When it wasn’t cool to be a woman in a man’s world, Judy Guido was there. To say she was the right person at the right time would be an understatement. Many of the female gender who came after her have her to thank for making it just a little easier for women to work in the male-dominated landscape industry.
Guido was born in Milford, Connecticut, one of five children. Her father worked in the aerospace industry, while her mother tended to the house and the garden. Guido’s mom loved to garden, and like Judy says, “My mother didn’t have a certificate as a Master Gardener, but she was one of the best Master Gardeners I’ve seen.”
During her high school days, Guido played tennis, and was co-captain of her softball and basketball teams. During the summers, she was a camp counselor, working with poor inner-city kids. After graduating in 1980, Guido was conflicted about which career she should choose.
She was interested in two very different career paths. On the one hand, she wanted to save the world and help people. She would describe her personality as being “the ultimate caregiver,” so she thought about becoming a social worker. On the other hand, from the time she was a child, she was also thinking about writing advertisements. “I wrote TV commercials,” she remembers. “I loved business and the marketing and advertising world.” She ended up doing both—a job in the business world and an internship with inner-city kids in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was doing all this while going to school.
Although she earned her degree from Cabrini College on Philadelphia’s Main Line, the majority of her classes were taken at Villanova, almost next door to Cabrini. During her first three college years, Guido played softball and basketball. In her senior year, she was busy doing internships. She received a bachelor’s degree in Social Science and Business Administration.
Upon graduation, she was offered a marketing position with a cruise ship company. She was stationed in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she lived and worked for a year. She then took a marketing job with a computer company. After a stint there, she was offered a position with a large real estate conglomerate.
Guido realized, at an early age, the value of networking. She got involved with an executive group in Stamford, Connecticut, where she met people with different specialties from various industries. It was there that she met Ed Laflamme. He was a member of the group and, over the years, they became very good friends, and still are today.
“I would throw out some ideas and Ed would use them in his company’s business; he would then come back and ask me for more. He had a great company—it was a big company in those years,” said Guido. “I respected what he was doing and had an opportunity to see how he was running his company.”
Laflamme was quite active in the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), the forerunner to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). He introduced her to Deborah Holder, then executive director of ALCA. Guido agreed to do some seminars for ALCA, mainly in teaching marketing.
In addition to her regular job, Guido was consulting with a few contractors in the landscape industry, one of course being Laflamme. Eventually, she took a full-time position with his company, with the understanding that she would continue to consult with a few of her own clients. She learned quite a bit from Laflamme and others about the landscape contracting business.
While holding down a full-time job, and doing consulting on the side, Guido said, “I made up my mind that it was important for me to gain additional education.” She enrolled full time in the University of Connecticut. Studying until two or three in the morning and on Sundays shows how committed Guido was and still is. It took her two years, but graduate she did, with an MBA.
In the ’90s, she transitioned away from Laflamme and developed a group of really good clients that she consulted for. At about this time, LandCare USA came into being. They were looking at companies to roll up, and were seeking a marketing leader. One of the companies they were looking at was Southern Tree, and the owner Roger Braswell—as well as Bruce Church— suggested Guido. “We have this gal who’s really helped us and knows our industry, and we think she’d be a great member of the team,” they said. Guido was offered the position of chief marketing officer and joined LandCare USA in 1997.
The company went public in June 1998 and in March 1999, it was acquired by TruGreen, a division of ServiceMaster. TruGreen LandCare was formed, and Guido was asked to stay on. She was actively involved in mergers and acquisitions for the company. “I didn’t believe their business model was going to work; it was a very different management style,” remembers Guido. After a year, she left the company and began to concentrate on her consulting practice.
Through those years, Guido gained a vast knowledge from working with landscape contractors and their companies. She was involved in more than 103 mergers and acquisitions. Her business acumen covered a wide range that she could now use to help other companies and people. A career like that would be more than enough for others, but not for Judy Guido.
She knew there was more that she could do to help society and the environment. She became interested in sustainability even before it became a popular buzzword. Presently, in addition to a heavy work load, Guido is doing post graduate work, working towards a doctorate in sustainability.
Being a mom, maintaining a household, working and traveling the country on speaking engagements, and going to school are all Herculean tasks. Yet when you talk with Guido, you would think she had lots of time on her hands. She makes it look easy.
When asked about what she sees in the future, her eyes light up. “What we do to the environment has significant global impact, and that’s one of the significant drivers of sustainability. While there is a lot of harm being done to the planet, our work can have a tremendously positive impact,” she says.
Judy Guido is on a mission. No matter how busy she is, she can’t stop trying to make this world a better place, to help society have more compassion for the underprivileged, and to keep the environment safe.
Knowing her, she will certainly have a positive impact on everyone she comes into contact with.