In Episode #04 of Inside Out with Belgard, Joe Raboine, Belgard’s Director of Residential Hardscapes, chats with Joe Palimeno, Owner and Principal Landscape Designer at the international, award-winning design and build firm Ledden Palimeno. Joe Palimeno remains dedicated to creating incredibly unique and functional outdoor living spaces that complement the architecture style of the home and the surrounding landscape.
Joe Raboine and Joe Palimeno are longtime friends, sharing experiences with the Philadelphia Flower Show, where Ledden Palimeno has been awarded multiple best in show wins. They both bring a love for thoughtful design, giving way to variety of topics, including:
- Advice for contractors starting their journey to become a design-build firm
- How to problem solve through design to meet the expectations and unique styles of clients
- Tips on finding and pre-qualifying clients who meet your project standards
- Benefits of phasing large-scale projects over time
- How to position your business for longevity to withstand economic downturns
- How to create a legacy through design and innovative work
Episode Takeaway: Joe Palimeno shares the importance of identifying what you want your business to be, and then working to make it how you’ve imagined. From a design standpoint, if you are not to the level you want to be yet, there are plenty of people who can help. Joe Palimeno realized his dream business by continuing to learn and educating himself on materials, design style and architecture – and, most importantly, listening to the client.
To listen and subscribe to Belgard’s Inside Out Podcast, visit Belgard.com/InsideOut.
View Full Transcript
Joe Raboine: Welcome to Inside Out with Belgard, a podcast made for professionals by professionals who are passionate about outdoor living. I’m your host, Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard. I started my career as a hardscape contractor over 25 years ago. I’ve always loved creating spaces that both bring people together and connect them to the natural world.
I met some amazing people along the way. Who’ve impacted the industry and inspired me personally. I’m joined today by Joe Palimeno owner and principal landscape designer at the international award-winning design build firm Ledden Palimeno, located in New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. The Ledden Palimeno team does truly incredible work.
They are the best in class. They’re timeless, outdoor living designs really flow well with both the architectural style of each home and the surrounding landscape. Joe is a topnotch professional with multiple best in show wins at the world- renowned Philadelphia Flower Show. Welcome Joe, to Inside Out with Belgard.
Joe Palimeno: Joe. I am thrilled to be here and be part of this.
Joe Raboine: I know you and I met back, six or seven years ago when Belgard became a sponsor for the Philadelphia Flower Show. We’ve been working on that show every year since, as well as multiple other projects. So I’m glad to know you, I would count you as one of my friends and really appreciate your insight and knowledge and experience in the industry.
So, I’d love to have you kind of explain a little bit more, what was your history, you know, what’s Ledden Palimeno about and really kind of educate our listeners on who Joe Palimeno is.
Joe Palimeno: Okay. So in 1992, I joined forces with the Ledden brothers who had a 100 year old nursery at the time, garden center. And we got involved in this partnership and that partnership was good and it lasted from 1992 to 2000.
In 2000, I bought my partners out and we moved about a half a mile, or so away from there, we’re still in Soul, New Jersey, and we kept the name because of the brand recognition. The name of the Ledden’s, carried a lot of weight and still, I think does in a lot of people’s minds. But anyway, the business has evolved like many of us in this design build.
I always considered myself design build. I think even when it was just mowing lawns and doing a little bit of enhancement work. So the business has just evolved to be what I want it to be. And that’s design build at a certain level where very focused on being that single source design build, building these incredible outdoor spaces so that that’s where we are today.
And we continue to evolve. It just keeps changing as we take more in from custom construction, outdoor pavilions and arbors or trellis, fireplaces, all of the features that you would think of in an outdoor environment, swimming pools. I have a hard time with, with no and when somebody asks me, can we do this? Can we do that? Most of the time it’s yes. And we just figure it out along the way and we’ve become very good at it. And again, very focused. If we’re going to take it on it’s because we’ve done a lot of research and we, we feel comfortable.
Joe Raboine: So you started out, it sounds like more on the maintenance side, right?
