Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
(All Rights Reserved)
My muse this week is Eli Hall. Eli is the owner of AMS Landscaping. His company provides lawn care services for both residential and commercial clients in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and throughout the entire valley.
WHY ELI QUALIFIES TO BE ONE OF THE 2017 FEARLESS THIRTEEN.
Eli and I have in part a common heritage in that we are both one-half Italian. Those of you who are either Italian or know an Italian family, know that many of our families have businesses that have been handed down from generation to generation. Eli’s grandfather, Hugo Ciampi, started Ciampi Lawn in 1969. Eli began working for his grandfather when he was just fifteen years old. He did venture out on his own for a period of time before realizing that taking over a successful family business, with an excellent reputation, was a good idea.
In 1996 when Eli was twenty-three years old he took over the family business and renamed it, Always Cutting. In 2004 Eli took on a partner and they had the idea to grow commercially, which prompted them to change their name to Association Maintenance Services (AMS) Landscaping. From 2004-2005 the partners doubled the size of the business and then decided to amicably go their separate ways. It is not often that a young partnership ends well. The fact the Eli was able to move forward without burning a bridge says a lot about the character of both partners.
Eli could have rested on the success that his grandfather built but instead he made the company his own and took it to the next level, and the next and the next. Twenty-one years after his grandfather’s death, Eli is still taking his business to the next level without forgetting his roots. One of the first things I noticed in Eli’s office is a picture of his grandfather prominently hung on the wall in front of his desk.
The three biggest things that impress me the most about Eli are:
- His ability to keep taking a family business to the next level.
- His willingness to see where his weaknesses were and are in order to improve.
- His acceptance to do whatever it takes so as to never be an employee EVER again.
Eli took a few minutes out to answer the five Art of Fearlessly Doing Business questions.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM ELI ABOUT BEING FEARLESS?
1. Get out of the Truck
Eli said something that made me chuckle, “I knew if I added a truck and then another truck and then another truck that I could get out of the truck.” A seemingly simple concept of adding more trucks to grow a business and then you no longer have to, as he says, “push a lawn mower.” But the reality is that growing in the beginning is easier said than done! It is hard to go from being a solopreneur to having a just a few people working for you. There is a tipping point for small business owners where they have to work twenty-four hours a day to get enough business to be able to buy another truck and put people in it. With each truck you add at the start, you have to do the same exercise: work your butt off and carry your cell phone with you all the time. While your mowing the lawn, while you are in the rest room, and while you are at family dinners. You never stop working in the beginning. I know because I have been a business owner and I have been the wife, daughter, goddaughter and granddaughter of business owners – those first three trucks are a big deal. Eli has been out of the truck for a significant time now but he is not above pushing a lawn mower again if that is what is required of him. He does what it takes to make his business grow.
2. Create a Reserve
Throughout Eli’s interview, with refreshing honesty, he humbly admits to his early weakness with managing his young ego, his time, and most importantly his money. He repeats himself several times in fact. He says his biggest lesson and his best advice is to create a prudent reserve. A prudent reserve is an amount of money put aside for use in extraordinary circumstances. It is not held for use in normal circumstances. He says that he always has, minimally, at least one payroll set aside, preferably several, so if the sky falls tomorrow and business totally dries up he can make payroll.
He told me that he learned that, “You have to be able to weather the storm until it starts raining again.” Seems like he is saying the same thing – isn’t there rain in a storm? Storms are the times when the weather has its way with you. However, sometimes the make up of that rain can be magical and new business can rain down on us seemingly from nowhere like we never could have expected. One of the top reasons new businesses fail is inadequate funding and the inability to financially weather the storms. Eli learned this fact early in his life and has been able to adjust his behavior and his spending accordingly.
3. Know your Life Style Preferences
Eli enjoys his freedom. In fact, his biggest fear is losing the freedom to control his time. This fear drives him to do whatever it takes to be successful. This is a concern that I encountered recurrently from the thirty-one business owners I have interviewed in the each Art of Fearlessly Doing Business projects – there is one underlying truth for all of them; they cannot imagine punching a clock and building someone else’s dream. They absolutely insist on making their own dreams come true on their own terms in their own time no matter what.
