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Roots of labor

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While diversifying, customer service and plant health care have remained the core of Phil Mastroianni Corp.’s culture.

Lee Chilcote | March 29, 2012

Phil Mastroianni and Nick Mastroianni have joined their father, Phil Mastroianni Jr., at the family business.

 

The story of Phil Mastroianni Corp. is one of a decades-old, Boston-area lawn and landscape company that has grown like an old, venerable tree by wrapping new services around a solid core of attentive maintenance and superb service.

Yet behind the proud, public face of this successful family-owned business lies another, closely held narrative. If you sit down with second generation owner Phil Mastroianni Jr., he’ll quietly share with you how the business that his Italian-born father started has not only stayed strong, but also welcomed new, younger family members into the fold.

Call it a classic immigrant story with a twist. As each Mastroianni generation came of age, their elders encouraged them to get an education and pursue a field that didn’t involve working with their hands. Yet they ended up in the family business anyway, defying their parents’ initial wishes and becoming a part of the industry they loved.

“My father was old school. He came from Italy and wanted me to have more of an education,” Phil Mastroianni, Jr. says. “I went straight from high school into the business. He wasn’t too happy with me at that time, but I know he’s happy with me now.”

“It’s a business that I actually really love,” he adds. “Maintenance is in my heart and I’ll never get rid of it.”

Mastroianni Corp. has certainly changed a lot since Phil Jr. began working alongside his father 37 years ago. Business then was focused on plant and tree care as well as maintenance for higher-end Boston customers. As he began taking the helm, however, he gradually added light and heavy construction, to the point where installation now comprises about half of the company’s overall business.

“The core of our business now is landscape construction, but maintenance is still the core of the culture of our company,” he says. “When we do the builds, our intention is to have them as long-term customers, doing plant health care and ornamental pruning.”

Today, both of Phil Jr.’s sons also work in the business. Phil R. Mastroianni attended college and obtained an accounting degree; after working at public accounting firm KPMG, he joined the company in 2009. Younger son Nicholas Mastroianni is a licensed landscape architect, and he now helps the company design its landscapes in-house.

In short, Mastroianni Corp. is still very much a family affair. Yet Phil R. chuckles as he recalls how his father refused to let him work there when he was growing up. “He didn’t want me to get caught up too early in working outside; he wanted me to stay in school. Yet I knew that he’d always wanted me to be part of the family business. So when a position opened up to do estimating, I figured it was the right time to give it a try.”

Today, Phil R. not only handles project estimating, but he is also helping to market the company to the next generation of customers. He still gets flak for not spending more time in the field each day, as his father has done for so many years, and he knows that being at his dad’s beck and call is a somewhat inevitable part of working in the family business. Nonetheless, he enjoys the culture and admires his father’s work ethic.

Although Mastroianni Corp. continues to evolve now that the youngest generation has gotten involved, the core of the firm remains the same. Phil Jr. and his crew members enjoy creating beautiful, dramatic landscapes for their customers, yet the elements which keep customers coming back are customer service and plant health care.

“We take a lot of care in working with our clients,” says Phil Jr. “We take care of problems right away, and we generate lots of referrals through customers. The business is very competitive without a doubt, but our client base is very important to us.”

“It’s really about being proactive and knowing our clients,” adds Phil R. “We don’t just make the sale, but return to moderate what’s going on.”

Phil R. breaks down Mastroianni’s successful approach towards plant and tree health care into three components. First, the company ensures that staff does a good job on the initial inspection. Second, they are proactive in monitoring the situation, including conducting periodic reviews and using a note card system to identify new issues. Finally, the firm instills a maintenance culture into all staff, thus ensuring that salespeople and applicators are keenly focused on close, attentive care.

Over the years, the company has also developed a system for treating plants and trees with a targeted, customized approach, rather than using blanket spraying techniques. “Especially with the newer accounts, if they have kids, we push more organics,” says Phil Jr. “We have a four-to five-step program that we go through with customers.”

Close monitoring of properties not only helps Mastroianni Corp. to provide great service, it also helps them to make sales. “The applicator has an index card, and they keep their eyes open and leave a copy with the customer if they notice something,” says Phil R. “That helps in a couple ways. It shows that the guys on the ground have their eyes open and ensures clients don’t have any holes. It’s also a good way for us to sell services.”

Although maintenance remains at the center of Mastroianni’s business, the company has done plenty of landscape installations and hardscapes even in a recession. “We saw stronger demand last year in landscape construction, and we think that area is really coming back,” says Phil R. “With Boston being big in high tech and higher education, we felt the recession less than some other parts of the country.”

How the company markets itself depends upon which service you’re talking about, adds Phil R. “For tree and plant health care, we’re seeing more and more go online. People realize they need this service, and they research who can help me now. Landscape construction really has more to do with getting a good name out there.”

Although Phil Jr. never would have anticipated that he’d be engaged in “all four corners of the landscaping industry” when he first started out, the company’s diversified focus has helped it to remain profitable and competitive over the years. “Even if a customer doesn’t do a big expansion project, they still have a big yard,” he says. “So we’ll do mulching, flowers, maybe an expansion of a wall to take care of the property and keep it up.”

Perhaps the biggest secret to Mastroianni Corp.’s continued success goes back to the family’s hardworking, immigrant roots. Phil Jr. gets into the office at 4:30 a.m. each morning and still goes out with his landscaping crew each day. Workers tend to stay with the company because they earn respect through hard work and are treated like team members. In addition to a companywide culture of strong customer service, employee career development is also a major focus at Phil Mastroianni Corp.

“A lot of people started here with no experience in the industry, and 10-15 years later they have accreditations and certifications,” says Phil R. “My father always put a lot of emphasis on people bettering their own lives, and I think the company has benefited from that.”
 

This story is one of three that appeared in Lawn & Landscape's Growing Green e-newsletter. To continue reading about Phil Mastrioanni Corp.'s success:

Rise and shine: The secret to Phil Mastroianni Jr.'s success is long hours and dedication to his work.

Seasonal service: The warm weather has caused changes in lawn care applications.

 

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