Credit: PHOTO BY BATTISTA REMATI / GRAPHIC BY DENISE BAKER
At first glance, it may seem surprising that this Florida company
has devoted part of its 90-acre property to space for employees to
practice sports — a soccer field, basketball hoops and a
volleyball court. After all, what does that have to do with running
a successful business?
As it turns out, everything.
Hazeltine Nurseries didn’t get to be the largest
design-build landscape company in the Sunshine State by thinking
conventionally. The couple who founded the award-winning, Venice,
Fla.-based firm in 1983 knows that employee-friendly policies
ultimately lead to a happier, more productive work force.
That lesson has not been lost on pool service professional Rich
Tarricone, whose friendship with company co-owner/president Stephen
Hazeltine dates back to their teens.
“I went to high school with this guy — we sat next to
each other in creative writing class — and now he’s a
huge success,” says Tarricone, who is successful in his own
right. The owner of Aquatic Pool Systems in North Port, Fla., has a
degree in business administration and marketing from the University
of South Florida. He has been a tech since age 17, servicing
approximately 40,000 pools over the course of his career.
Nowadays, his specialty is pool repair and consulting, and though
he doesn’t mention it, Tarricone was named Pleatco’s
first-ever “Perfect Pool Guy” in 2010.
He says he really admires how Stephen Hazeltine and wife Michelle
run their company. “The way they treat their staff, you
don’t see that level of support at most places,”
The rec area “helps keep employee morale high and relieves
stress,” says Michelle Hazeltine, co-owner. “On
occasion, we also use this area for catered company gatherings,
such as family picnics and Christmas parties.”
As popular as the recreational perks are, though, there are even
more reasons why many of the 150 employees stay on board for
decades. The firm also offers full medical benefits and a 401(k)
plan. And the management team is pro-active in helping employees
get promoted from within, Michelle notes.
At a time when businesses of every stripe are trying to survive and
thrive, this full-service landscape development and lawn
maintenance company, which includes a growing nursery and tree
farm, is still very much in demand. Hazeltine’s upscale
clientele is attracted to the innovative, eco-friendly designs,
which are tailored to each exterior living area. Additionally, Lawn
& Landscape magazine recognized the firm as one of the Top 100
companies in the landscape industry nationwide.
“Anyone with a sizable company and a fair amount of employees
could learn from the Hazeltine model,” Tarricone says.
He’s impressed with the way his friend systematically took a
mom-and-pop company to the next level, making effective use of
business tools such as branding. “Their truck fleet is
candy-apple red,” Tarricone says, “and whenever you see
one in the area, you know it’s theirs.”
Then there are the high-tech touches, such as fingerprint scanning
instead of time clocks to ensure that the right worker gets
credited with the right number of hours, and video surveillance of
the premises to keep an eye on attrition and trespassers.
It all adds up to a top-notch operation.“I’ve told
[Stephen] that of all the people I went to school with, I’ll
tip my hat to him,” Tarricone says. “He built a really