Lisa Fiore, CEO and Co-founder, LandscapeHub
My siblings and I always had the best leaf collections at school. That’s what happens when you grow up on three wooded acres with a nurseryman for a dad. Despite my father’s 7-day-a-week work schedule, I vividly remember spending time with him, combing through our property while he taught me about our trees or hanging out at the nursery, playing between the rows or fishing in the ponds.
Looking back at my childhood, you might think my position as co-founder and CEO at LandscapeHub was inevitable. It wasn’t, but we’ll get to that.
“I grew up like this.”
I spent summers going to industry events with my father. The nursery business is, by and large, a huge group of family businesses, so I roamed the trade show floors with people like Kathy Schroeder from Schroeder Nursery or Christa Orum-Keller from Midwest Groundcovers. I have warm memories of time spent with the Bork, Schwartz, and Theidel families, too.
My first “real” job was at the Manfredini Garden Center in Illinois. From there, I worked at other garden centers, but when it was time to go to college, I took a hard left, completing a B.A. in English Literature at the University of Montana. I think I knew, deep down, that I’d come back to the industry, but I wanted to do something different; I wanted to be a mountain guide.
Into the Woods
My first “real real” (see: out of college) job was working with troubled youth, taking them into the wilderness, teaching them survival skills, and counseling them through their problems. I then spent three months in Patagonia with a national outdoor leadership school, kayaking and mountaineering.
You learn a lot about yourself when you’re living on the razor’s edge of the world, in incredibly harsh conditions. That’s where my internal strength and ability to persevere was thoroughly tested. I came out of the experience with what I can only describe as “grit.” It would come in handy.
And Home Before Dark
After Patagonia, I was all set to move to Alaska to become a kayaking guide when my dad called me with the first real opportunity to come back to the business. He needed help, so I went home to fulfill a position and that was that. I think we were both surprised, but I never looked back.
I threw myself into buying and selling. I loved our customers. 2001-2008 were high times in the industry and we all had a lot of fun.
The Great Recession
Then, it was as if a tsunami washed over the industry. We lost 50 percent of our revenue over two years and 15 points of gross profit. It was demoralizing and sad, but we did what we could to navigate our way through it. I continued visiting suppliers as part of my job and saw the despair and desperation of my colleagues.
In 2010, I became the president of Fiore Nursery. My cousin (and business partner) and I turned the company around, breaking even again in two years, and growing the business from $4.5 million to $15 million over seven years.
When I think about the time immediately after becoming president of Fiore, I’m so grateful for the team that surrounded me.
I stumbled so hard sometimes, but I got back up. The grit I cultivated in the mountains of Patagonia came in handy.
Moving Forward — Moving On
As we grew the company, we started hitting walls — labor inefficiencies, supply chain difficulties, communication difficulties. To fill in my knowledge gaps, I earned an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, during which I conceptualized an enhanced database of our supplier network to help us manage the business, but I was too busy running the business.
A few years later, our management team and I started revisiting the idea.
LandscapeHub was born.
We realized we weren’t just building a tool to help our business, we were building a tool that would help the entire green industry streamline the supply chain—a major pain point. Ed Rockhill, then the Vice President at Fiore, and I received the blessing from Fiore to move LandscapeHub from a Fiore tool to an independent company. We sought out a co-founder in the tech business, Chad Cooper (who I’ll introduce you to next) and started building.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
While co-developing and launching LandscapeHub has certainly been a labor of. . . well. . . everything, I have to close by saying my story and my part in developing LandscapeHub is firmly connected to the network that my father built, and that he brought me in to continue developing.
I have been so deeply moved by the people in my life. It is only by building on that network, and surrounding myself with the very talented people who work at LandscapeHub, who support the vision and the cause, that I have a “founder’s story.”
I’m excited for what is to come, for the ways we make people’s lives easier and solve problems on the buyer side and the supplier side.
Next up, I’ll introduce you to Chad, our tech guru. My story shares the beginnings of where we came from. His will show you how we’re going to get where we want to end up.