And kind of evolved into who you are today, which is, I mean, you guys do just fantastic projects. The design is always super thoughtful. The plantings, the whole package, is very current, but it also has a very timeless appeal at least everything that I’ve ever seen you guys work on. So for those listeners who are maybe just starting out who are kind of struggling to kinda take the next step and maybe aspire to be a design build firm. What advice or insight could you give them? I mean, I know 30 years is a long time. There’s been a lot of evolution, but are there some tips or tricks you could provide them that would maybe save them from some of the grief that you had to go through to get where you’re at?
Joe Palimeno: There was a certainly a time when, again, I aspired to be design build and I thought of myself as design build, but we were better at design than we were at the installation. We kind of weren’t in sync at the same pace. For instance, we could design, we, we could meet with a client. We could understand what they wanted.
We could design it. The confidence. Wasn’t there to roll that set of plans up and just hand it to the field and build it. Okay. So, what I’ve learned is that if you can create this excitement, you create this, this company, this vision of what you want to be, what you want people to see you as, and you have to continue to meet that expectation and exceed that expectation.
So there was a time when we just weren’t good on the build side, as good as I wanted it to be. So it took some time to really put that focus and train the field and made sure that we were in sync with the level of design that we were doing. And it absolutely caught up and continues to be right in sync we’re we’re hand in.
I’ll always say this, Joe and that is, we are certainly being guided by the homeowner. We’re influenced by what they want. But it’s our job to take their ideas and show them what works, what doesn’t work. I mean, landscape design is in a lot of ways, problem-solving, right? So we can’t just give them their ideas back and say, okay, this is what we’re going to do because sometimes it just doesn’t work. So as a landscape designer, I mean, you have big responsibility, especially as being design, build, you take on every responsibility. If you missed a grade, man, you’re going to pay for it. Right? So all these lessons that you continue to learn, I think anybody who aspires to be designed build just man, take it slow, take it slow and really focus on what it is that you are good at and what you are not good at. When I say that you’re not good at, not from a design standpoint, but from an installation standpoint, look for somebody who can, you can partner with, who can help you as a subcontractor. Don’t design within your boundaries, within your comfort level of what it is that you’re able to do if the project requires in, in your words, Joe, the, the timeless style of architecture, you know, the work that we do is a lot of times is dictated by the architecture of the home. So if we’re working within that architecture style of the home, sometimes we’re working with product or materials or construction techniques that we’re not very efficient with, so rather than shy away from that and try to offer something that’s easy and that’s, I think a lot of times where contractors who want to be designed build who just don’t get to that next level, because they’re, they’re just working within their comfort level. So reach out, find a subcontractor, find people who can you can partner with and work with.
Joe Raboine: That’s a good segue, I think, into your really kind of talking about the current state of the industry. I love seeing examples of that with the next generation coming into the business, coming into the industry and I mean, it’s about building, creating things with your hands and having that satisfaction of seeing something come from just a raw idea to a fully built out space.
I mean, that’s something that not a lot of people get to experience. Right? And you have that direct engagement, like not only are you on the front lines of designing it, you’re actually executing it and then you get to see the finished product and see what it does for people’s lives and all that good stuff.
Joe Palimeno: The one thing I think about when you say that is that really comes down to the work that you are designing and it pushes your level of creativity to come up with the ideas, come up with those solutions for our customers, projects, design ideas that again, satisfy them, but also satisfy us on the build side. We’re looking for those creative projects. That’s what we thrive on. So if that level of creativity goes down, we can see it. I can see it in the employees. I can see it in the guys. I can see their shoulders, you know, they’re not held up as high. They just don’t that pep in their step if you kind of get into those periods of times where you just don’t have it, but when we have the projects that are just pushing the level of creativity. Oh man, you can see how everybody just, we thrive on it. I think that’s all of us in this business, that’s what drives. You know?
Joe Raboine: Whenever I meet new contractors, I loved if I get the chance to dig into it and say, what, what is it about this industry that drew you in? And I think a lot of times they don’t always know. Right? It could be, I was mowing lawns or, kind of whatever, kind of almost by accident ended up here. I said, yeah, but you’re still here, so there’s something deeper that drew you here. Right? So you’re working outside, you’re in these beautiful environments, you’re creating these spaces. I think to me that same question is also something that’s important when you’re talking with clients, right? Like what is it about this space that you’re interested in and you’re willing to go through the heartache and the hardship to get and to pay for. I think diving into that is super important, but I think understanding on both sides, right? Because to your point as a, as a design-build firm, the best companies you see out there are the ones who are constantly pushing themselves and trying to be more creative and because you’re right. It gets boring after a while, if you’re just doing the same simple repetition of a project and the last two years have been absolutely insane for this industry as you. double digit growth several years now in a row, many, many contractors are booked for six months, for a year in some cases. What have you seen or what’s the most significant change that you’ve seen happen in the last couple years with just a typical project?
