Early in his manufacturing career, Bob Lisle aimed for two things: to listen to his customers, and to meet their needs with ingeniously-designed, well-crafted equipment. That business strategy has carried the 59-year-old entrepreneur on a journey from developing pumps and sprayers for the landscape and pest control market in the early 1970s, to pioneering a hydroseeding unit for the residential market in 1987. Since then, it's been straight up for Lisle and Easy Lawn, which is one of the fastest growing companies in the landscape hydroseeding industry today.
A graduate from the University of Maryland, Lisle is an engineer with thirty years experience in equipment design. But he's also an articulate, keen entrepreneur.
"I've always stayed focused on building a better mousetrap," says Lisle. "You need to have a lot of patience and you just never give up. You keep working at it until you solve all the problems, keep improving the product until it functions just the way you want it to."
An East-Coast native, Lisle grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. As a boy, he was always interested in tinkering with mechanical things -- his bicycle, the lawn mower, his brother's car. "I've always enjoyed figuring things out and making them work," says Lisle, in his straightforward style.
Lisle's background in residential work began early, when as a teenager, he worked for his older brother's construction company. They specialized in custom remodeling and spec houses, which he would also help landscape.
Immediately after graduating in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, Lisle started his own business, building pressure washers and operating them for his own industrial cleaning company. "I learned very quickly that you can make more money working for yourself than for somebody else," says Lisle. "It's not guaranteed money, but if you hustle, you can make a go of it."
After several years, he ventured into sprayers for the landscape industry. It was at that time that some of his customers asked him to make a small, easy-to-use hydro-seeding unit.
"Back then, the smaller landscapers were pretty frustrated with the systems available to them," says Lisle. "Most of them were using hydroseeding equipment one day a week, and the operators were just their standard crew, as opposed to a specially-trained one. Or, they were subbing out their work and were frustrated at their lack of control over the job."
"We saw a real opportunity there, a market that the larger players were neglecting," he says. "When our customers ask us to build something, we basically research it, build it, refine it and then add it to our product line. So we developed our first jet-agitated unit that I felt was comparable to mechanically-agitated systems as far as pressure, spray distance and how much mulch you can get per tank."
Along with listening to his customers, Lisle also relies on his entrepreneurial instinct, which two years ago told him it was time to roll out mechanical agitation units. He is currently developing two units that are so big, (2,800 and 3,300 gallons) that he?s moving into an 80,000-sq.-ft. building for the much-needed additional space.
Lisle oversees a company that is forty employees strong, and growing. He works sixty to eighty hours a week, represents his products at trade shows, and still does much of the mechanical designs of his equipment, which are now sold nationally and internationally.
An understanding wife? Definitely. In fact, Lisle is blessed with Marcia, his loving wife of thirty-seven years. "Now that the kids are grown, Marcia travels with me on my business trips a lot," says Lisle. "She doesn't even mind if we're the ones hauling our equipment in the truck to the shows. But we always get away for some sightseeing together."
Lisle also enjoys the daily company of his son Robert, who has joined him at Easy Lawn as vice president, overseeing marketing. And, keeping it all in the family, his daughter, Jennifer, and son-in-law, Mike, have their own successful hydroseeding business in Colorado.
"Being in this industry is rewarding," says Lisle. "There's a lot more residential hydroseeding being done now than there was fifteen years ago. The smaller market has changed dramatically, and the materials have improved as well. I see the hydroseeding market doing nothing but growing because it is simply a less expensive way to plant a lawn."