Lucas Melograno is a production coordinator for Mariani Landscape based in Lake Bluff, Illinois. Since he was young, he knew he wanted to be outside, with an early love for construction, machines and being outdoors.
“While I was in high school my boss at the time had a part-time lawn mowing service and would ask me to help him out every so often,” Melograno says. “It was a great way to make a few extra dollars and I enjoyed what I did. After I did that for a summer or two, I wanted to do more than just cut grass, so I started my own little landscaping company. I quickly learned that I needed to gain some more experience in the field, but that this is what I wanted to do for my career.”
Over the course of five years, he worked with smaller landscape companies throughout the Midwest and learned about various aspects of the business, prior to joining Mariani for a second time.
He is an active leading member of the NALP Young Professionals Network and has spoken at various industry events leadership and training for Young Professionals in the Green Industry.
What is a typical day like for you and what are some of your primary tasks and responsibilities?
My official title with Mariani is a Production Coordinator (PC), but I wear quite a few hats. As a PC I am responsible for overseeing six maintenance crews totaling about 30 people. In 2019, we made the decision to begin deploying our maintenance crews that service our Wisconsin clients in the Lake Geneva area from our nursery just over the border in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I helped to transition our maintenance teams up here and now oversee the daily operations of this yard. In 2017, I took on a small book of business as a Client Representative (CR). I have about five clients totaling $350K in business, but I am working towards transitioning those clients to other CRs in the next few years.
A typical day for me would be to arrive at our nursery around 6:50 a.m. and get my crews out the gate. From there I will usually spend about an hour in the office catching up on some emails, doing some scheduling, working on any proposals I have to prepare and getting any paperwork for the crews ready for the coming day. After that, I am out in the field meeting with other CRs, crews and clients on jobsites. I usually try to make it back to the yard around 3:00-3:30 p.m. to spend a little more time in the office before the crews arrive for the evening. My crews are usually back in the yard loaded and parked for the next day by 4:30-5:00 p.m.
What is your favorite part about working in the green industry?
My favorite thing about this industry is that every day is something new and something different. Some days you’re spending your time out in the field walking jobsites, working with crews, and meeting with clients. Other days you are spending it in the office designing landscapes, creating proposals, and working on the business side of the industry. There really is no boring day.
What advice would you give to young professionals entering the field?
There are three pieces of advice that I would give to young professionals entering the green industry. First, find a mentor that can help guide you through the early stages of your career. Whether this person is from within your organization or not, having someone to turn to for advice will prove to be extremely valuable in your professional and personal development.
Mentors can and should change as you continue to advance in your career. Second, learn to become a great communicator. Great communication skills will help you in so many ways from dealing with clients, other members on your team, your manager. Lastly, I would say to just be patient. Spend time out in the field working alongside the crews. You will gain an incredible amount of knowledge that will help you be more successful in other positions.
What is your proudest accomplishment in the business so far?
I have a lot of projects that I have been very proud to work on, and I am a part of a great team that I am incredibly proud to be associated with. I love hearing from clients about how much they love and appreciate someone on your team’s hard work or one of your crew members shares they’re buying their first house. Thinking back to where some of them started and hearing their stories to where they are now is so rewarding.
Recently, one of the property managers at a very large client was raving about a crew member and how hardworking, knowledgeable, and friendly he is each time he is on site. Five years ago, this crew member didn’t think he was going to make it after his first week, but he kept pushing harder each week and now he’s next in line to run his own crew. Seeing this kind of growth and development pushes me every day to be better so I can continue to help grow and develop others on my team.
What does it mean to you to be a landscape professional?
I believe that being a landscape professional means you hold yourself and your company to a higher standard. Landscape professionals don’t just focus on cutting grass or installing landscapes. They are focused on their business, safety, employee growth and development, and providing the best solutions for their clients.
What does it mean to you to be an NALP member?
For me, being an NALP member means you are part of a network of other landscape professionals that have similar goals of helping each other and the industry continue to grow and prosper.
In five years, where do you see yourself?
I am only a year into my new role and working from a satellite office, but really enjoying this new opportunity. Over the course of the next five years, I see us growing and expanding in the Wisconsin market and eventually transitioning from a satellite office/yard to a functioning branch at which point I plan to be involved in the daily management of that branch in some capacity. I also plan to continue my role with the NALP Young Professional Network working with other young professionals as they enter the industry.
Melograno is a host of the NALP Young Professionals Network Podcast. Subscribe here.