The Helping Hand

Features - Cover Story - The Leadership Awards

Bob St. Jacques is the personification of the helping hand. Ask anyone and they describe a pro who is there to lend a hand, generous with insight and feedback, and who answers when the bell is wrung.

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September 3, 2019

Photos: Lynne Goldstein

Bob St. Jacques is willing to help out colleagues and industry partners without giving a second thought. In recent memory, in one instance the Accredited Snow Contractors Association needed a piece of equipment for a display at a trade show. Kevin Gilbride, the ASCA’s executive director, says St. Jacques had exactly what they needed and provided it without hesitation. “He’s always there to lend a hand, always there with an idea or a thought,” Gilbride says. “He will always show up when you need him.”

St. Jacques, is president of Four Seasons Landscaping, Inc. a full service landscaping, landscape construction and commercial snow removal company based in Windsor, Conn.

Landscaping and snow removal work has always been St. Jacques’ career.

“During high school I attended a regional vo-ag program. I kind of got interested in landscaping,” St. Jacques says. “I worked for a local landscaper when I was a teenager, and when I turned 18, I decided to start my own business.”

Snow has always been a part of that business.

“Since day one we always did snow, and actually growing a business, it was actually always a bigger part of our business, where the trend 20 years ago, a lot of landscapers looked at it as an add-on,” he says. “We’ve always looked at snow as a main part of our business.”

Today his clients include distribution centers, warehouses and office parks. Snow removal work typically makes up almost half of the company’s total $4 million in annual revenue. Four Seasons Landscaping employs roughly 25 to 30 people during the green season and 50 or more in the winter. St. Jacques founded the company in 1980.

A passion for people

What has kept St. Jacques in a challenging business for so many years? “The people” fuel his passion for work, he says.

“We have a lot of good clients. We have a lot of good people working for us,” he says. “With snow, the adrenaline flows, being under pressure. But seeing a job well done, it’s cool to be able to drive around and see all the stuff we’ve done over the years and see the landscapes mature.”

On the snow side, he sees equal accomplishment.

“That’s the coolest feeling, is when you’re out all night and then the sun starts coming up in the morning,” St. Jacques says. “You drive around and all these properties that we take care of are all clean and black and everybody’s happy. We’re going home and everybody’s coming in to work; that’s kind of a cool feeling.”

Over the decades, St. Jacques says snow work has always been a large part of his company’s income. The company has grown, and so has the company’s name recognition, but St. Jacques says he is mindful to not grow so large as to lose the touchpoints he has with clients.

“We’ve always been known to have capacity. We’ve got some good staff. We’re big into equipment. We’ve got a lot of resources,” he says. “But we tend to stay local, so it’s more of a personal touch. The way I set my business up, I’m very touchable. All of our clients have my cell phone number. I’m out in the snow. Every snow event, I’m out there.”

Along with always lending a helping hand, St. Jacques values community involvement.

“We know a lot of people that we work for and they see us around a lot. We’ve got a pretty good reputation. Our name is pretty well known in this market,” he says.

Locally, he is involved in the Windsor Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re constantly volunteering on projects they have. We help them out on fundraisers. We constantly donate,” he adds.

St. Jacques is also involved in the Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association, of which St. Jacques is also past president. He is also a past president of the Snow & Ice Management Association.

“We’re constantly doing improvement projects and training classes for other landscapers,” he says. “We give back a lot. I’ve been involved in a lot of associations, and a lot of our staff is following suit, so we’re constantly giving back.”

Mark Schuman is executive director of the Connecticut Nursery & Landscape Association. He met St. Jacques when St. Jacques was a member of a search committee looking to fill Schuman’s current position.

“He’s always a volunteer, he is always serving on a board, a committee or something to enhance the industry,” Schuman says. “Whether it’s serving as president of CNLA or trying to serve as a liaison to put different groups together to work together on similar issues. I think he has a tremendous amount of respect for most people in the industry and you want to work with people you respect.”

St. Jacques: “With snow, the adrenaline flows, being under pressure. But seeing a job well done, it’s cool to be able to drive around and see all the stuff we’ve done over the years and see the landscapes mature.”
Photos: Lynne Goldstein

Taking ownership

St. Jacques says his company stands out because they have always taken snow removal work seriously, not as a side job or secondary service.

“We’ve always been very involved in snow,” he says. “We were always known, even back in the day, that we did a lot of snow.”

Properties are treated as if they were St. Jacques’ own.

“We’ve had a lot of clients make the comment that we tend to take ownership of the property,” he says. “Our guys are devoted - especially in the snow. We tell people once November comes, we’re in the snow business. That’s all we live for and that’s what we do. We’re available 24/7, and we’re committed.”

