Luis Mata, maintenance operations manager for Chalet Nursery, based in Wilmette, Illinois, was introduced to the industry at a young age as he started working with his father on a landscape crew throughout high school.
“At one point I did not want to be involved in the industry,” Mata says. “I wanted to find something else to do but somewhere along the way I was introduced to horticulture and landscape design.”
The more he looked into it, he decided he wanted to go to school for horticulture. He took some classes at the local community college and then transferred to a university. Despite having grown up working in the industry, Mata says it was eye-opening to see there was more to landscaping than cutting grass and he had the ability to grow and make a career out of it.
While in college, he attended a career fair and met Sandra Van den Avont, chief of staff for Chalet. He got her business card and it was five to seven years later when he called her. She remembered him and invited him in for an interview.
Mata has now spent 19 years in the landscape industry and nine years with Chalet. As the maintenance operations manager, he meets with the production team to coordinate and oversee crew dispatch and secure the schedule as things change.
He says some of his favorite things about working in the landscape industry are being able to mix the indoors with the outdoors, caring for the landscape they’ve installed and seeing it mature, as well as working alongside people that share the same passion and expertise to promote the longevity of the landscape.
Mata says some of his mentors over the years have been his father, who showed him how to manage a crew, and when he first started at Chalet, some of the foremen who had been with the company for over 40 years.
“Their passion and knowledge for maintenance and managing properties on the crew level resonated with me,” Mata says. “Looking at a property’s impeccable condition after meticulously caring for all aspects of the landscape over the past few decades amazed me and motivated me to continue just that for the next few decades.”
Mata says the most challenging aspect of working in the industry is finding and securing good talent. He wishes that the general public understood how much there is to learn.
“With so many aspects to the industry, I’ve always wanted to learn more and continue to grow in each way that I can,” Mata says. “I’ve done this by continuing education, attending seminars, and obtaining my certification as an Arborist. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity come up through each of these levels and have a greater understanding of the business.”
Mata sees himself continuing to grow within the company over the next five years.
“I’ve always just shown up every day to work hard, and try to improve the process, try to improve our efficiencies, and just keep continuing to grow,” Mata says.
As for what he’d like to see change in the industry, Mata wants to empower the Latino/Hispanic community by bringing more awareness to resources in place for personal and professional growth.
Mata sees his crew members as craftsmen and thinks it’s important to keep an open mind to everyone’s opinion.
“Everyone’s opinion matters,” Mata says. “It doesn’t matter what level you are in the company, whether it’s from a laborer to a foreman to a supervisor. Everyone’s opinion matters and everyone needs to work equally as hard to get to that final goal.”