Florida SBDC at UNF Client Named 2018 State of Florida Small Business Person of the Year

Mike Zaffaroni traded in his suit and tie for boots and blue jeans when he left his pharmaceutical sales job and purchased a landscape supply business. The business was started in 2005 as Fernandina Mulch & Stone. Mike bought the business in 2007 and carried that name until late 2015, when he renamed the company Liberty Landscape Supply.

Mike Zaffaroni , Florida SBDC at UNF

Liberty Landscape Supply is a supplier of landscape materials for homeowners and contractors with two locations in Northeast Florida and an e-commerce store on the company’s website. The stores look like a garden center on steroids, with plants, trees, large piles of dirt, rock, sand, gravel, pottery racks, palletized flagstone, fertilizer and much more.

Mike first met Florida SBDC at UNF business consultant Cathy Hagan when she was a speaker at the Jim Moran Institutes’ Small Business Executive Program. Cathy talked to the group about financial analysis tools offered by the SBDC to help business owners assess the fiscal health of their business. Mike followed up with Cathy and she prepared the analysis for Liberty Landscape. Using ProfitCents software, Cathy provided Mike with a comprehensive report on how his company’s financial picture had changed from year to year, and how it compared to other companies in his industry. The company was definitely doing well under Mike’s watch. Since purchasing the business, sales have increased and the number of employees has grown from 2 to 34.

Mike learned that in addition to financial analysis, the SBDC could also prepare a demographic market research report. This was perfect timing as he was preparing to open his second location In June 2017. Cathy used Reference USA software to prepare a report for his new location which included information about customers and competitors. The report confirmed for Mike that he made the right decision in selecting the site. Cathy also used IBISWorld, a subscription to access industry reports, to provide Mike with an overview of the trends and outlook for the landscape supply industry.

To help with managing his growing team, Mike has again turned to the SBDC. Using the DISC behavioral assessment, certified SBDC consultants are preparing an evaluation of what drives the behavior and motivates each of his employees. The results will help improve communication and understanding among team members.

Mike was recently recognized as the overall 2018 Small Business Leader of the Year by the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. He has also been named the Small Business Administration’s 2018 Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Florida. Mike is one of only 54 business owners to receive this recognition. One of them will be selected as the 2018 National Small Business Person of the Year to be announced in April in Washington DC. Mike may wear a suit and tie for the event, but deep down, it’s the boots and blue jeans that define him as a winner.

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I’m a numbers person and I love having access to information that allows a small business to make data-driven decisions like big business that will help us grow. But, the SBDC has been more than just statistical analysis for me. I value the relationship that I have been able to develop with Cathy and her staff. I appreciate their support in my endeavors and their feedback on my ideas. As a small businessperson, we often just need someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of. Many of us feel as though we are blazing a trail every day and that can be a lonely feeling. It is both reassuring and encouraging to be able to talk confidentially with people who understand our goals and the hurdles in achieving them.”

Mike Zaffaroni, Owner — Liberty Landscape Supply