Last minute client requests have been filled more than once.

“We have the resources to get stuff done, and we have a fairly sizable staff. If we need to throw some manpower and some equipment at some type of project, we can do that. We joke around. We call ourselves 911 landscapers because we’ll get a call from a client needing something done tomorrow, and we have been known to be able to throw the resources and the people at the job to get it done,” St. Jacques says.

Don McLaughlin, is president of The Windsor Management Company,a property management company that oversees shopping centers and industrial properties. McLaughlin has known St. Jacques for three decades, since they first met in 1989 when St. Jacques was a vendor on one of the properties.

“We’ve enjoyed a tremendous client / vendor relationship for all these years,” McLaughlin says of the professional bond with St. Jacques. “He’s become sort of my go to guy for all things big and small. Over the years I’ve watched Four Seasons Landscaping grow with equipment sizes and abilities. I think they can do almost anything within their trade.”

McLaughlin says he frequently receives positive feedback from tenants regarding the snow removal service. “I can tell from conversations I’ve had with his employees that he is well respected and motivates people,” he says. “He is still out in the middle of the night (after all these years) for snow emergencies and I early appreciate that because that means I don’t have to be.”

A value for involvement

Staying up to date on the industry has been paramount to St. Jacques’ success.

“From day one starting in business, we’ve always involved and members of almost every trade association you could imagine, both on the green end and snow,” he says. “We’ve been a member of SIMA since they started. We’re involved in a lot of local associations. We attend whatever for training available, so yeah, we’re engaged in the industry.”

St. Jacques says his value for industry involvement and leadership within it, was instilled in him since he was a teenager.

“I kind of learned that from the landscaper that I started working with when I was 15-years-old,” he says. “That was a long time ago, but he was very involved in local associations, and he taught me the value of it. He used to take me to all the regular meetings they had.”

That involvement has stuck with St. Jacques.

“I learned it back then, and as soon as I got in business, I got involved in a lot of different associations,” St. Jacques says. “That’s where I met a lot of people and gained the resources and information. That’s how we’ve grown our business.”

At the end of the day St. Jacques says personal and professional balance have also been key to success.

“I always had a strong family, growing up. I’ve got a great wife. We’re involved in a lot of different things, and I’ve got a great family and I think that’s been part of it,” he says. “They’ve been very supportive and I care about and I like the industry.”

Four Seasons Landscaping is a family owned business. St. Jacques’ wife, Laurie, and his son, Andrew, both work for the company. Employees who are not blood-related, however, are considered family, too.

“We do treat it as a family. We all get along. I make it more of a personal workplace. We’re not a corporation,” St. Jacques says. “We’re very flexible and I think that over the years has helped us. The big thing on the green end, years ago every landscaper had this stupid concept that you had to work Saturdays, and it was like fighting a losing battle because people don’t necessarily want to work six days a week.”

At Four Seasons Landscaping that industry scenario would not be the case.

“We do not work Saturday unless there’s a really good reason for it,” St. Jacques says. “Our staff knows that ... That we want them to have a weekend. We want them to go home early, even with snow, and they know will we will do everything in our power to get them home at a reasonable time with staffing, equipment. We’re not out there running our people into the ground.”

Sharing knowledge

His wife Laurie also runs St. Jacques Family Enterprises, a secondary business of 15 years that distributes a liquid deicer product, Ice B’Gone Magic, one of the first of its kind on the market.

“We were kind of one of the first in the area to do liquids and we used to host an open house and training session,” St. Jacques says. “We brought in speakers and other industry experts and we had a mini-trade show that all the local contractors could come and learn about liquid. We’ve always been willing to help out other people and promote the snow industry and the products.”

In addition to sharing his experience and knowledge with others, St. Jacques leads by example, Gilbride says.

“He’s a leader on a national and a local level. Bob is a thinker. He is always learning and trying to bring back, you know, the latest and greatest to his business,” he says. “He has always been on the forefront of technological or innovation within the marketplace, such as implementing the use of liquid deicers into his business.”

McLaughlin isn’t surprised by St. Jacques long-term success in the industry.

“He is extremely capable, he knows a lot about a lot of different things,” McLaughlin says. “Because of the person he is his organization does what they are supposed to do when it needs to be done, which is rare these days. He takes his business very personally and applies himself.”

Schuman describes St. Jacques’ leadership style as respectful.

“Bob does everything with professionalism,” Schuman says. “He’s respectful, he does things with a smile on his face, he treats people the right way, and he is dedicated to everything he puts his mind to. He’s just a very fair man that possesses those wonderful qualities. He leads with respect and not with an iron fist. A leadership award is much deserved for him.”