Owner of Hawksdale Landscaping, Anthony Delpero, is interviewed by author, entrepreneur and real estate innovator, Robert Caruso.
RC: Welcome everyone to an episode of the GTA advisers podcast, this is Robert Caruso, I’m here with Anthony Delpero and he owns Hawksdale Landscaping. Anthony are you there?
AD: Yes, how are you doing Robert?
RC: Good, good. I appreciate you joining us to talk about your landscaping business. Maybe before we talk about you professionally, just give me a little bit of insight into your backstory, where you grew up, what do you do in your spare time, and what did you do before you got into your business?
AD: Well, I’m from Toronto and I grew up in the Keele/Wilson area of Toronto. I love Toronto, I’m a Toronto boy, that’s for sure. I like reading a lot, I’m a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA). I’m married and I have two amazing twins, my wife is the best mother I have ever come across and she does a great job with her twins. Which is awesome cause I can do like ten percent of what she does. So everything is great there, my twins are 18 months old. And that’s it, just busy with family. And before I had Hawksdale Landscaping I worked for a few landscaping companies for several years. And I also studied construction and landscaping at Humber College and that’s it, pretty simple basic guy.
RC: Except that you do a lot of creating, right?
AD: Well, yeah. Our industry, we’re constantly revamping peoples homes. There is always new products, new installation techniques and new design techniques. We’re always having to create and kind of paint, using a different type of paint brush on a different canvas, when we’re doing a back yard or a front yard project, We’re always being creative.
RC: Absolutely, and that was going to be my next question. What is your biggest challenge in this business? Obviously you’ve got the challenge of trying to figure out new and innovative ways to make peoples homes and properties look fantastic, but are there any other challenges that you have? Or is that the biggest challenge?
AD: No Robert, I would say when you have a business, like you would know, I say even a contracting company, cause that’s kinda what I know. Communication is the biggest challenge. Any time you’re dealing with other individuals, communication is always going to be the most challenging and difficult part. Some times things aren’t going to go well, and when that happens you can look at the other person and say you’re out to lunch, but I think if you look at yourself and go “what can I do differently to communicate with that specific type of person or these specific types of people” is where you’re going to see the most success. And you’ll be able to find the most reward for the effort you put in. It’s all about communication. Let me ask you a question Robert. You must have heard a lot of stories of home owners upset with their contractor, is that fair to say?
RC: Absolutely, yes.
AD: And I don’t know how many contractors you know but if you any you might even have heard contractors not too happy with their clients, which are home owners.
AD: And when I hear these stories from both ends and they’re telling me he did this and she did that and it didn’t go well. I think the parties involved are not seeing it 100% correctly, it’s not that one guy scammed or took advantage of, which could be the case, but I think the majority of cases is miscommunication and hearing what the other party is saying, not asking enough questions or the right questions to gather the information. If I’m talking to a home owner I want to see what issues are they having with their property? What do you need from me? And there is a chance I might not even be the right contractor for them, and I have no problem saying look I think you should keep looking because I don’t think this is a good fit for us. That’s better then jumping on board and having conflict, right?
AD: So communication.
RC: Excellent. So lets pretend we can go back in time before you got into the landscaping business that you’re in. Knowing what you know now what is the one piece of advice you would give yourself.
AD: Well, I think the same is for everybody, I don’t want to sound at all arrogant, but I think the same would be for everybody. I think we already know everything we need to do and I think we already know the answers, I think we just need to trust in it. I think that we just need to that if your guts telling you to go a certain way, we just second ourselves too much. So I would say don’t second guess yourself. Don’t always be looking for someone else to give you the answers, you probably already know it, and just trust in it. And I think the same would be for everybody, is that they probably know. We have projects that we take, and I’ll sell a project and we show up on day one and the crew is there and the guys would be looking at me going how are we going to get this interlock over around there down the one foot section of wall, it’s just not possible, like it looks impossible. We do a lot of projects that day one everybody’s going are you sure we’re going to be able to get this done, and we always get it done. So I would say there are going to be no obstacles you can’t go around, over or through. You’re going to be able to do whatever needs to be done, if there is something that needs to be done there is a way, and you’ll be able to figure it out, and if you can’t spend more time figuring it out cause there is definitely a way. And also keep adapting. Everyone has got to adapt, times are always changing so just keep adapting. I don’t know if you or your listeners are familiar with the basketball coach John Wooden but he has a quote that the players who have a lot of fight in them they never lose they just run out of time in the game. It’s not that they lost the game, if they had more time they probably would have eventually won because they have lots of fight in them. The great thing about the business world is even though we have our quarters and annual expectations and meetings, the game never stops, it’s a 24/7 game. It last’s forever or until you decide to get out or switch industries, but the game never stops, so there is no time where if you didn’t meet this you lost. So just be tough and resilient and don’t stop going because eventually you’re going to win. Does that make sense Robert?
