Moment of Reflection

Features - Cover Story - 2018 Leadership Awards

Inspired and driven by the business of snow, Todd Pugh has built a company focused not only on market success, but in the development of future leaders.

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September 17, 2018

photo: Rick Dean Photography

Todd Pugh went into business at age 14, mowing an elderly neighbor’s lawn for $5 a week. That experience served as the launch point for what today is Enviroscapes. Based in Louisville, Ohio, an hour’s drive south of Cleveland. The company offers a full range of landscaping and snow removal services to clients throughout northern Ohio, plus some in West Virginia. Pugh is the company’s founder, owner and CEO. He has other business interests as well and is also an inventor; he developed the Mulch Mule, a multi-purpose machine designed to apply product more effectively.

Today, after more than three decades in business, Pugh is as passionate as ever about making Enviroscapes all it can be, and doing all he can for his employees, customers and community. His efforts in those areas have earned him a 2018 Leadership Award.

Pugh’s passion is fueled by a desire to learn. Talk to people who know him best and you’ll hear the same refrain. He is always seeking to expand his knowledge base.

Dave Lint has worked with Pugh for 18 years. Today, he is Enviroscapes’ director of operations. “He’s constantly learning,” Lint says. “He’s always looking for a better way. He stays up on technology … He’s always looking for an advantage or a current process, or a (better) way of going about things. So, he’s definitely a learner. That’s how this business has been as successful as it has been.”

Doug Schwartz has known and worked with Pugh for more than 25 years. A commercial developer, he was Pugh’s first commercial landscape customer and has utilized Enviroscapes’ services, both landscape and snow related, ever since. Schwartz notes that Pugh has continually found people to learn from.

“Through the years, he’s always surrounded himself with mentors in the industry to improve and get better,” Schwartz says. “He reads a lot, he goes to workshops and seminars a lot, he looks for best practices still, and he continues to ask a lot of questions.”

When Pugh has a rare moment to reflect on his career, he acknowledges the help and support has received along the way. “And it’s kind of cool,” he says. “At each stage, it was a different type of person.

“Maybe, really early on, it was somebody that was really technologically savvy who could help me learn more about horticulture and then it may have been somebody who could help me learn about business, because at that point, we were really doing good horticulture work but I didn’t know how to be a good businessman.

“And then maybe it was somebody who got me involved in some local charities. So, it’s kind of neat to look back at the progression as we’ve grown this business and as I’ve matured as a business owner.”

Pugh notes Enviroscapes has faced its share of challenges along the way. For over a decade, one of his staunchest supporters has been Joseph Gerzina, the West region President and Chief Lending Officer of Farmers National Bank.

“I think (Pugh) really displays his leadership qualities,” Gerzina says, “and has been able to put together a vision and get both his employees and his customers to see that vision and what his company is about and where it’s headed.”

Gerzina is particularly impressed by the fact that Pugh delivers on his promises. “When he says going to hit a number, he hits the number,” Gerzina says. “So, it’s about delivering, too. It’s about being able to direct and get things done. It’s not just about creating a vision, it’s about delivering on the vision. From a banker’s standpoint, that’s always important.”

Schwartz says Pugh’s sincerity comes across to his customers. “You just know that he’s a hard worker,” he says. “He does what he says he does. He’s just real enthusiastic and passionate.”

We made a shift in our philosophy. Everybody says the customer is No. 1. We made a switch that the customer is No. 2 and the employee is No. 1.”

Enviroscapes’ other customers are aware of Pugh’s sincerity and passion as well; the company’s retention rate with its snow removal clients is over 90 percent.

“To get that type of a renewal rate you need to offer outstanding service and a fair price,” Pugh says, “and then also have great communication continually.”

That communication includes regular weather forecasts during the snow season and a snow hotline that allows a client to reach a live person at any time, day or night. In addition, Pugh’s personal cell number is available on the company website.

Snow removal accounts for somewhere between 15 percent and 18 percent of Enviroscapes’’ business each year. The company does most of its work within about a 60-mile radius of Louisville, although this past winter it took on some additional work near Columbus, an additional 60 miles to the south.

Lint oversees the company’s snow removal operation. The effort involves roughly 150 Enviroscapes employees, plus 200 to 250 subcontractors.

Lint begins his preparations for winter in June and July. “It’s easy to react when you’ve done your job up front and planned it out,” he says. “For me, that’s when it makes it work. As we get closer and closer to that season, the percentage of my time is spent preparing for snow. That involves building routes, (arranging for) subcontractors, equipment. So, for me, the reason we’ve been as successful as we have been with snow is preparation.”

Pugh himself has little to do with his company’s day-to-day snow removal efforts. By the time the snow season arrives, he is preparing for the green season ahead.

“I’ve been hands off on the snow side of this business for at least five years,” he says. “I’m involved in the offseason with strategy and how we’re going to perform the work, build the teams. But then as soon as the season starts, I’m hands off.

“Because once you hit the button that says ‘Deploy,’ the snow season is basically over. You’ve set the standards, you’ve set the course, you’ve set the crews. Yes, there are some moving pieces. But you’re not going to drastically change the outcome while it’s happening. That would be like trying to fix a bus while it’s moving, or rebuild an engine while it’s running. You can only tweak so much stuff before it blows up.”

