Business Strategy: Liberty Landscape Supply Owner Manages ‘Vision of Much Greater Growth’ | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville Daily Record

Liberty Landscape Supply has grown from 2 acres in Fernandina Beach to a company with multiple locations in Northeast Florida.

“Over the past three or four years, we’ve had phenomenal growth,” said Mike Zaffaroni, 42-year-old owner of Liberty Landscape Supply.

Zaffaroni, who was not happy with his job selling pharmaceuticals, bought a mulch and stone business in 2007 in Fernandina Beach and grew from there, adding sales of trees, plants, grass, supplies and garden products.

Liberty Landscape Supply sells landscaping materials to homeowners and contractors, a thriving market with home construction, sales and renovations.

It also offers delivery, advice and installation.

The company owns a farm in Hilliard in Nassau County.

Its three outlets are at Fernandina Beach in Nassau County and along North Main Street and San Jose Boulevard in Duval County.

Zaffaroni is preparing to open its fourth retail location at 5825 Florida 16 in St. Augustine, St. Johns County.

Of his 5 acres along San Jose Boulevard, the former Trad’s Garden Center he bought in 2019, Zaffaroni said he’s been careful about managing growth, but he’s also had some luck in his decisions.

Zaffaroni acknowledged that the two biggest challenges most entrepreneurs face are human resources and financial management.

“We definitely had both. Financially, in the early years, it’s just hard to grow a business and have a business that’s not profitable,” he said.

Part of this came from Zaffaroni’s decision to focus solely on landscaping and to retire from other business ventures.

He previously owned a FastSigns franchise and a used car dealership in Fernandina. In 2014, he closed the used car dealership and sold the sign business.

“It was the toughest financial situation I’ve ever been in,” he said.

But the human part of the business has been the biggest challenge of the past two years.

“That includes finding the right people. Find people at affordable or competitive rates. In some cases, find someone who will work at all. You just have to get people to show up for interviews,” Zaffaroni said.

“Sometimes we hire locally. This required us to be very adaptable.

It was able to grow from 37 employees in 2018 to more than 100.

Zaffaroni acknowledged that the two biggest challenges most entrepreneurs face are human resources and financial management.

“I always had a vision for this company that we were going to be a lot bigger than we were three years ago, five years ago or 10 years ago or whatever. We are going to be much bigger than what we are now,” he said.

“It was more about where we wanted to go. Two years ago, I created a plan for a leadership team of people who were going to help us get where we wanted to go,” he said.

He hired people to fill positions in human resources, finance, sales, operations and management.

With that, Zaffaroni said his business had become more of a corporation than a small business.

“We would like to be the best in selling landscape supplies. To do that, I felt it was important to create this team,” he said.

Zaffaroni’s success is recognized by others in the industry.

Justin Williams, vice president of Williams Plant Nursery on Philips Highway in Jacksonville, said his wholesale business has been in business since 1987 and he’s seen many landscaping companies come and go.

Williams said Zaffaroni is a welcome addition to the field.

“He does it the right way. They have a different niche from ours. They do a lot of the installs themselves and focus on the retail side,” Williams said.

“I think he picks good pitches and does a good job,” he said.

“Now he’s going to St. Johns County where everything is blowing up.”

Zaffaroni said his expansion strategy is to consider finance and geography.

“Some of the lessons we’ve learned in the past are no deep pockets to start with, managing growth is a really fun challenge but it’s not easy,” he said.

In St. Johns County, “we just put a lot of money into it and we don’t necessarily have millions and millions of dollars to withdraw”.

Zaffaroni declined to disclose his earnings, but he acknowledged substantial growth in recent years.

It grew by 19% in 2021 and 69% in 2020.

In 2018, JAX Chamber named him Small Business Leader of the Year. He represented the Northern Council of the Chamber.

In the long-term strategy, Zaffaroni said he sees more retail and landscaping centers in northeast Florida, though he refrained from specifying which locations, cities or counties .

“After we open a few more stores in northeast Florida,” he said, “we’ll probably start expanding into different markets.”

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