Ohio company’s varied services keep clients satisfied and employees working

Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping

Owners: Carmine and Marc Delliquadri

Founded: 1990

Headquarters: Girard, Ohio

Markets: Mahoning and Trumbull counties

Services: Landscape design and build; wholesale and retail sale of mulch, gravel, soil and decorative stone; maintenance services including mulching, mowing, aeration, thatching, pruning, weed treatment and fertilization; spring clean-ups; planting of trees and shrubs; fall leaf removal; shrub and tree trimming; and gravel and mulch replacement

Employees: 35


For Carmine Delliquadri, running a successful lawn maintenance company means providing value for the customers, ongoing work for employees and maintaining a mutual respect among competitors.

Delliquadri’s brother Marc started Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping in Girard, Ohio, in 1990. Delliquadri joined his brother in 1994, and they became partners in 1996.

Overall, the company offers services in lawn maintenance, design/build and retail and wholesale sale of products.

Delliquadri says his company’s approach to turf is to provide value to customers. “A few years ago, we came up with this idea of putting down liquid weed prevention in the beds. For the commercial customers, we’ll spray liquid weed control on the mulch in April and then we’ll follow that up with weed killer in May, and in September we’ll do another application of weed control.

“It really cuts down on the work you have to do,” he adds. “We don’t do much hand-weeding because we’ve prevented the weeds and the ones that came up, we kill them and they don’t come back. We don’t have many problems with landscaping weeds.”

Delliquadri also believes in doing fertilization and weed control so that it benefits the grass cutter. “We got into fertilization and weed control about 10 years ago because we’d go to cut a lawn and the grass would be about 8 or 10 inches high and a local branch of a national company would have already been there that morning having sprayed the lawn with fertilizer and putting up a sign that says do not mow for 24 hours.

“If it’s supposed to rain the next day, it will be 4 feet high by the time I get back. We follow the mowers with the fertilization and weed control. We don’t go ahead of them and throw them under the bus. We do it as follow-up service to mowing. We don’t spray weed control on grass that’s a foot high. It’s fundamentally incorrect to do that.”

Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping provides fertilization services for other companies. “We follow their lawn maintenance crews as well,” he says. “They like it because we don’t really talk to their customer about anything other than fertilizer. They know that if they refer us to their commercial property, we’re not going to try to undermine them and get in there for more services without their input. We don’t stab anybody in the back. It works out for both companies.”

This isn’t the bone-jarring way we aerated before. This Delliquadri employee will have this lawn in shape in no time riding behind a Turfco TurnAer 6 Aerator.

Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping uses a slow-release granular fertilizer. The company does not offer organic fertilizer, as Delliquadri finds it “more time-consuming and more expensive.”

Additional revenue streams

Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping’s design/build service consists of planting shrubs and trees where they’re going to fit so they look nice as they mature.

“You design the landscape so it doesn’t look mature from the first day because five to 10 years down the road, the customer is going to have to pull stuff out because the plants are up against each other, killing each other.”

Delliquadri, who spent years behind a lawn mower, came to appreciate that in designing a landscape, it should be done so to flow for a lawn mower.

“You try not to design little patches of grass where you have to get the weed-eater out or narrow strips of grass where you don’t have to get the push mower out,” Delliquadri says. “I try to get as much as I can with the lawn mower.”

Another revenue stream for the company is the wholesale and retail sale of mulch, gravel, pavers and decorative stones. The idea to do so grew from a challenge the company faced years ago. “We had been dumping grass, weeds and branches on some property and the neighbors got upset because it smelled bad,” Delliquadri says. “We got the attention of some people on the township’s recycling board who were able to help us. We didn’t know what to do with it. They said we had to windrow it and compost it.”

When the company looked into getting a grinder, the salesman suggested turning the yard debris into mulch rather than composting it. “He told us how to grind our debris and blend it with bark mulch, so we started making all of our debris into mulch,” Delliquadri says. “We had too much mulch to use, so we started wholesaling it to one landscaper, and then it was two, and then it was five, and then the retail market just started coming around.”

Delliquadri employees are expected to be punctual and reliable. “They have to do a good job. We try to run a pretty tight ship as far as quality,” says Carmine Delliquadri.