Joe Palimeno: There’s a lot of change. I think the most obvious is the demand.
We would see a job come through that, man, it was big, it was a couple hundred thousand dollars. And we were like, when are you going to get your next couple hundred thousand dollars job? Where’s it going to come? And they would come along. I mean, we’re now seeing jobs, the $200,000 jobs are I don’t want to say a dime a dozen, but man, the demand is high and that we see them now going to $500,000.
We’re working on jobs more than that. So it’s the demand, and that’s the one thing that I see different. Again, you could get really caught up in times like this, to just grab all this work and possibly be too busy and miss the good jobs. And that’s what we want to make sure we’re not doing is, we want to be available for the good jobs.
So, what do I see different? And I think for us, it’s how we pre-qualify the customers, because there’s so many and we’re again, we’re all word of mouth so I can’t imagine if we were still advertising the way that we had to, and I think the last time we advertised was back in 2008-2009 when we had a real slump in the economy and we had to, and it was completely foreign to me to advertise the way that I did.
And when I finally get to that face-to-face meeting knocking on the door and customer would come out and man, I’d have to do this big, long introduction and tell them who I was and explain to them in short, a time as possible, what kind of business we had and man, you talk about learning. That was probably one of the biggest learning curves for me.
It was tough. And I thought, “I don’t want this.” So how do you create the business how you want it to be. Again, all referrals. It works for us. And I think it put us in a perfect position for when COVID hit and then the demand the gates opened, and we were there ready. We were ready to take these projects, we were very good design process that gets the customer kind of set to where now we’re working with them, but we can place them where we wanna place and that may be two months before we start the design, three months, or right now tell ’em up front that we’re not gonna build your job until 2023 and that’s September of 2023 or possibly 2024 because permitting and zoning and variance possibly.
But, I just find that when you do a good job of explaining it and laying out that roadmap of what they can expect, the good customers, they’ll wait. Yeah, they’ll wait. So. I think that the biggest thing was being able to handle the onslaught of the demand. Right? And I guess the other side of that is what have I seen it possibly different in what people are asking for man, it’s pushing the limits on every job, and I hear this from everybody. When people were stuck in their homes and working from home And they kind of got a feeling of what it was really like to live in their home. And it wasn’t great, especially outside and I can only imagine the families that they’re stuck in house where their kids, right?
And their kids are saying, oh boy, we want to go to, we want to go over to the Raboine’s because they have a swimming pool and they have an outdoor fireplace and they had this great patio and we don’t have that. I think it made a lot of people think,” yeah, oh my goodness, we’re not vacationing, let’s spend this money outside.”
Joe Raboine: I think there’s a couple things I think they realized they didn’t have maybe as nice as spaces that they, as they wanted. But I do think they also realized how important those spaces are in their day to day lives and, you know, they’re outside, working remotely, a lot of them are still that way. Right? And so, I think that the idea that the space can be used on a daily basis has changed fundamentally how people look at this space and for all of us, I think the baseline has shifted. Before outdoor living was purely, I would say in many cases considered an entertainment space, now it’s being used for many daily activities and because of that, you have all of a sudden, a much larger audience. And you think about, we had a labor issue prior to COVID. So if five or 10% of the population, all of a sudden, more than what was there before wants our product, what does that mean for our industry?
I think it means despite what looks like could be some economic headwinds, I think there’s still going to be tremendous demand. I think there’s still a shortage of qualified contractors. Tons of opportunity there. I do think and you mentioned it earlier for those who may not have been in business, let’s say in 2008 and 2009, or even earlier than that with some of the other downturns, it’s sometimes easy to be successful in businesses when times are good, but it’s not always easy when times are not as good and is there any advice you could give those who maybe haven’t experienced it? I think you touched on it earlier. You said basically, who do you wanna be and make sure that you really perfect that, and don’t deviate from that, right? Because it’s easy to chase the shiny pennies sometimes and just want to be all things to everybody, or just continue with unbridled growth and that’s fine if that’s your plan, but if your plan is, you know, “Hey, I’d like to make X amount of money. I’d like to build a legacy for my children. I want this type of lifestyle.” What does that mean in terms of my business? I think then you can go back and create a plan for it.
