family tradition - Ippolito Snow Services

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family tradition - Ippolito Snow Services
FAMILY TRADITION
Frank Ippolito III finds himself in charge after his father’s death.
Now he looks to put his own touch on the family’s legacy
2014
2ND RUNNER-UP
IPPOLITO SNOW
SERVICES
Founded: 1973
Owner: Frank Ippolito III
Location: Chelsea, MA
Clients: About 40
Snow employees: 15
Insights:
▶ Know your limitations and
surround yourself with
quality people who have
the skills you need.
▶
▶
Establish a consistent
brand across all channels,
including uniforms, trucks,
promotional materials,
advertising, etc.
Don’t be afraid to have fun.
22
BY STEPHANIE SKERNIVITZ // Contributor
T
o Frank Ippolito III of Ippolito Snow
Services in the Boston area, the phrase
Boston Strong is an everyday concept lived
out by all lifelong, industrious residents.
It’s a way of life.
But that phrase got a little more personal for
Ippolito in 2011, when he found himself taking
over his father’s business after his dad passed
away. Ippolito’s grandfather started the business
as a service station in the 1940s in Chelsea, MA.
Ippolito’s father added snow removal to the
business in 1973.
“My father was highly trusted in the community
and neighborhood, a really hard worker, working
six to seven days a week. He probably hadn’t taken
vacation in 20 years,” Ippolito says.
The business was the family legacy, built on
trust and honesty, and was well established and
thriving until 2009, when Ippolito’s father had a
stroke at age 59. The stroke stripped his father of
the ability to talk, walk or eat. He required 24/7
care, but did everything possible to get back on
his feet and continue the business. He died two
years later.
It might seem like a no-brainer that his son,
then 42, would step up to the plate. However,
he was already committed to a career he loves,
serving as a vice president of human resources
at Hewlett Packard (HP), a job with global
responsibilities.
While Ippolito has always had a hand in the
snow business, including helping his dad with
billing and proposals, he had never been involved
in the day-to-day operations. But when his dad
died, right before snow season, he thought, “OK,
now you’re in charge.”
The decision to forge on wasn’t easy, Ippolito
says. “Why would I want to take over a small snow
removal business that is just hard to operate, with
general operations that were highly dependent on
one person, my dad?” His answer: “Family matters,
and Boston doesn’t give up, and neither did my dad.”
He admits the first season was “extremely
difficult.” He’s grateful for family members, such
as his cousin Bobby and his aunt Patti, who walked
alongside him and helped him get to know the
business inside and out. Ippolito says another
employee, Steve, helped acquaint him with new
technologies.
“One of the hardest things to do is admit you
don’t know what you don’t know,” says Ippolito.
“First, I have to say that snow removal is not me —
all the physical work, putting gear on. I’m not great
with the snowblower and haven’t driven a truck.”
However, the business is much more than that.
“I had to know finance and billing to keep the
business going. At first we were in survival mode,
even while dad was still alive but in the hospital.
My mom, Patty, is honored that I have kept
this business going, and I couldn’t have done it
without her encouragement,” he says.
Looking back, he reflects on how the loss of
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his dad presented a market opportunity
for a trusted professional company to
“evolve from a startup to a grown-up.”
With the third-generation Ippolito at the
helm, he rebranded the company, and in
2012 he developed a three-year plan that
incorporated his own business experiences
gathered over 15 years.
“I knew my limitations and quickly
surrounded myself with a team that
was skilled where I was not,” he says,
acknowledging, “I’m never going to be
able to drive a big plow.”
On the marketing front, specifically,
he says the business has formalized
its approach by creating professional
marketing materials, adding billing
software, implementing crew uniforms,
rebranding equipment, investing in new
removal technology, and leveraging
online advertising.
“One of the hardest things to
do is admit you don’t know
what you don’t know.”
– FRANK IPPOLITO III
“We want to make sure we have a
consistent story from the business card to
the truck logo to our sweatshirts. People
like continuity, and we’ve made it kind
of fun,” he says. “Our main logo makes
people smile. There can be hard-core
snow removal and it scares people. We
want to try to make it friendlier.”
The efforts and investments have paid
off, spurring revenue growth year over
year at 350%. Ippolito says since joining
SIMA, he is discovering even more ways
to improve the business.
Ippolito is pleased with the success of
the company to date, but his vision going
forward is slow, sustained growth. He
notes that the company ran its first online
ad last year. “The outpouring of leads was
more than we could handle. We don’t
want to oversell ourselves. We could’ve
taken 200 jobs and not done well. But
that’s not what we want. We want to
incrementally grow this,” Ippolito says.
While growth is the long-term vision,
Frank Ippolito III is determined to
continue his father’s business,
while putting his own spin on it.
don’t look for Ippolito to branch out into
non-snow services.
“We know snow, and that’s all we
do. I am not looking to make this a
year-round business by adding another
market segment. I don’t want us to try to
be something we are not. We are snow
professionals for four to five months, and
it brings our family together. We are going
to be the best we can be and have fun along
the way,” he says. In the short time that he’s
been at the helm, Ippolito says he’s learned
a lot, especially the importance of family
and client relationships.
“There is stress with running a
business like this. This family piece
really does bring us together,” he
explains. “Our business is about trust,
treating someone’s property like your
own. Make a mistake, own it. Take care
of your customers and profits will always
follow.”
He adds, “A hardworking city, a
hardworking family, and a brand to be
proud of ... that is Ippolito Snow Services
Strong.”
Skernivitz is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.
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