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50 Businesses; 50 Solutions #48

Published Tuesday Nov 3, 2020

Author Kelly Burch, Granite State News Collaborative

When coronavirus hit New Hampshire in March, medical providers and trucking facilities were essential to keeping the state functioning and supplying peace-of-mind when everything seemed uncertain. Many of them turned to Mark Aquilino, president of Outdoor Pride, to make sure that they and their customers could come and go as needed.

The Manchester-based snow removal and landscaping company was still in winter mode, clearing lots and making sure that essential workers could get to work.

“We were supporting a lot of the livelihoods that had increased business operations,” Aquilino said. “We needed to increase our service, awareness and ensure safety.

Outdoor Pride provided all its employees with face masks and held safety briefings every-other day at the height of the pandemic. But for Aquilino, making a safe work environment went beyond implementing guidelines from the state and the CDC. He wanted his 72 full time employees to know that they weren’t at risk of being laid off, and that the culture at Outdoor Pride wouldn’t change.

Growing up playing sports, Aquilino had recognized the importance of having a great team

“There’s a lot of power in a group of individuals that buy into the same system and have the same beliefs,” he said.

Since he took over as the president of the company that his parents started, he had focused on building his team. He wanted landscaping to be not just a short-term job option, but one that people could make a career from. He backed that up with actionable steps like paying above market rate, he said, which helped Outdoor Pride have an employee retention rate of over 85%.

5050Still, during the pandemic he knew he needed something more. He decided to adopt a transparent book-keeping system called Open Book. The system makes the financials of the company open to employees, and invites a rotating group of employees to participate in financial meetings.

“This is really meaningful and impactful to show on every level how [employees] are contributing to the success of the organization,” Aquilino said. “We were in a situation where we were able to show the workforce that we were secure.

At a time when people were worried about layoffs and a possible recession, that did a lot to boost employee morale. The system cost roughly $40,000 to implement, factoring in time for meetings and training. However, Aquilino said that the company has increased profits, and he attributes that largely to increased employee engagement. Under the open book system, employees are incentivized with bonuses. During the third quarter, the average employee bonus is roughly equal to 30 hour’s pay.

Seeing the financial  financials “refocuses the entire organization to telling a story of what we’ve done,” Aquilino said. “They paint a numeric picture of our output in doing our jobs.

Now, Aquilino is preparing for the winter months. Outdoor Prides hires about 250 seasonal employees to help with time-sensitive plowing and snow removal. About 70% of the positions for this winter are already filled with returning employees.

“It’s always a challenge to retain a seasonal workforce, but what sets us apart is we pay top dollar, we pay to train and we have the latest and greatest technology,” Aquilino said. “If you can have a strong culture that your fellow teammates believe in, that's the easiest way to get people to come work for you.

Next year, Outdoor Pride is aiming for a 15% increase in revenue, a number that will be shared with all employees through the Open Book system. Aquilino is confident that the company can achieve that by focusing on employee satisfaction.

“Happy employees are always more productive,” he said.

This story is part of the 50 Businesses, 50 Solutions series, shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative, that aims to highlight how business leaders across the state, from mom and pop shops, to large corporations have adapted to meet the challenges and disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus in the hopes others may be able to replicate these ideas and innovations. Tell us your story here. For more information visit  

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