Joe Palimeno: Yeah. And I think what you just said there, you know, what’s the lifestyle that you want?
What do you want to make? If you want it just say it, what do you want to make? How much money do you feel that you need to earn? What does the business look like? And then you work it backwards, right? So that’s called a budget, right? Here’s the number. Now, let me work it backwards and see where I need to be.
How many employees do I need? And that’s a tough thing, the lack of a workforce, what I think that took me through the times, or put me through the times when there, it was lean was number one, knowing my cost. And if you are estimating work, you have to estimate work based on what you’re making, when you’re doing that type of work on your production rates, it really comes down to that, knowing what you’re good at, knowing what you’re not good at, but it’s being diversified.
I think that is gonna get you through possibly what we’re gonna start seeing now if interest rate goes up, stock market, I don’t think of it that man, I have to Go back through what happened in, in 2008 and 2009, it’s just being ready for it. And I think that I have aligned myself with, in fact, I know that I have aligned myself with enough recession proof clientele that I can weather this storm.
And that’s what everybody should be focused on. Who are you working for? And do you have the right mix? Do you have the right clientele for me? It’s a 60, 40 blend of having 60% construction installation, 40% maintenance reoccurring. I know I have my overhead covered. Right? And that puts me at a really good comfort level.
I don’t have to, you never want to sell at a desperation, the customers, they can smell it. They can sense it. And that’s what we’re gonna find moving into sometimes people are gonna start questioning the cost a little bit closer possibly right now it’s just man, they, they just wanna get on your schedule. They’re not questioning the cost as much. I’m not finding that that’s not the challenge. Yeah. They want to get on your schedule. They want their work done. So I would just make sure that, you know, the work that we are taking it’s good, profitable work. It’s work that we can do. And again, we’re diversified enough if something was to, let’s say there was, there was no more irrigation work, there was no more lighting work or just some of the construction. There’s other things that we can go to that we can work on. So, don’t be a singular focus. And if you are, let’s say you’re just a, you’re just hardscape contractor, make sure that you are reaching out to people like me design bill landscape companies like myself, who I would welcome.
Anybody who comes here, knocks on the door and say, “Hey Joe. Yeah. Do you have some projects available? Possibly we could get involved with and do some hardscape for you?” Yes .
Joe Raboine: Yeah. That’s great. That’s great advice. I love that. I think that is not often thought about right. And when you’re working on a million dollar project, you don’t always have resource to do it all internally and certainly welcome that. What are some things you could offer insight on when it comes to approaching the design? That’s something that we talk about all the time here. And I think, like you said, a lot of our contractors are hardscape only they might be very specialized, maybe they’re deck builders and maybe they do fencing or something else in addition to that, but they’re not coming with a comprehensive design. We know that our final clients that we market to are looking for that kind of full service, and they’re not opposed to working with a specialist, but how important is design upfront when it comes planning out the entire project, whether or not you’re doing it all.
Joe Palimeno: Joe, it’s absolutely everything. It’s where it all starts. If you’re not selling through design or selling with the aid of design you’re how do you get your ideas across? How do you meet with a client and come back and just install a patio without thinking about what’s the furniture gonna look.
How many people are you gonna entertain here? What does it look like at nighttime? What are the activities that you’re gonna do out here? What what’s the surrounding plantings gonna look like and how we’re gonna handle the drainage and how we’re gonna water all those plants. And is it gonna have lighting at night?
So all of those things just added what? Seven additional pieces, you know, layers, a lot of contractors, I think just let it go. And then they, they wonder why they’re stuck at a hundred thousand dollars a year or 200 or 300 and you can’t get over this, this mark so leading with design is everything.
And this gets back to earlier what I was saying sometimes in contractors, I think they will offer what they’re comfortable with. They’ll work within their, within their scope of what they’re able to, to do. So working with an independent landscape designer or working with or being a Belgard authorized hardscape contractor, right, Joe? Then they’re able to use your services, design studio.
