Frankie Ippolito left his corporate job to focus full-time on his family’s snow and ice management company.
It’s been five years since my dad, Frank Ippolito Jr., passed away after a debilitating stroke. He was the heart and soul of Ippolito Snow Services, which was founded in 1973. In the June 2014 issue of Snow Business
, I was proud to share our story as a finalist for the “Greatest Story Never Told.” At that time, I was three years in, trying to learn about the business in which I had a minor role. My primary job was serving as a division vice president of human resources for a technology company that required me to be on the road, and often out of the country, most of the time.
In 2011 I decided to keep the business going and to give it my all. My goals for the company are simple: grow top-line revenue, hire talented employees, drive operational efficiency and listen and learn. Over the past two years, though, I came to realize that giving my all meant something was going to have to give in order for those goals to be achieved. So in January, I left my full-time executive position and took some time to reflect and think about my choices and next steps.
Looking back, it wasn’t a difficult decision with regard to the business. The market opportunities in Boston are too big to pass up. But it was a massive change and many people around me were speechless when they heard my decision. Just three years ago, if I even said the word “diesel,” it was in the context of designer jeans, not a plow truck! My decision will allow me to build on an already strong, trusted business, keep the family legacy going, and have fun being my own boss! That said, I’m leaving behind the compensation of a secure corporate job for the challenges of making a snow-only business successful in New England; and I’ll certainly miss the connection with my former colleagues, who were like a second family to me. Becoming a market leader
Now that I’m invested in the business full-time, I want to see the company grow and continue to become a market leader in the Boston area. I also want to focus my time on things that will make a difference for the business and enable the team’s success.
For example, I have been working closely with a designer to develop the marketing materials and booth collateral for our first trade show this summer at the New England Condo Expo. I will be able to be at the event all day and spend time with prospects, something I could never have done when wearing two hats.
I’m also looking forward to unlocking the potential for growth that will come from building relationships and leveraging the vast network of business professionals I have met over the past 20 years - many of whom are decision-makers for their corporate offices, branch locations, etc., or they are connected to the decision-makers in their companies for services that we offer.
My team, while surprised by my decision, has been there for me, giving full support and helping me settle in. It was pretty much business as usual with me just being more available and accessible. The biggest challenge was helping the team understand just because I was asking a lot of questions and trying to learn why we did things a certain way didn’t mean that things were wrong or there was a problem. The best resolution I found was to communicate clearly that I was trying to put myself in situations where I previously was not involved (e.g., attending a meeting, pitching in at a job site, talking with a vendor or engaging with a customer).
I have always believed that the best general managers are those who have held every position in a company, from stocking shelves and sweeping the floors to selling. When I step back and think about it, I have a big gap in the actual operation, maintenance and safety procedures in using heavy equipment. So I searched for a way to fill that gap in an environment that would allow me to make mistakes, learn best practices, and become more comfortable in making decisions for the company. This spring, I look forward to getting trained on how to safely operate much of the heavy equipment that is used in the snow business. I can’t wait! I am also studying for my CSP exam this summer.
For sure there are pros and cons, a steep learning curve, but absolutely no regrets. Any time someone jumps into a new business there is risk, but you have to balance the risk. I will make many mistakes along the way, but hopefully there are more good decisions than bad ones in the end. I owe it to my father, my family and myself to keep Ippolito Snow Services growing and thriving for years to come.