A few years ago, Joe Chiera’s lawn maintenance company was doing around $400,000 with three full-time employees. Suddenly customers began asking him to do bigger jobs—installation jobs he had virtually no experience producing. But that didn’t stop this tenacious 20-something, together with partner Micah Posten, from saying “yes.”
Since then the company, Impact Landscaping & Irrigation, has more than quadrupled in size, employs 10 times the number of people, participates in the Ohio Landscape Association (OLA) and Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), and offers a vast array of maintenance and installation services to commercial and high-end residential customers. Chiera and Posten continue to say “yes” as often as possible. But these days they’re also more apt to say “no” as they get their arms around running a big company.
“As our company has grown and matured, the market we now pursue is much more refined,” Chiera relates. “We’ve even pulled our Yellow Pages ad because we were spending so much time taking calls from people who didn’t really represent our target customer.”
TWO OVERHEADS ARE BETTER AS ONE
Chiera got his start with now wife Kristen in 1997 at the age of 17. The company, J&K Lawn Service, employed one other employee for the next three years. Then Chiera met irrigation contractor Micah Posten on a jobsite. Posten had learned the irrigation trade while working for his father’s full-service landscape company since age 15.
Chiera and Posten formed a working relationship and began marketing their businesses together to offer more full-service. After collaborating in this fashion for the next six years, the two started operating out of the same building in an effort to diffuse overhead. Chiera also changed the name of his business to Impact Landscaping in order to mirror Posten’s company name, Impact Irrigation. “We wanted to make it look like we were one company and create a stronger brand presence,” Chiera says.
BRING IT ON
For the most part, it worked. Both companies enjoyed continued growth for the next couple of years, and started fielding customer requests for bigger jobs and additional services. As intimidating as it seemed, Chiera was eager to answer the call.
“Joe’s the type of guy who’ll say ‘yeah we can do it’ and then try to figure out how later,” Posten says with a grin. “I’m more of a guy who says ‘let’s learn how to perform this service and then start looking for work.’ It was pretty nerve wracking, but I’m glad we went for it.”
Chiera explains his thought process at the time: “I figured that since the work was there, we had to do it—because it might not be there three years from now. If there’s one piece of advice I can offer in regard to branching out, it’s that you better be ready to stand behind your work. You also have to be prepared to make some mistakes and eat some costs as you perfect your skill and develop your systems.”
To get up to speed as quickly as possible, Chiera and Posten spent a lot of time talking with other contractors, including Rick Haury of Suncrest Gardens. “Rick has been a great friend and mentor,” Chiera points out. “He’s been around a long time and has a successful company. He’s offered us countless advice and has always been there to answer our questions.”
After that initial trial by fire, Impact Landscaping & Irrigation has developed expertise in a variety of installation services, including hardscaping, water features and outdoor living. Posten is certified through the Irrigation Association, Chiera is a CLT in installation, and a few other key employees are also working on their CLT’s. A licensed applicator has been hired to help grow the relatively new lawn care division.
The Make or Break Moment
How to hit a home run when
that big project comes along.