“We are the children of our landscape,” wrote Novelist Lawrence Durrell, further adding that landscape “dictates behavior and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it.” And indeed, more than 25 years ago, two teenage brothers were so responsive to business opportunities involving lawn care that they created a company which has since blossomed into one of Florida’s most capable and comprehensive providers of landscaping, irrigation and property management services.
When he was a just tyke growing-up outside of Brooklyn, Peter Lucadano was like a lot of kids who imagined a future playing professional baseball. His athleticism, however, was complemented by certain capabilities in entrepreneurship, no doubt handily honed by his two-year-older brother, David, who also possessed a particular professional prowess. David was only 12 when he talked his parents into purchasing a lawn mower, which he used to earn money by cutting the neighbor’s grass, often tasking Peter in the process. David and Peter would continue conducting that work after their family relocated to New Port Richey, Florida. “Back in those days, there was really no such thing as a ‘green’ industry,” recalls Peter. “You would see various trucks with wooden trailers and various people working, but they had no uniform, and it didn’t seem like it was very organized as a business.”
David and Peter’s grandfather was a distinguished WWII veteran who had established a successful East Coast trucking enterprise. Through their interactions with that endeavor, the boys had learned valuable lessons about appearance and decorum, in terms of the importance of maintaining a fleet as well as a professional uniform – which not only helped with branding, but also communicated the fact that you were ready for business. The boys had managed to secure some work mowing lawns in Florida, but Peter says they quickly realized their small 3.0 horsepower Snapper wasn’t sufficient for the work. They realized Florida’s environmental factors relating to climate, plant growth and pests were substantially different than what they had encountered in their Northern neighborhoods, the fact of that prompted Peter to undertake courses relating to ornamental horticulture at his local high school. They also quickly realized that the typical approach to service deployed by certain operators in the market prompted misperceptions about everyone who toils in the trade. “People had a stereotypical view about those who worked in lawn care … they thought they lacked professionalism… that landscapers were working just enough to earn beer money,” says Peter.
The brothers resolved to change that view by developing an enterprise that would set itself apart from others by creating a brand and a systemized approach to service that not only prided itself on the maintaining of trucks, equipment and uniforms, but delivering on every assurance made to a customer. Though they were still only teenagers, they had a highly successful business recognized as Luke Brother Landscape Services.
Yet, as Peter explains, beside the unique nuances of environmental conditions that impact landscaping in Florida, there were also unique societal nuances, particularly in the migratory habits of snowbirds. Residents would hire them during their durations in Florida, but drop the service during the months that they returned to Northern homes. They also realized that to achieve real success, it would require securing contracts with property management associations versus that of individual residents. What’s more, in order to better capitalize on all the opportunities present in the market, their business would have to offer specialty services that involved more than mere lawn mowing. They sought out experts in irrigation, fertilization, plant nutrition and pest prevention, adding new divisions to their enterprise, and Luke Brothers ultimately evolved into one of Florida’s leading providers of landscaping services. Headquartered in Holiday, Florida, the company today can effectively respond to any aspect of landscaping need, whether that involves a yard, flowering plant or tree, the pests that would threaten such green spaces or the fertilizers and nutritional requirements for any form of fauna, Luke Brothers capably caters to any concern, but also professionally provides design & installation as well as a totality of affiliated property management services. Luke Brothers’ expertise can be found fostering a green hue of aesthetic allure among some of Florida’s most prestigious private, municipal and commercial properties, complementing business operations, estates and glamorous gated-golf-communities alike.
