-dollar landscape company. “Will is a networking genius. The guy is over the top,” Arman says. “He knows every person on Earth in a 20-mile radius.”

“I want to be home with my family and friends. We both want to live in Vineland and raise our families in Vineland.” Will Gruccio, president

Their immediate focus for Vineland will be improving gross margins, safety and sales.

“These guys are really smart, college-educated business guys; they just don’t know what they don’t know,” Laflamme says. “But they’re catching on real fast.”