Lessons Learned from Field Trip at R.P. Marzilli & Company - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Lessons Learned from Field Trip at R.P. Marzilli & Company

Photo: NALP/Philippe Nobile Photography

The sixth annual NALP Field Trip took place at R.P. Marzilli & Company’s headquarters in Medway, Massachusetts, on June 23-24. This $53 million-dollar company specializes in high-end, high-quality residential work. More than 250 landscape and lawn care professionals assembled for an in-person tour of their facility.

Over the two days, hosts Marty Grunder and Frank Mariani explored the history of the business, how the company grew to their current size and how they provide the highest level of quality on their construction and maintenance jobs.

Founded by Bob Marzilli, the company was started in 1985 after he struck out from his family’s landscape maintenance business. Now the business has four branches located in Medway, Weston, Cape Cod and Rhode Island. The company works on projects anywhere from hilly terrains and coastal properties to urban cityscapes.

Build Relationships with Clients

The company partners with landscape architects, homeowners and contractors to bring their visions to life. As a bid-build company, R.P. Marzilli is adamant about not biting the hand that feeds them so they opt to collaborate with landscape architecture firms rather than creating landscape designs of their own in-house.  

Starting out, Marzilli didn’t do a lot of marketing as the majority of his business came from word of mouth. He still puts considerable effort into cold calling and connecting with new potential clients. Marzilli says he likes to think of business cards as grass seed. You can plant it, but you need to follow up with it if you want it to grow. He says persistence is what makes us all better.

Over the years they have been able to maintain these relationships with their clients by always doing the right thing, no matter the cost.

An example of this is their plant warranties as they will often replace a plant at the request of a customer even if it is past their two-year warranty period. Marzilli believes the cost of warranty labor is insignificant to the trust and good faith gained with a customer.  

They also work to have one main point of contact for their clients so communication is streamlined, and trust can be built between the two parties.

Create Standardized Processes

Photo: NALP/Philippe Nobile Photography

With 300 employees working throughout the Northeast on jobs, having systems and processes in place allows the Marzilli team to function like a well-oiled machine. Three years ago, the company adopted the software Smartsheet, which their CTO David Clemons calls ‘Excel on steroids.’ This program is used in numerous ways throughout the company to help with accountability and communication.

The fleet and small equipment managers use Smartsheet to track problems with equipment and to keep up with which crews have what machinery at their job sites. It is also utilized for project management, plant ordering, scheduling of crews and more.

Clemons says it took time for the team to get adjust to the system. However, they quickly learned if they wanted to have their crews or materials show up at a jobsite, they needed to complete the necessary forms. Marzilli’s maintenance and sales operations also have a very structured approach to scheduling and coordinating with the team to ensure each crew has the necessary resources and that they are not overpromising when it comes to job completion dates.

By creating structure in the business, it is much easier to see when there are gaps in the schedule where more work needs to be sold or if the margins on a job are slipping.   

Care for Your People

Marzilli says he would not be where he is at today without his staff. The crews work 10-hour days Monday through Friday and can opt to work on Saturday and Sunday as well. Despite the hard work, his team is passionate about their craft.

He makes a point to recognize his team and be specific with his praise. They also have a company newsletter that includes the employee of the month and recognizes other staff members for a job well done.

“We’re touching people’s lives every day,” Marzilli says. “Celebrate the people working for us.”

He argues that a person’s expertise doesn’t matter if they don’t fit the company’s culture. They have even turned away potential hires if they don’t align with the business’s values.

Marzilli says the biggest mistake he made in 37 years is thinking he needed to be on every jobsite because he didn’t trust his people. He encourages owners to give the leaders in their organization a chance to lead. He says his staff is much happier now that he’s stepped back.

If you missed this year’s Field Trip, you can still learn tips about implementing systems from Marty Grunder during his session at ELEVATE.

Click here to view more pictures from the event.

Thanks to our event partners: Aspire Software, Gravely, Vanguard and Vermeer.

Stay tuned for future Field Trip dates.  

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.