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The Story Behind New Castle Lawn & Landscape

by Greater Reading Chamber Alliance

The Story Behind New Castle Lawn & Landscape
L-R: Brian Cuccaro, Brad Stephenson, & Dan Marshall

What began as a simple way to put some extra spending money in Brian Cuccaro’s teenaged pocket has blossomed into a full-service lawn and landscaping business boasting a 9000-foot warehouse and 85+ employees. But it hasn’t always been easy. New Castle Lawn & Landscape weathered some tough seasons and faced a particularly rough period in 2018, when the future of the company teetered on a mower blade’s edge. But instead of giving up, New Castle Lawn & Landscape soldiered on, leaning heavily into the elements that have brought them out on top, time and time again: community, culture and collaboration. Here’s how they did it.

Under the hot summer sun of 1987, while living at his family’s home on New Castle Drive in Shillington, 14-year-old Brian Cuccaro was looking for ways to earn extra spending money.

Equipped with his parents’ lawn mower and a willingness to roll up his sleeves, Brian and some close friends started knocking on doors and offering his lawn mowing services to neighbors at a whopping $15 a lawn, eager to prove their worth. Their parents occasionally drove them to properties beyond walking distance until they got their driver’s licenses.

The small collective of friends, spearheaded by Brian, officially formed in 1994 and grew into a full-fledged company over the years by expanding into new neighborhoods and launching commercial services. In 2014, Brad Stephenson took an ownership stake, and in 2022, Dan Marshall would also join the owners’ team. Among the three, they create a dynamic leadership team who knows how to get things done—but still have fun.

The crew was put to the test in a big way, however, in 2018.

New Castle Lawn & Landscape is a longtime provider of opportunities to individuals with green cards looking for work in the United States. That year, a team of 40 trusted, hardworking lawn specialists was fully trained from their past experience with New Castle and ready to go—except that their petition for work was denied that year for the first time ever.

Everyone, from the owners to the administrative staff, was scrambling. It was an unusually wet summer, and the grass was growing like crazy. Every available employee fired up a mower as they raced to complete their contracts (although rumor has it, they took the blades off construction expert Brad’s mower before he went out…).

But when you put your business in a pressure cooker, sometimes something genius comes out the other side.

The company rallied. It doubled down on process in addition to hiring and training. It cleaned up the books, installed channels for digital communication, and honored the hard work of its remaining employees. It also got creative and stepped up its community involvement. What took New Castle Lawn & Landscape almost 20 years to achieve in terms of revenue and company size doubled in the past five years alone. The company is now thriving and offers a portfolio of immaculately-delivered outdoor residential and commercial services.

Rallying Around Core Values: Beyond A Catchphrase

When you hear the phrase CIA, it may call to mind secret agents and clandestine missions. But when New Castle Lawn & Landscape employees hear the term, they only think: Care. Improve. Attitude.

As part of their efforts to rebound during their seasonal challenges in 2018, the team introduced a set of core values, and it took off in a big way.

While many companies develop a set of core values, it is rare to see those values expressed as clearly as they are at New Castle Lawn & Landscape. Its core values aren’t just found decorating walls or sitting inside a business plan, New Castle Lawn & Landscape’s core values have deep roots in the soil of its culture.

“The core values keep everyone involved,” Brad explains. “They’re very important, and we celebrate them at every meeting. We even have a ‘Star Board.’ If someone exemplifies a core value, they are given a star next to their picture.”

And, if the leadership team notices that a given employee hasn’t been “showing up” in terms of demonstrating the company’s core values, the system provides an opportunity for conversation, guidance and support to discover why not.

“It really does work,” says Dan. “It helps the staff. It helps when you have to hire people. It helps guide people who make decisions.”

Diversity & Individuality: Creating a Supportive Environment

“The core values keep everyone involved,” Brad explains. “They’re very important, and we celebrate them at every meeting. We even have a ‘Star Board.’ If someone exemplifies a core value, they are given a star next to their picture.”

And, if the leadership team notices that a given employee hasn’t been “showing up” in terms of demonstrating the company’s core values, the system provides an opportunity for conversation, guidance and support to discover why not.

“It really does work,” says Dan. “It helps the staff. It helps when you have to hire people. It helps guide people who make decisions.”

Inspired by a young Autistic man who interned with New Castle Lawn & Landscape and was subsequently offered a job, they also have a passion for creating opportunities for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The leadership team is actively exploring ways to formally implement a training and career program specifically geared toward these communities.

Additionally, each new employee who joins New Castle Lawn & Landscape is given a DISC assessment. Knowing someone’s DISC style helps the ownership team better understand their team’s work style, communication preferences and responses to pressure.

Based on the positive results that have arisen from their efforts, Brian, Brad and Dan plan to keep diversity and person-based practices as a part of New Castle Lawn & Landscape’s DNA permanently.

Community & Culture: Growing People

Ever heard the old saying to “check your problems at the door?” Not at New Castle Lawn & Landscape.

With more than 85 staff members, New Castle Lawn & Landscape is a business built around its people. If an employee has a problem, personal or professional, the ownership team knows that can flow down into the work. So rather than fostering a closed-off, tight-lipped environment, New Castle Lawn & Landscape encourages its people to bring their problems to the table so the team can jointly work on finding help and solutions.

That culture of help and support extends out into the community as well, efforts that became even more solidified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like many other businesses, New Castle Lawn & Landscape wasn’t sure if it would need to shut down. The ownership team remembers holding a meeting in the garage, standing 10 feet apart, and saying “What are we going to do?”

They decided to give it everything they had to stay afloat and to help the community however they could. From volunteering their driving services to partnering with other organizations working on community initiatives, New Castle Lawn & Landscape now enjoys relationships with a number of local organizations, such as Helping Harvest, Caron Foundation and United Way.

The situation blew the lid off past fears that installing a set donation or volunteer program would eat up too much company time and money. Brian’s advice to younger business owners on the topic?

“You don’t have to be so intently focused on the business operations all the time. There are other things you can do to help people, and it will come back to your business in a good way.”

In the coming years, Brian, Brad and Dan have no plans of slowing down. With their operational model and culture solidified, they hope that, someday soon, New Castle Lawn & Landscape will have a presence up and down the east coast. New Castle Lawn & Landscape’s story serves as a reminder that hard work, innovation, collaboration and passion do truly pay off. Their journey inspires us all to pursue our dreams, to be brave, and to embrace challenges—because when we do, our growth becomes unstoppable.