Articles written by guest contributors
Birth, death, birth …By Bill Gardocki, Interstate Landscape
On June 23, 2015, The Northeast Hardscape Expo committee held its first meeting. We were excited to get started, and begin the process of creating a new show for the hardscape industry. We did not know if it was doable at that time. Did we have the right balance of people to serve on all the committees? Did we have people that would have the knowledge on how to put a show together?
We now know the answer to those questions (see article on page 10). I was very appreciative of the opportunity to be involved in giving birth to the Northeast’s hardscape tradeshow. We all took on parts of the show we were interested in and we ran with it. The show was born.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Expo and participate in all the excitement and camaraderie that was to accompany the birth of this baby. 6 weeks before the doors swung open, after all the preparations I made for the competitions and the demonstrations, I had a stroke. I am 59 years old, the same age as my dad when he had a heart attack. The difference is he did not survive. I did, and I am very thankful I am here to write this article and not pushing up daisies in a cemetery somewhere. The Expo committee brought in excellent people to fill my shoes. With everyone pitching in, my responsibilities were well taken care of.
My near-death experience has made me sit up and take notice. Have I really lived life the way I wanted to? Have I spent time with my kids as I should have? Have I loved my wife enough? Why did I survive a stroke while many others don’t? Should I look at life differently now? All these questions rush by as I look at things in a completely different light.
And what happens to your business when something like a stroke happens? Have you prepared well for a time when you are knocked out of commission, or are not around anymore? My wife and I have taken care of the personal end of estate planning but never really considered what would happen to our business if either of us were to experience a debilitating event, or worse. She handles the office, and I handle the jobs and customers. Without both of us driving the buggy, our baby would go off the cliff. Make sure you have a succession plan in place for your business. We are fortunate our 29-year-old son Tom, who has worked for us since he was 10 years old, was able to take over the day-to-day operations for me.
I did have to cancel many of my winter seminar teaching contracts, while Tom was able to teach some of them for me. We have down-sized to 1 very talented crew for landscape installations. The biggest decisions that had to be made were: What parts of the business were important enough that they required my attention? And, what parts do I let others take over until I am back on my feet 100%? I’ve spent 40 years in this industry and education. Do I really want/need to continue? Or, should I just go get a job driving a truck for the local auto parts store?
The answer came when I saw the gleam in my son’s eye. I saw that youthful enthusiasm that I felt at 29 years old. He has filled in for every role that I have had to back off on. I now know I can enjoy work at a more relaxed pace, and have confidence in letting others take on more responsibility. The big question is whether I can really back off on the work that I love, that has given me so much over the years, and is in my blood so thick that I can feel it pumping through my veins. I can’t give it up! It is a part of me that I just can’t imagine not being part of my life. I think most of us are like that.
Give us a lead, a committee, or students to educate and off we go. See you at a seminar, trade show, HNA, or next year’s Northeast Expo!
Bill Gardocki is the owner of Interstate Landscape Co. Inc. in Londonderry, NH, installing hardscapes for over 40 years. Bill has taught over 100 classes as an NCMA and ICPI certified instructor. He also provides hardscape seminars for dealer/contractor education days, and in 2013 became the Landscape Construction instructor at his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. Contact Bill@InterstateLandscapeNH.com