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Summer 2012

Success continues as management strategy changes

Different approaches to landscaping work for six decades.

Wayne Impullitti, Impullitti Landscaping

Wayne Impullitti, Impullitti Landscaping

For 60 years, the name Impullitti has been synonymous with the landscaping business in northeast Ohio.

The first generation of the company focused on a small number of residential clients, a “Who’s Who of Cleveland.” The operation was labor-intensive with hard-working crews using wheelbarrows, picks and shovels.

Cliff Impullitti Sr. started the company in 1952 and ran it for 33 years until his sons Wayne and Cliff Jr. took over. Wayne has been the sole owner of Impullitti Landscaping since 1990.

“My dad was never concerned about the volume of work,” Wayne says. “All he did was residential, except when one of his clients wanted him to do a project at a business he owned. He was not interested in commercial installation.”

That changed in 1988 when the 24-year-old Wayne did his first commercial job, which he says was a turning point for the company.

“I remember everything about the job,” he says. “It was at the Monarch Center and we were planting on Saturday afternoon when the temperature hit 103 degrees. Our work got the attention of developers and within two weeks we had two more major commercial jobs.”

Later the focus of the Burton, Ohio-based company evolved back into residential work as Wayne took steps to avoid what he saw as market changes and economic downturns. He explains some of the management strategies that have helped the family legacy endure.

On switching from commercial to residential

A completed landscaping project by Impullitti Landscaping.

A completed landscaping project by Impullitti Landscaping.

“When I first got ‘gung ho’ about commercial work, we did tons of installations for condos, hotels, shopping centers and office buildings,” Wayne says. “However, I came to realize that a general bid on someone else’s plan is not our deal. So as time went on, and the commercial building boom declined, our focus turned to residential. That’s our niche — where people are more concerned about the finished project.

“In 2007, other landscapers were still adding people and equipment thinking the housing boom was going to go on forever. I didn’t think this situation was sustainable, so we began downsizing before everyone else was downsizing. We were up to 105 employees and cut back to about 60, and began to focus more on maintenance, snow removal and the type of installation we were good at. As a result, even in a down economy we were becoming more profitable. We were able to better forecast our workload and geared up with the right number of people and equipment. In 2009 we had our best year ever; highest sales, most profit. The reason: We cut back to become more efficient, maximizing our investment in people and equipment to match the work we had.”

On buying and keeping equipment

“I always want to have the right equipment at the right time,” Wayne says. “If a piece of equipment sits, I get rid of it. If it doesn’t have multiple purposes, it’s gone. Nothing stays if it is not being used.

“As soon as I see a need for a machine, I buy it. For example, for years my guys kept asking about a mini track loader. I couldn’t see what it could contribute. Then our business changed and we began doing more backyard jobs. At that point a mini track loader made sense. I purchased an MT55 from Bobcat of Cleveland, a valuable machine that has really increased our efficiency. We use it all the time.

“The same with Bobcat® loaders. Thanks to all the available attachments, we get plenty of use out of our T650 and S250. The M-Series T650 is the best Bobcat loader yet. Believe me, I’ve looked at a lot of compact track loaders and the T650 is far better than the competition. It’s more efficient, more powerful, easier to service and more fuel-efficient. I am amazed how Bobcat equipment keeps changing for the better.

“That’s one of the reasons I don’t keep equipment a long time. Bobcat is a perfect example of a company that develops new technology that allows us to be more efficient. A new product may allow me to eliminate older equipment that is less efficient and more likely to need repairs. Once something is no longer covered by the warranty, I look for a newer replacement.”

On being patient

“Several years ago a client asked for a plan on a driveway project,” he says. “Four years later we got a call to get started. The job continued for two years; another year went by and we were called back again to do more work. That driveway job turned out to be a successful large project.

“At the time we had a T300 compact track loader that was stationed at the house for two years. Without the Bobcat loader, this job would not have been possible. The T300 carried boulders one at a time around the house and throughout the tree-lined property. There is no other machine we could have used to handle this project so efficiently.”

On customer satisfaction

“Everyone makes mistakes. You need to stand behind your work, and if there is a problem, fix it. Don’t let things linger, don’t fight with customers. That philosophy has allowed us to keep so many customers year after year — we fix a problem, no questions asked. We can do that because we have equipment that is ready to work every day.”

Making informed decisions, altering business strategies and having the right equipment at the right time are all reasons why Impullitti Landscaping is celebrating its 60th year in business.