Dean Ricci’s hard work ethic has been obvious since he was ten years old and first began cutting grass for income. He never dreamed his vision would expand into the multi-million dollar business it is today. With the support of his wife, family, and friends Dean has been able to maintain a healthy work life balance as well as a loyal team dedicated to his clientele.
LOCAL 219: Hi Dean. First, how long have you had your business for, and was it hobbies, circumstances, or your childhood that led you to owning your own landscaping business?
DEAN RICCI: We became incorporated in 1994, but I had started cutting grass when I was ten. I started with a push mower behind my bike, saved up enough money to buy a tractor in 7th grade, and then upgraded the tractor in 9th grade. Then when I was able to drive at 16, I bought a trailer because my parents had given me the family station wagon. By the end of high school, I had two trucks, two trailers, and mowers.
L219: What a great way to learn how to earn money and the value of hard work at a young age. What did you study in college?
DR: I went to college on an ROTC scholarship. I originally wanted to join the military and have a military career. By the time I would have had to sign up with the military in my sophomore year I had decided not to. I came up from Bloomington and went to IUN to finish up here while I was worked on my business. My brother and I had each had a crew. By the time I graduated in Business Management I had bought him out.
L219: Do feel you had the vision for what you have now back then?
DR: No, I had not idea we’d be where we’re at now back then. It blows my mind.
L219: What gets your out of bed in the morning? What gets you excited for the day?
DR: I wake up because I enjoy starting the day. I have a routine. I wake up, go to the gym, work out; sometimes I’ll work then go to the gym. Also, being with my employees. Seeing them.
L219: Have you had a consistent crew over the years?
DR: Yes, we have very low turnover. People are people. They leave, and come-and-go, but for the most part we’ve had the same core group over the years.
L219: How do you feel you’ve been able to establish loyalty with your staff over the years?
DR: There’s no magic bullet. I continually work on myself to be the best employer I can. I value relationships; that’s probably the most important thing in my life, and in my business, is my relationships. With clients, with employees, with family, friends. That is what gets me going. If I don’t do my job I’m letting down ‘X’ amount of people.
L219: It’s true. People look for you to come in and steer the ship.
DR: Yes, and you have to come in so that you can pay people appropriately. They’re relying on your vision, your innovation, and your skill to run the business and to build the team. To coach so that we can be successful.
L219: As well as to maintain growth.
DR: To maintain growth and not necessarily financial growth, but people growth. Progress is the product. If you’re not growing in some way you’re dying. You can always buy equipment, but people are what sustain your business. People are everything.
The way I view my company, one of my core beliefs, is we are a People business that does landscaping. You have to take care of your people. If you take care of your people, they will take care of your clients and then everything else will fall into place.
L219: It’s so true. If you cultivate the seeds of growth and loyalty within the people who work for you, success is inevitable. People will want to perform well when that respect exists between one another. Who has been one of the greatest personal influences in your life?
DR: My wife. She’s a very intelligent, successful, woman and she’s my sounding board. Times when it’s been really rough for me in business she’s always been there. She holds my emotional capital and keeps me on course. I think trying to be a good business owner, you need that balance. I at least need that emotional stability and she’s given it to me. We can talk intelligently on business because that’s her background as well.
L219: What has been one of the most valuable lessons you have learned while owning your own business?
DR: Probably the biggest lesson is learning to take care of yourself in lines of keeping yourself mentally capable and keeping your sanity. Being a business owner is very trying. There are times when you feel defeated, and I think a common thread that successful business owners have is that they’re resilient. I wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t for my wife, my family and being able to do other things like exercise.
Also, try not to take things personally. One of the biggest things that’s still hard for me is if you invest all this time, money and resources into a person and then they quit or they fail you. You have to learn not to take that personally; that’s just people being people.
L219: I’ve learned that lesson time and time again: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t get it to drink. The pain of not changing has to be greater than the pain required to change.
DR: That’s another thing: If the pain hurts enough, people change.
L219: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
DR: I like the creative side of what we do; the landscapes we build. Working with the different materials, the plants. I enjoy that immensely. I enjoy coaching people and my team. Sharing 28 years of wisdom in the landscape industry and giving it to someone who only has two or three years. I enjoy sharing my knowledge.
What gives me great satisfaction is when guys go out, they do a job, and the client was very satisfied with them because they were very professional, and they do little things that show they care.
Then I enjoy all the equipment; seeing it all roll down the street, or walking in the shop and thinking, “Wow, that something.”
L219: How amazing to know you spearheaded that and really consider how many lives and generations you’ve impacted. Through not only your employees but your clientele and the dreams you’ve brought to life for their children to enjoy.
DR: Well when you put it that way…that’s a good way to put it.