RC: Perfect sense, very well said and the biggest point that I got from that is that you got to trust your gut, your gut knows exactly what the right decision is to make.
AD: Yes, one hundred percent.
RC: So lets talk a little bit about your landscaping business, so maybe let us know a little bit about what it is that you do exactly, you obviously create beautiful landscaped homes and yards and backyards but maybe give our listeners a little bit of info as to what it is that you do.
AD: Well, what I would say is that if you’re ever out in your backyard and you’re thinking you know what I’m not enjoying my back yard enough or I want to invite people over and maybe you’re a little embarrassed about your yard or it’s just not relaxing, it’s not like an oasis, it’s not calming. Or if you’re driving into your front yard, pulling into your driveway and you’re not really happy with the curb appeal or maybe you have safety issues with your steps or your driveway is causing drainage issues. If you’re having problems like that around your property you may want to give us a call. To get a little more into detail we do a lot of interlocking stone, we do natural stone, we build steps and planting, pretty much almost anything that has to do with the exterior, minus the actual facade on your home, the brick on your home. I would also say if your a little worried about not being able to find a landscape contractor who can get your project done on time and on budget, maybe you might want to give us a call as well.
RC: Excellent. Take me to a time when you thought, wow I’m making a difference.
AD: So, wow I’m making a difference, just what we were talking about a couple minutes ago about we already know everything we need, we just kinda got to trust it, well then you look for things that validate that, that kinda say yes you’re on the right path. And those things pop up sometimes a little more often then others but they do pop up and that’s when it validates, ok I’m on the right track. We have a client that we got referred to several years ago and since then we’ve done work for their cousins, friends and neighbors and we’ve just got so many projects through them, that spiderweb and still to this day we just sold a project to a relative of theirs for 2017. When I look at that I go we got to be doing something right, we’ve got to be making a difference to somebody that that has happened. Also we got a review about four or five years back and in the review our client in Toronto at Young and Eglinton had said to be honest with you the best experience I’ve ever had with any contractor, you couldn’t pay me a better compliment then that. I couldn’t even have written the review on their behalf and thought to put that in.
RC: That’s amazing, wow.
AD: So stuff like that pops up, sometimes we don’t have a lot of clients who are elderly but sometimes we do and they can be a little difficult to communicate with, but if you take your time and go through the process with them. We have a client who we did work for the son and then we did work for his parents out near the beaches and you know there was a little communication there, being she was an immigrant and also an age difference. But we were patient and we got through it and in the end she actually was tearing up that she loved her steps and walkway. And I’d never actually thought I would see anybody with tears in their eyes because of anything that I’d done for them. So that was phenomenal as well.
RC: That’s amazing. So lets dig a little bit deeper.Let’s imagine that we dropped you on a deserted island or an island that doesn’t have any landscapers period. They have no idea what landscaping is and basically there are no other business that are like yours. What are the benefits of them using your services?
AD: Well to be honest with you I would probably just retire if I was on that kind of island right?
RC: Sure, wouldn’t we all.
AD: What I would say is I try to look at our business as a landscaping business but also we’re also just part of a network of contractors, we’re just another contracting company like an electrical contractor would be, we’re a different industry but we’re still all under the construction/contracting umbrella. So what I usually do in terms of prospecting or talking to a potential client now and it would be the same thing if I got dropped on an island and people were asking me or I was talking to the natives there about whether or not they needed our services or not. Instead of trying to tell them why they should use us, I’d probably find out what do they need, because I’d say there is a possibility that maybe they don’t need us, so I would ask them questions. Like “do have problems when you hire contractors now?” “are you having issues with that?” “do have problems with contractors starting your project and then leaving before it’s finished and them coming back and then leaving, it’s not a through process where they start and see it through to the end?” is that happening on this island? Again the communication, are you telling your contractors A B C and they they come back like only heard half of what you said. When you say something to your contractors are they writing down notes, so they remember it. When you guys do hire somebody whether it’s commercially or residentially are your contractors on this island keeping the sight clean, or as clean as possible and are they keeping it safe so people are not getting injured. Are they standing behind their workmanship. So I would kinda want to see, maybe I get dropped on an island that has the best contractors out there and they don’t need us or we’ll just be one of many. But definitely in the island of the GTA anyway I do believe that there are some people that kinda require our services, but I wouldn’t try to push what we do on them and tell them that they should give us money. I would actually kinda reverse that and see if we can aid them in anyway and if what we do is of any importance to them and if it was not I would probably try to swim to the next island and see if we’re a better fit of better service over there.