When a local topsoil company raised its prices 20 percent, Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping augmented its backhoe operations with a small screener and a bulldozer and started screening its topsoil.

“If you have a screener, you’re not going to be able to use all of the material you make, so we started wholesaling and retailing it,” Delliquadri says.

The company was approached by a local block manufacturer, R.I. Lampus, about six years ago looking for a distributor in the area. So, Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping then added that company’s products to its wholesale and retail line-up.

Delliquadri says there are many benefits to that revenue stream. One being that the company is making money by providing supplies to those who probably would not contract the company’s services. “If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you’re going to do it yourself unless something physically happens where you can’t do it anymore,” he points out.

It also keeps the trucks on the road, and the trucks are advertising on wheels, Delliquadri adds. “We have a couple of big semi-trucks that supply the bulk of material and those trucks are on the road every day. When you have a delivery truck that makes plenty of deliveries, it’s coming and going somewhere all of the time, so you get the benefit of customers’ exposure to that.”

Additionally, by producing its own materials for landscape maintenance, it cuts down on expenses; and it also keeps the employees busy.

“We always have something for people to do, which was one of the motivations for getting into this sideline,” says Delliquadri. “You can’t mow grass on a rainy day, there’s not a lot to do other than snow removal in the winter, so we try to keep some of the best employees on payroll during the winter, which is very challenging in Ohio from December through end of March.”

Assessing markets

When Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping began, the primary target market was the residential sector, but now the focus is more on commercial and DOT work.

“It’s a very competitive market,” Delliquadri says of the residential sector. “There are a lot of people in the business. You constantly have to have new residential clients because they’re either looking for a cheaper price or maybe they moved or passed away.”

Typically, to grow the residential sector means offering maintenance at a lower price, he adds. “What’s nice about commercial is they have a budget and the money’s there,” Delliquadri says. “With a house, they’re waiting on their income tax check or maybe they got laid off or they have Christmas coming, so they want to spend less on leaf removal, so it’s a little bit more challenging.”

Delliquadri says he finds commercial properties also are easier to maintain. “With residential, the properties tend to hold a bit more water,” he says. “You can usually mow commercial the next day or sometimes even the afternoon.”

The company has also been doing a significant amount of work for ODOT for the past several years. “We’ve gotten some exposure there,” he says. “We do a lot of square footage for highway contractors. They’re building a bridge and want to fix up the grass or fix the median on the freeway or maybe they’re building a building and they need to install grass and put straw matting on the retention ponds. It’s been good because once they get to know you, they’ll get estimates, but if you’re in the ballpark, it’s not as big of a struggle to get work.”

The residential sector is very competitive and margins are tight, says Marc Delliquadri. In recent years the firm has been building its book of commercial and DOT business.

Reliability required

Of his company’s 35 employees at peak season, Delliquadri says he expects punctuality.

“We didn’t always have that 15 years ago,” he says. “You’d have to call people, get them out of bed and tell them they were supposed to be at work at 8 a.m. and they didn’t show up until 9. A lot of that has gone away.”

He also looks for reliability that an employee will follow through on what is expected of them. “We give them a list and expect them to follow the list,” he says. “The lawn maintenance manager checks up on them constantly. They have to do a good job. We try to run a pretty tight ship as far as quality.”

Delliquadri tries to visit each job site at least once a day to make sure all is going well. He’ll also do estimates and designs.

For equipment, Delliquadri likes Bobcat machines. “We like the way they’re built,” he says. “The steering is on the handles and the bucket controls are on the floor. As far as mowers, we’ve had a couple of different types. Right now, we’re with Skag, our other equipment is Stihl.”

Delliquadri says the trend among client requests in his region is low maintenance. “I don’t hear anyone saying they want to be out there once a week doing something to their landscaping,” he says.

Delliquadri says going forward, he envisions more of a management presence in his company. “I don’t have quite enough,” he says. “Some companies are top-heavy; ours is not,” says Marc Delliquadri.

Carol Brzozowski, Coral Springs, Fla., is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and a frequent contributor to Turf magazine. Contact her at [email protected].