And man, you could talk more on that than I could, but I see what you do. I have the privilege of working with you on the flower show, and I see the designs that you put out. You know, as a designer, I look at them sometimes and I think, “Man, why didn’t I think of that?” So you’re constantly pushing that, that level of creativity and, and I love it.
And I think that’s when we meet with a customer, a client, same thing, right? They had their idea. You have yours. But sometimes when you get that, that other outside input, that outside person, maybe it’s a landscape designer. It’s a landscape architect. That’s somebody, there’s so many independent designers out there who are looking for work. They’re probably busy, but they’re looking for other good contractors they can partner with. So I would try to reach out. I would urge a lot of the, if you’re a young contractor on this podcast and you’re looking to expand your business. Not just because you wanna install more square footage per year you’re, don’t think of it in terms of like that, but think of it in terms of creativity and what you could be doing. That’s just one part of it.
Joe Raboine: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And you know, my background, I’m passionate about design. I love the collaboration. I agree a hundred percent. I think the best designs come out of multiple perspectives, right? It’s your, the client yourself, you know, some other input.
And I think one of the cool things about our industry right now is that there are so many options for design. I mean, compared to 20 years ago, there were not nearly as many materials and today. You’re seeing everything on the table, mixed materials, wood metal, pavers, stone turf in obviously the plantings to all kinds of structures.
So you’re absolutely right. I think the customer, I mean, they’ve evolved to the point where they expect these things and the contractors that we see who are growing and who are diversified and stable and, and really pushing the envelope are the ones who are offering that kind of full suite, even though they may not do all of it and probably in many respects, they shouldn’t do all of it, but they should at least design it and then align themselves with people who can execute it.
Joe Palimeno: Exactly. Yeah. You know, what’s pushing the level of design really. And the ideas is the social media, right? I mean, 10 years ago was ripping pages out of magazine or lugging a bunch of books or lugging around the portfolio of jobs that we built that.
I thought they were incredible and some are still pictures on the walls around here that I think they’re great. But the work that we’re producing now just comes from the evolution of ideas, the evolution of materials, what people see a lot of times customer’s perception of good landscaping is what their neighbor has.
And so what we try to do is we try to get in there and we let them know, look, landscape design is an expression of your personality. So let’s think in terms of the design that we’re gonna do is very comprehensive design. We’re not gonna give you what your neighbor had. We’re gonna find out what it is that you want. Start supplying us with pictures from Pinterest, go online, going Houz make an idea book, share that with us. We’re not just gonna take that idea that we see plotted out and put it in your backyard, but we’re gonna find a common thread between those pictures. We’re gonna see what it is that you like, what you envision and that’s where the magic happens, Joe, because now when you turn that design back around and you give them something, those pictures, they thought about all of a sudden. It’s on a plan. Yeah. It’s wrapped around their house, and man, people get real excited about that.
That’s the one thing that’s probably one of the best parts of my job when you get out there, because at this point we’re not talking money, we’re just talking design, we’re talking ideas. We’re gonna get to that point where we show the customer what their ideas cost. That’s kind of how I put it. Not what the job costs, but these are your ideas.
I think the social media. Oh my goodness, man. If you can embrace it and then just think about what you do with your idea book, with your catalog, the Belgard, it’s fantastic the projects that you’re showing in your catalog, you can take and use that and then your social media post alone.
Joe Raboine: Years ago, when we were contracting, it’s very easy to give people what they ask for. Right? And that I would say, that’s lazy, right? You come in and say, I want X amount square footage. I want this here and I want that there. If you get into that rut, you end up competing head to head with local contractors where it ends up becoming all price, right? Because it’s, they’re asking everybody for the same thing. I want a 20 by 30 patio. I want this here. I want that there. But when you start to offer them unique installations and I’ve seen some of the stuff that you’ve done at the Philly show and with our booth, with the Subaru booth, as well as your portfolio, those cool features are really what can differentiate you and start to help you build a name for yourself, right? Where, you know, you’re not gonna get cookie cutter installation. If you call Ledden Palimeno, you’re gonna get something that’s customized and unique and that has value, right? And it helps separate you where it’s not apples to apples anymore. It’s apples and oranges and they can’t really quantify where your pricing is compared to the next guy, cuz it’s such a unique project. Right?
