Growing against the grain

Features - Design/Build

While other companies downsized or disappeared, Moscarino Outdoor Creations gunned ahead and built a new facility.

February 13, 2013

Clients who visit Moscarino Outdoor Creations’ 36-acre home base get a real sense for how the design/build process works and can essentially see before they spend. The grounds include several mini landscapes that showcase water features, hardscape materials, annuals and perennials.

Each year, the company, located in Northeast Ohio, adds to its onsite landscape theatre – it’s just enough to give clients a taste of what the firm offers.

“I love challenging projects, and I love working with clients who have a vision, and we can help bring that to life,” says Chas Moscarino, who started in the business cutting grass to help pay for college.

When he graduated, he couldn’t ignore the success of his company, so he and brother Chris focused on growing and expanding its services, incorporating in 2003.

“I talked to my brother and we said, ‘We can make this thing as big as we want – let’s go for it,’” Moscarino says, telling the short version of their conversation about growing the business.

Every year, Moscarino Outdoor Creations has grown about 30 to 40 percent, which garnered the firm a prestigious Weatherhead 100 Award showcasing the fastest growing companies in northeast Ohio.

“In a down economy, people were cutting back, but we kept our game out in front of everyone,” Moscarino says.

The company maintained its marketing budget, doubled its staff from 2009 to 2012 – the firm now employs 90 people – and moved into a brand-new facility two years ago.

Selling on site. 
The show-and-tell power of selling a landscape design is real.

When clients can see the material, touch it, choose among living plants they can see and smell, they can make decisions easier. And this saves a lot of headaches during the design process.

Plus, visiting the facility helps build a comfort level, which is the foundation for a long-term relationship that can result in multi-phase projects for Moscarino. “Once we get our clients here, they can meet our team, they meet our designers – we have them in the conference room and make sure they are comfortable with us, our process,” Moscarino says.

Then, everyone can walk outside the door onto the expansive property and stroll through the landscape settings arranged to help clients visualize how plans actually materialize. “They can point out what they like – ‘I love that plant material,’ or, ‘That’s not going to work,’” Moscarino says.

“They can pick materials out of a catalogue, but when they come here and see it they say, ‘I didn’t think it was going to look like that; I like this better.’ Having clients visit us here saves time.” The million-dollar project was a big risk for the company. “We did that in the middle of the recession, and it was a scary move for us,” Moscarino says.

The company did 25 percent of the construction itself, managing the overall project. Moscarino leases a portion of the land to another vendor, and its facility is at full capacity. “We have grown into the facility, and that was the goal,” Moscarino says.

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Phase in the work

Breaking projects into smaller pieces will appeal to clients.

Breaking big projects into budget-friendly pieces has secured long-term accounts for Moscarino Outdoor Creations. Taking a phase approach to designing landscapes gives clients financial flexibility and allows them to buy into a large-scale plan without feeling the pain in the wallet.

“We always present different concepts, and once we get the final plan, we break down every part of it as a cost,” says Chas Moscarino, president, Moscarino Outdoor Creations, Columbia Station, Ohio. Also, taking a project in phases helps Moscarino Outdoor Creations meet high expectations on tight budgets. “If a client is telling me their budget is $20,000 but I see $80,000 of work on the property, I always ask if this is something they want to stake out over a period of time,” he says. By laying out a project in a phase format, clients feel comfortable with the immediate investment. For example, if a plan includes a $50,000 outdoor fireplace, the first phase might include setting concrete and installing electricity.

“We get these elements prepped now so we can do (the fireplace) when the time is right,” he says. “The same goes for landscaping and trees – as long as we know it’s in the plan, we can prepare for it. And clients like that approach.”