|By DAVID MACNEAL|
In this business,
certain words come together that `sing so well`, you wonder who first
thought of them. Take, for instance: Landscape Management. The idea was
possibly coined by Francisco Peccorini, a landscape contractor whose 47
years of success can be attributed to his proclivity for clientele
“You know, I feel really blessed,” says Peccorini, 73, of his clients’ dedication. “And it has to do with what I’ve provided for my clients over the years, as well as their trusting that I could do the very best for them.”
Early on in his career, around 1968, Peccorini consciously chose to custom-tailor his services to the residential market. He developed a program for maintaining the land scapes he had built.
He hardly bothered chasing commercial work.
Where most landscape contractors “merely designed and moved on,” Peccorini concerned himself with what happened to the landscape proje c t a f t e r i t w a s installed. After caref u l t h o u g h t , h e designed a four-page pamphlet, entitled Landscape Management: Your key to lasting outdoor beauty, detailing his new approach. It was a great way to eliminate the peaks and valleys of strictly a design/build contractor. He would come back weekly and not only do maintenance, but the management of the landscape as well.
While attending a California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) event in San Francisco, three years after starting his own business, he was approached by two men who’d read his brochure.
The two contractors wanted to know if Peccorini’s brochure was bringing new success. Peccorini was reticent. “I just answered, ‘Well, I haven’t slowed down since I started handing it out to my clients.” And with some continuous client relationships spanning more than 40 years, it is obvious that Peccorini’s model has secured him an ample niche in his market. But, as with many of life’s struggles, getting there is a long and often wrought battle.
To understand how Peccorini came to be as warm and affable as he is, look back to his roots. His dad grew up in El Salvador on a coffee plantation, and migrated to America around 1917. However, his first stateside endeavor wasn’t entirely favorable. After graduating high school, he inherited thousands of dollars and “spent it wildly during the Roaring Twenties,” Francisco laughs. Later, during the 1930s, his father returned to El Salvador; after courting Francisco’s mother, the two came to America.
His father had various low-level jobs but, remembering his roots, he made a relatively simple transition into gardening. His nimble eight year-old son, Francisco (who was actually born in San Francisco), worked alongside him. His father taught him responsibility, and sparked a budding curiosity about landscaping.
Peccorini attended a community college in Marin County from 1957 to 1959. Instead of taking landscape architecture-related courses, he opted for art. “It was one of the first great awakenings to the world I inhabited,” he recalls.
Like most who experience the world through new eyes, Peccorini’s wayward journey was just beginning. Following college, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard. “They took me into the fold,” he reflects. “I served two years at sea between the shores of California and Japan.
“I loved government work so much that I joined the U.S. Post Office afterwards,” he laughs. But it was a short stint. The mundane repetition of delivering mail, inadequate pay checks, and “government servitude” lost its appeal.
However, he had a wife and child to support, so he found work on a landscape construction crew in 1961. “Because I knew more about the plant materials than the boss who’d hired me, he made me a foreman,” Peccorini says about returning to his roots, adding emphatically, “That’s literally the truth.”
It later turned out that the contractor was not very honest. However, one of the people Peccorini worked with was one of the best construction people around. The two talked about going into business together and they finally quit and set up their own business venture. For six years, Peccorini acquired tutelage from “one of the greatest carpenters ever.” After the unofficial “mini-recession of 1967,” his partner grew weary of the business and quit.
Peccorini borrowed $3,000 and picked up where he left off, retaining their clients. “That’s where the concept of landscape management came from.”
His maintenance differed from others. “What I really wanted to do was keep the garden growing . . . I just wanted to be immersed in the natural world.”
By 1976, Peccorini grew concerned about a diminishing resource on this earth: water. At that time, he was introduced to low-flow irrigation. His business blossomed for the next 17 years. At the same time, he was going through a divorce. Rather than trying to expand his business, he downsized completely.
Remembers Peccorini, “I looked at life differently, and realized I had to become a different kind of businessman.” What he needed were more effective relationships with customers.
Feeling a personal connection to nature through poetry, he included poetic verses in with his customer invoices. About this time, he met Carole, his current wife, to whom he owes so much. “With her came inspiration. So, I restruc tured my business, and behaved differently. It constituted a great living.”
At age 73, Peccorini has scaled back a little; he has limited his clientele but now has a refined sense of satisfaction and peace with life’s accomplishments. He loves to teach and passes his expertise down to his crew as well as through a high school Outdoor Learning Experience Program.
“Throughout the entire 45 years of being in business,” he says in that dignified voice, when age begets wisdom, “relationships are the most important thing you can have. They are as important with your own people as well as your clients.”
It’s hard not to hear Peccorini’s tale and draw the parallels between landscape management and life management. Sometimes the lines blur so well.