Pioneer Landscapes typically employs 35 workers in the green season, but that ramps up to 90 workers in the winter for snow removal.
Photos courtesy of Pioneer Landscapes

The key to success at one New England landscape maintenance and snow removal company is placing everyone on equal footing, regardless of their role within the organization.

“I feel like we treat everybody on the same level, as a true team. We respect everyone,” says Brian Campedelli, president of Pioneer Landscapes in Massachusetts.

Always full service.

Snow removal has been part of the company’s service offerings since Campedelli founded it in 1989. “I always try to offer full service, so one vendor, meaning me, for everything a property needed,” he says. “We had quite a few commercial (clients) in East Hampton when I first started, and they wanted the full gamut from spring clean-up, mowing, fertilization, snow removal, so we priced it all right into one.”

In the Northeast, the white season starts as early as October and the last storm can be as late as mid-April, he says.

“It can be a pretty long season, but we’ve also had seasons where we’ve had three storms. Typically, I think we average around 55 or 65 inches of snow,” Campedelli says.

Preparing for the season begins about two months prior to that first projected snowfall, with mechanical checks to equipment.

“We want to touch every piece of equipment. We go through and grease parts and change the fluids, and tune-ups or whatever is needed,” Campedelli says.

Team development.

During the green season, Pioneer Landscapes employs about 35 people. That number jumps to as many as 90 in the winter, Campedelli says. Subcontractors are brought on and seasonal workers are hired. Most of the winter workers at Pioneer Landscapes come back year after year.

Some of the relationships run deep and trust has been built over time. “I just had one of my loader operators fly to Missouri and pick up a truck that we just bought with a sander and a plow, and he drove it back (for me),” Campedelli says.

The company also has an incentive program for current employees, encouraging them to recruit others. Payments range from $50 to $150 for the referral depending on how long that new worker stays.

Once workers have committed to come back for another winter, training begins around Oct. 1.

“We’ll start having classes,” he says. “We meet once weekly anyway for safety, but then we start talking about the next season that’s coming up, and people that aren’t familiar, the proper way to shovel without getting hurt.”

The veteran seasonal workers are often asked to run the training, he says. “We try to make it fun – doughnuts and coffee in the morning, and then lunch in the afternoon,” Campedelli says.

Also, Campedelli tries to make accommodations to make the job a little easier. “I just treat them like I would want to be treated. It’s a bear to go out for so many hours doing sidewalk snow removal,” he says.

Some of the workers drive in from a few towns away, so Campedelli rents rooms at a local hotel so they can take a break, shower or rest in between shifts.

Storm communication.

If a storm is about to hit, the Pioneer Landscapes uses a call tree to communicate. Campedelli says he has two managers go back and forth from storm to storm.

“In other words, they share the responsibility of calling in,” he says. “When we contact Employee X, we’ll say, ‘Hey, can you call the next three?’” Everyone reports to the office and gets a hand-held radio.

“The guys in plow trucks will come in the day before the storm, fill their sanders and take their trucks home, so they’re ready to go. The loader operators will just show up right to the site where the loaders are,” Campedelli says.

Usually crews begin work at 3 a.m. in order to clear commercial properties before they open for the day.

Client relations.

Pioneer Landscapes likes to go the extra mile with service. “We fix any mistakes or damage, or grass or sod for free,” Campedelli says. “We’re just always on point. I know there’s a lot of companies that are, but it’s definitely a niche. You need to find the niche and really go the extra step and that makes the difference.”

In addition, Campedelli says he has taken measures to reduce liability on the job. “We’re very specific about it, and any regulation of sand, salt or ice melting agents releases everyone in my entire company of any liability,” he says.

Contract negotiations typically start in the summer. The sales team will cold call properties – often those next to current clients. Securing new clients that are close to current clients also helps with route structure.

For the best client relationships, Campedelli says communication is key.

“We don’t just sign them and bill them and forget about them,” he says. “We’re constantly in communication with most of our clients.”

The author is a freelance writer based in Ohio.