4. Stay Inspired
Eli is one of many members of the EO Accelerators, a part of the Entrepreneurial Organization, that I have interviewed over the past two years. The EO folks are rock stars who share many common traits. They are over-the-top driven individuals who strive to be their very best, are hungry for success, and value the inspiration of other business owners who have been able to turn their businesses into multi-million and billion dollar companies. “EO is a collection of like-minded entrepreneurs focused on business growth, personal development and community engagement.”
Eli continues to have a deep commitment to take the old-school company that his grandfather built and continues to move that legacy to the next level. He did not go to college, which is another component that many of the thirty business owners I have interviewed have in common. It does not take a college education to be the best. A great example of a non-college graduate making it big is Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. It just takes a lot of hunger and hard work!
However, like all hyper-successful people, Eli knows that in order to take his business where he wants it to go, he has to stay inspired and on top of his game. Listening to fellow business owners who share how they negotiated their paths does set one’s heart on fire. This very fact is the entire foundation of the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business project. When we hear how others have conquered their fear to walk on fire, we are inspired to do the same. I get inspired EVERY time I get to speak to one of the Fearless 13! Eli is no exception to this rule.
5. The Juice is Worth the Squeeze
I have never heard this saying, but man it is so true. When you are the boss – you get squeezed. There are all types of situations that make you feel like a giant hand has reached up from Hell with the express reason of squeezing all the life force out of you. There are days as a business owner when you wish someone else was in charge – anyone but you. Eli feels that all the squeezing is worth it have the freedom to run his life and his business the way he feels the most fulfilled. When we are able to withstand all the crap – the doubt, the fear, the cranky clients, the sometimes unreliable employees, the broken equipment, the storms, the vendors that give you a hard time, the books not showing you the numbers you want, the appointments that fall through, the lost bids you spent weeks on that you thought were a given, and a multitude of other details that make you feel constricted; ultimately, we appreciate the bi-product of our efforts that much more. The juice is indeed worth the squeeze!
Thank you so much Eli for taking the time out to be one of the Fearless 13! I look forward to seeing you again at the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Art opening on May 5th at DeskHub- Scottsdale from 6-9PM.
Note from the Artist
ELI ILLUSTRATION’S STORY:
Ironically, we have a lot of citrus trees here in AZ. So I am sure that Eli’s crew actually does make a lot of juice with the oranges that fall from the trees. Eli’s panel is all about the three trucks bringing home the oranges so that he can squeeze them and make juice out of them. In the background are three orange trees with a hand squeezing an orange in the forefront. Is it the hand from Hell squeezing the oranges or is it Eli reaping the juice of what he has grown? Maybe a little bit of both, depending on the day. The road signifies the routes/growth that he has been able to create because his team is on the road all day long. The reason the view is from the top is because it reflects Eli’s current role where he has more of a bird’s-eye view because he is “out of the truck” and working on his business instead of IN his business. As someone who grew up in the Northeast; one of the things I love about AZ landscaping is the way stone and sand is used to make what could be a boring yard gorgeous. Notice – no weeds!
Michelle Micalizzi is a Visual Journalist, Curator & a Business Executor. Her company Fearlessly Deliver, LLC believes that Art is Business and Business is Art! Michelle uses her ability as a Visual Journalist in her Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Series to tell the story of Entrepreneurship and she is the curator of the Fearless Pop Up Projects.
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THIS WEEKS BOOK & TED TALK RECOMMENDATION
BOOK: Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose for You & Your Team by Simon Sinek, David Mead,Peter Docker
Ted Talk – How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek
Feel free to email me and suggest a book that you have found particularly helpful!
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Dates and times may change. Check out the fearless event schedule online for most current schedule information.
Galvanize – Phoenix
DeskHub – Scottsdale
Desert Foothills Family YMCA
Cave Creek, AZ (additional locations pending)
TIME: 5:30 – 8:30PM
Fearlessly Turbulent: A Conversation about Control vs Chaos
2017 FEARLESS CHARITY
The CONTEMPORARY FORUM a support organization for the Phoenix Art Museum. Their mission is to promote interest in and understanding of contemporary art at Phoenix Art Museum.