While he is not directly involved in Enviroscapes’ snow removal efforts, Pugh makes sure his team has the equipment necessary to do the job efficiently.

“The one thing I think that’s pretty interesting about the snow side of the business is that there are actual snow contractors that have developed the equipment,” he says. “So, for example, the Arctic snowplow was developed by a snow contractor. Toro has a snow plow, a mower that converts to a snow plow called the Multi Force. That was developed by Toro having a lot VOC, voice of the customer, interaction involved in developing that piece of equipment. Kage is a snowplow developed by a snow contractor.

“I’m appreciative of this because these contractors find out what they need and if manufacturers aren’t building it, they bring it to the market.

“My philosophy has always been I would rather have less employees and pay them more and I can do that by giving them more efficient equipment.

“We can then invest in a higher-level employee because they understand how to maximize that mechanization. It’s M-squared; maximized mechanization.”

Over the last half-dozen years or so, Pugh has stepped up his efforts to motivate and empower his roughly 245 employees.

“We made a shift in our philosophy,” he says. “Everybody says the customer is No. 1. We made a switch that the customer is No. 2 and the employee is No. 1.

“If you take care of your employees, they’re going to take care of your customers. If you try to make your customer number one and you don’t have your team shored up, it’s a non-sustainable model because all you’re trying to do is keep the customer happy and that takes a lot of heat on because your team is not engaged.

“When we do our (hiring) process, these guys understand that ‘You are number one to us in the company. We want you to be satisfied, we want you to come work hard because when you work hard, you get a lot done, you have a sense of accomplishment. But we also want you to know that due to our vision, mission and core values, you control the customer experience.’”

Pugh feels it’s important to empower his team to make decisions on their own. “These guys know what’s in the realm of our core values,” he says. “They can make decisions because they know where the (boundaries) are set. ‘Here’s the lane you’re in, just keep it between the lines.”’

One day each year, usually in mid-to late-August, or perhaps early September, Pugh shuts down Enviroscapes and brings together the employees from all six of the company’s locations for what is known as Growing Day. The event was held for the first time in 2013.

The occasion includes a State of the Company address from Pugh but the bulk of the day is for the company’s employees. The program includes experts offering information on topics that might include budgeting, financial planning or health-care issues.

Pugh also brings in a group of speakers each year; men and women who have achieved success in their careers after starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder.

“We had a guy that was a laborer at a hospital.” Pugh says. “He was going to med school; he worked his way all the way up to become president of the hospital because people saw him working outside super hard and they said ‘Who is this that guy? We need to hire that guy.’

“We had another gal who started out in the mailroom who was a single mom going to college for marketing. Next thing you know she became the marketing director of a large company.

Enviroscapes founder, owner and CEO Todd Pugh is heavily involved with the snow business during the offseason before shifting the responsibilities to his employees during the winter.
photo: Rick Dean Photography

“So we bring these people in who are just like our team and I let then share their stories of what it took for them to go from entry level to the top of the company. And I just hope that each of those people inspire somebody sitting there to say ‘Hey if they can do it, I can do it.’”

As busy as he is. Pugh makes time to give back to his community by serving on boards of an assortment of organizations, including the United Way of Stark County, Ohio, The Lions Area Development Board, the Stark County Development Board and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also serves on the board of a local bank.

“I guess I’m the one that that’s willing to volunteer,” he says. “I think demographically … the workforce is getting older. A lot of the people that are on these boards within the communities have gotten older so they’re looking for some younger blood.”

Kevin Gilbride, the executive director of the ASCA, lauds Pugh’s impact in the community.

“He’s taking care of the family, taking care of the community” Gilbride says. “He’s got a large footprint in Ohio where he operates his business. And he looks out for everybody in those areas. He does it very quietly, too. He’s a quiet leader when it comes to the things that he does and he does quite a bit.”

Despite his abundance of commitments, Pugh remains devoted to his family. He and his wife, Anna, are the parents of two college-aged daughters and a son who is a senior in high school. The family often travels around the country showing cattle.

“I would have worked 100 hours a week if there wasn’t something to take me away from the business,” Pugh says. “So by traveling the country, showing cattle, I had to go. It forced me to leave the business. That’s why we originally did it. I was looking for a family hobby that was away from the company so I wasn’t pulled back to the business.”

Pugh praise his wife for her support. The couple has been married 22 years after a courtship that lasted all of three months.

“Running a business is tough,” he says. “You work on your business. You need to work on your marriage. I’d be the first one to say that I could have done a better job than what I’ve done. But I’ve been very blessed that my wife came from a business background. So, she understood what it took to run a business.

“She wanted a family right away. I wanted to grow the business. So, she basically raised the kids for the first seven to eight years pretty much on her own and I pretty much stuck my head down and grew business. But that’s what we agreed to. It wouldn’t work for everybody, but it worked for us.”

Pugh says that he and his wife have always shared the same core values. ”We aligned on our faith,” he says. “That was the common denominator. We were strong in our faith. Two, she appreciated that I was motivated and wanted to grow a business, so we were aligned there. And we were aligned in how our kids should be raised.”

Pugh says his wife’s support has been instrumental to the success of both their marriage and his business endeavors. “The reason our relationship was successful,” he says “is my wife believed in what I was trying to accomplish. So, by her believing in it and supporting it, she was willing to sacrifice many things that maybe other people would not.”