Yeah. I think as those contractors are looking to make that next step again, as we talked about it’s really it’s through design and then obviously in sequence, making sure that you could execute those designs. Well, in terms of the installation.
Joe Palimeno: It’s gonna start with that design and if you’re listening to this and you’re on this journey of building your business. Make it, the business that you imagine it’s gonna be know that there’s plenty of people out there that can help you from a design standpoint, if you just are not there.
And you might think that you’re doing the most incredible work and there was a time when I thought I was doing the most incredible work. And I can tell you when I look back, I wasn’t doing the most incredible work cause I continue to learn and I continue to make sure that I’m educating myself with materials, design style, really studying architecture, but most importantly, really listening to, to my client and because they’re telling me sometimes they say they have $50,000 to spend, but their vision and their ideas, what they’re hoping for in the conversation we’re having, you know, I’m already at $150,000 in, in my mind.
And, Very softly you have to try to give that back to them. If you feel that it’s important or you let the design just speak and then you educate them on a way that you’re gonna now possibly do this in phases over the next few years. There’s lots of ways, and we could, we could go way deep into that whole education process.
Joe Raboine: is one of the first questions you’re ask in a consultation what’s your budget? How do you approach that subject?
Joe Palimeno: That’s a case by case basis based on the contractor that you are, the company that you’re building, because you could be so dialed in to know that you’re looking for 10 to $20,000 jobs. That’s what you’re good at. Your crew is built for that, you’re good at it, and you don’t wanna spend a month or two months on a project. You don’t wanna do that. Hey man, more power to you. If that’s that’s the way you lead. That’s good. You can do that in a consultation when you’re talking to them on the phone. I try not to. I try to lead with, I think by the time that we engage with the client, after our initial phone calls, they know that we’re not talking about budget anymore. We’re talking about design. We’re talking about doing the right design for the project. Once we do get to that budget is usually at the conceptual stage. Before we go into a final master plan that now we start sharing what the costs are because what we don’t wanna do is we don’t end up at the end with just a pretty picture that they can’t afford.
It’s just crazy, crazy money, but every customer is different, Joe, and you know this, that you’ll get the feel along the way you might have to ask ’em for a budget right out of the gate. You might have to ask for budget when you’re kind of feeling around and you’re walking around and they might say, my friend just had a pool built for $50,000 and they’re explaining the pool.
I’m like, well, okay, well, let’s talk about budget. Cause that pool, what you just talked about is about a hundred thousand dollars. So, I I’ve seen the customers all the time. They come around where they, they tell us outta the gate, I have 80,000 to spend. Then they inch it to a hundred. By the time you get done with its design, you’re at $200,000 and they either find the money. They have it. Or they, they borrow it or they wait. Okay. And they’ll say, what can we do now? And that, you know, you have ’em when they say, when I say you have ’em you have a good client. What can we do now for the budget that we have. Not changing this design, what can we do? All right. Yeah. Let’s put the patio in let’s let’s put the parts of this project together that we’re not gonna have the access to get back in to do later.
Yeah. So this is what you need to do now. Let’s put the big trees in, put a little bit of irrigation around them. Boom. Then we’ll wait. That part of it is X amount of dollars. Then that’s how you build your business. Also, if you can design projects that are multiple phases. It’s gonna give you work for next year or the year after, or just hit at the time when maybe you have that little slow spot, all of a sudden you either call them or they call you and Hey, they’re ready to go onto the next phase. So, that’s most of our projects.
Joe Raboine: And it takes a while to get there, but I feel like that’s when you really feel like you’ve made it where clients are waiting for you, they’re willing to phase projects. They’re not trying to strip the project back or kind of haggle you down on the price. And that’s a great spot to be, but that does take that dedication to have high quality, high ethics, and provide a good product for the price.
You’ve been involved with the Philadelphia flower show for how many years now?
Joe Palimeno: Oh boy. Over 28 years.
Joe Raboine: Wow. Yeah, I know the history on this a bit, but I’d love to have you tell our listeners a little bit about how that came to be.
Joe Palimeno: Oh man. okay. Yeah. I’ll give you a quick timeline. So back in 1994, I think was the first time I used to go to the Philadelphia flower show. And I remember the very first Philadelphia flower show I ever went to was in 1986. My daughter was born.