A League of His Own
He may not have turned-out to be a baseball player, but Peter Lucadano has become all “all-star” in his industry and leader of a team capable of competing against any enterprising rival. A critical aspect of Luke Brothers’ success has been Peter’s willingness to acquire the full depth of understanding of issues unique to landscaping in Florida. He not only holds licensure as an irrigation contractor and community association manager, but is also an ISA certified arborist and certified pest control operator who also wields certification in landscape management which represents the highest obtainable form of certification in the industry. While much of that training began in college, his pursuit of education, his determination to stay at the forefront of industry trends, products and service solutions has never wavered, and that’s important because Florida is confronted by a range of dynamic conditions that impact the successful upkeep of lawns and landscape. Peter shares a story from his attending a national course when a class instructor showed a map of the United States. In preparing to explain environmental factors affecting landscapes, the instructor drew a line on the map that separated Florida from the rest of the nation. He told the class that while most of what he would teach involved national trends; Florida was essentially in a world of its own. Seasonal weather meteorology, climate, and pests combine to pose challenges unlike anywhere else in the world. For customers that genuinely care about their green space, there can be no guarantees unless they’re being served by someone who truly understands the plant species, growing cycles and pest prevention techniques unique to Florida. Early on, Peter says it wasn’t enough to simply rely on hired expertise; his awareness had to be as great, or exceed that, of anyone he hired. “Just hiring experts left our business at a disadvantage… being able to actually hold licensure, having the ability to inspect what you expect, that approach has made a big difference for our company,” says Peter.
Teamwork has proven to be another essential ingredient. Peter says he has seen too many companies fail due to customers going un-served by operations un-led by absentee owners. “You have to be involved in the technical delivery of your services, and you have to be able to teach what you require,” he says. Yet, as a team leader, he also says that Luke Brothers’ operational practices rely on a strategy of staff empowerment. Proven performers are promoted and given authority, and he seeks out input from all levels of staff, assuring them that their input is valuable, necessary and appreciated. Luke Brothers engages and deploys a staff of more than 220 people, and its staff retention rates are higher than industry average.
At the height of the economic downturn, which prompted business and consumers to make cutbacks in 2008, Luke Brothers established an equity alliance with FirstService (a company publicly traded as FSRV), one of America’s leading providers of property management services. Following the transition, David Lucadano went on to pursue other ventures while Peter became President. Nestor Nazario, a 17-year veteran of the company who formerly served as Vice President of Human Resources, then General Manager, has since been promoted to Vice President. Lucadano credits Nazario with not only helping to grow company staffing, but help Luke Brothers penetrate into every major market of Florida, where it continues to serve today. Luke Brothers operates autonomously, providing services to property management associations far and apart from that associated with its equity partner.
Commitment to Community
For all its growth and range of capabilities, Luke Brothers has continued to foster the feeling of a small family-run business compelled by family values. Lucadano says the recession contributed to the vetting of his industry, creating a class differential in the process. There are either large companies geared for big production who have no real connectivity to the markets they serve or there are small firms who provide very personalized services, but can’t accommodate large projects. Luke Brothers is an exception in its industry. It combines any project-size service performance with a hands-on, highly visible approach to duty, which is distinctive of one who actually participates in the practices inherent to quality of a community. As Lucadano says, that means communicating in community newsletters, attending and answering questions at community association meetings, and participating in the initiatives that take place within a community. “A number of landscaping companies are investing money in business developers and marketing, but our growth has been heavily predicated on word-of-mouth recommendations and our reputation,” says Lucadano.
In fact, beyond its expertise in the green industry, Luke Brothers has earned respect for its role in giving back to the community. From participating in charities that benefit veterans, law enforcement, and the homeless, to taking a hands-on role in volunteer clean-up efforts after natural disasters, such as in the wake of Hurricane Debbie when Luke Brothers was among the first on scene providing service in its community. Lucadano doesn’t talk casually about the importance of care, suggesting that it resonates throughout the way the company treats its employees and extends beyond to the customers and community they serve. He says care is something that can’t be faked when it is combined with faith. “God has blessed our business and I’ve been blessed, and we feel blessed to be able to help and care for those when care is needed. When you can employ Godly principals with genuine care, you can accomplish a lot, but you can’t out-give God,” says Lucadano.
As for his perspective on the state of the industry, Lucadano says those days when clients just wanted a job done without concern for the costs involved are gone. Today, he says customers are not only mandating service quality, but affordability too. Typically, when bidding on work with upper level associations, Luke Brothers will come in at mid-range. It may not be the lowest bidder, but its debt-free cash position, scalability of resources and use of multiple-year service discounts all helps extend attractive savings to its customers. With its extensive range of expertise and award-winning industry experience, Luke Brothers continues to lead as an affordable, capable and caring provider of professional landscaping solutions.
For more information, please visit their website at: Luke Brothers
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