RC: I appreciate you sharing that Anthony, that’s great. Maybe before we wrap up is there any kind of internet resource or app, maybe Google Calendar or Evernote that you couldn’t live without.
AD: Well, I’m kinda a dinosaur when it comes to technology so I apologize to everybody out there but what I would say is, and as long as there no other landscapers in the GTA listening to this podcast, what I would say is we talked a lot today about communication and what I would say is is that Sandler Training is a training company out in Milton that has helped myself and many other professionals with communication to understand and speak to different individuals who have different speaking and information processing styles. Sandler training is what helped me and they’re not necessarily an app, it’s actually a class, it’s actually a training program. They have better social media and app stuff then us so that you can find them online pretty easily. It would be Sandler Training, but again if you’re a landscape contractor they’re really not for you, so don’t go.
RC: So I know you gave us the John Wooden quote, is there any kind of book you’ve read or any other quotes that you’ve lived by that’s helped mold you that you want to share with us.
AD:I would say there’s all kinds, and I think one of the most fun things to do is if your sitting around with a bunch of people and kinda sharing a whole bunch of quotes and stuff like that. But you know books, I don’t remember all the authors of the books I read but I do remember the titles and you know I remember that Peaks and Valleys was a great book about just the ups and downs of life, and when things are down and you’re in a valley just know that that’s part of the cycle of getting to the next peak. So when things are crashing down you don’t feel like oh my what’s going on and like the odds are against you, you actually see that that’s actually a normal progression to get to the next peak. And the law of attraction if anybody’s hear of The Secret, I don’t what to go on more then your time allots but I remember I was at Chapters and I picked up that book The Secret and I was just breezing through it and somebody had actually walked up to me and said “Look I don’t go up to strangers I don’t know and talk to them but I just got to let you know I read that book and it changed my life so you should buy it too” so The Secret which is about the law of attraction that’s what I would say.
RC: Excellent. I live by that myself, I have seen the movie, read the book and ah truly amazing.
AD: One thing I’ve got to say about you Robert is I saw a little bit, I can’t remember where I read it, but you talked about the real estate and how you approach is more of the Warren Buffett, you use a Warren Buffett approach.
AD: You know what, I should probably talk to you a little more in depth about that but that actually right there, actually reading that is one of the reasons when we talked about doing this podcast I said I would because that actually impressed me a lot when I see and hear a lot of people in the rel-estate industry trying to sell, oh look it has granite counter tops so what? But actually looking at it from a practical investment point of view. Just so you know is something that actually drew me to you, what I saw.
RC: I appreciate that. I’ve worked very hard to build that kind of approach where we take a home and sell it, we try to treat it as investment more then a number or statistic. So I appreciate you saying that, that’s fantastic. So I really appreciate you joining us today Anthony, maybe you can give us some information on how people can get a hold of you.
AD: Our website is www.hawksdale.com they can check out our reviews on HomeStars Hawksdale Landscaping, we’re also on the Better Business Bureau we have some information there as well. Our phone number is 905-660-6070 and if you pay attention a little bit you’ll see our lawn signs all over the GTA wherever we’re doing work. I think if you ever wanted to do a podcast in the future I think one podcast that might be of interest and I guess you’ll get feedback if it’s of interest or not is about hiring contractors if anybody’s interested in the future, we could talk again if you would like. And talk about hiring contractors, some dos and don’ts and some red flags.
RC: That would be an excellent follow up to this great interview we just had Anthony, for sure. Again thank you so much for joining us, I will have all of your contact info in the show notes when it gets released which is very soon, and we will talk again.
AD: Yeah Robert, thank you very much. Nice talking to you.