I left the hospital and cuz now I had a day off. She was born in March, and went to Philadelphia Flower Show. I remember walking in, it was the first time I ever went to that show, but I had heard about it. And I thought I’ll never be to this level. I saw something that day that I just couldn’t believe. And I continued to go to the show. By 1994, I had found the way to work at the show for the Philadelphia Electric Company. They were taking bids and so I won the bid. And so that’s how I got into the show in 1994. And just two years later. Oh my goodness. We had some really incredible display that we did for, for the electric company and I was invited to build my own display. I did. So by 1996, I think I’m building two, the Philadelphia electric company and my own.
And it was a complete failure. The first year I built a children’s garden and I put caster bean plants in there and they were poisonous plants. And so I probably got the lowest score in the show was funny, but the following year, man, I came back roaring and I realized very quickly that, the effort that you put in, what you would get out of that.
And if we sat there in front of our exhibit, the interest, it was unbelievable. We had so many inquiries, and if I fast forward through the years, all the way up to 2000, we built our business at that show. And what it did back then, I’m doing exhibits for myself. It was really a marketing budget.
I got a little tiny bit of money from PHS to build, but most of it came from us. So by 2000 I was that’s it I’m done. I just, I don’t need to do it anymore because I had a lot of business and I just didn’t see the, the money coming back and that’s because I wasn’t putting as much effort in. I try to get outta the show and EP Henry called me and in 2001, they entered the arena as a major exhibitor, as a judged exhibit. So I built their exhibits for 15 years. Until then they decided to not to do it anymore. And during those 15 years we built competitive gardens and we won best in show multiple times got invited to go to Singapore, to build garden, in a garden show, won best in show.
It’s unbelievable. When I think back what this show has done for me. And then we met Joe Raboine, we met you, Joe and Belgard, and you just continued, you said will you build for us? Yeah, sure. And during that time, we also picked up Subaru as a client because Subaru saw the interest around one of the exhibits that we built for EP Henry back in 2006.
And I picked up Subaru as a client and we continue still to today and we build for Subaru all over the country, different exhibits outside of the flower show. But what the flower show did for me, it enables me to keep my staff year-round. So in a seasonal business, that typically what we’re, I think most of us would say that we’re probably 10 month business, really?
January, February. I had to build this business in a way that I had year-round employment and I keep a staff of, over 20 year-round and that’s so that I can build the exhibits, but really the exhibits help us to help me to keep my staff. So there was a piece of business that I figured out and I got on the other side of building instead of building competitive gardens for myself, I build sponsor gardens and build gardens for a paid job during the year. So thank you. Thank you, Belgard for helping me continue that journey. I do appreciate it.
Joe Raboine: What is it about what you do that you love the most? What’s the most fulfilling thing that you do?
Joe Palimeno: The thought that comes quickest to me is it’s the creativity, it’s being able to work in such a creative field. And that’s it. I mean, I get to go to work and draw pictures and work with people and make incredible backyards and properties for them and that still just excites me. Like it did early on. It’s not changed. And I’ll tell you one of the most satisfying things is seeing my employees, seeing the people that have been here throughout this journey.
This is our 30-year anniversary. So I have a handful at 30 years. I have a handful of 25 years at 22 years at 15 years. And then it goes down to like 10 and seeing them. Pull up in a new car. We’re seeing them buy a house, seeing them succeed and knowing that I’ve been able to help them, not with just a job, but a career. So that’s very satisfying and you have to have that balance because it’s not just about you, not just about you, the owner. Again, I’ll get back to your, your original question. That it’s the creativity it’s being able to just have that outlet. Yeah. That’s the most gratifying part.
Joe Raboine: I love it. I think both parts of that are awesome. And, I mean, any good businessperson, I think would hope to aspire to that, right? Where you’re doing something that you love, you’re creating, and you’ve built it with a team of people who you probably consider family I would guess.
Joe Palimeno: You know, they are family. They really are.
Joe Raboine: Thanks Joe, for joining the conversation. To learn more about Joe and Ledden Palimeno Landscape Company, visit leddenpalimeno.com or follow him on social media at led Palimeno on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and hows.
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