16 Aug Who is Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape Lighting?
By Mike Gambino
Beginnings. . .
Mike began his career over 40 years ago in Long Island New York. At the age of 13, after school and on summer breaks, he worked at his best friend’s father’s Landscape Gardening business which stirred his passion for the Green industry. In his Sophomore year of high school Mike’s entrepreneurial spirit arose and he developed his own lawn cutting clientele from nothing by knocking on doors and offering his services originally hauling lawn care equipment and working out of the trunk of his Mom’s car. This mode of operation didn’t last long as Mike’s business quickly grew by word of mouth recommendation with satisfied clients, expanding services to landscaping design and installations. He soon after purchased a late model used truck and utility trailer for his growing business and took on 3 employees including his kid brother to assist him.
Throughout high school, Mike was a standout high school baseball player and starting catcher for three years from 10-12th grade. He was offered a scholarship to attend a New York city college to play baseball but opted instead to attend Adelphi University on Long Island, a 10 minute commute by car from his parents home where he resided. His reasoning was three fold. He could spend more time with his high school sweetheart (who is now his wife of 30 years) who was also attending Adelphi. Committing to play baseball in NYC would seasonally take up most of his daytime hours that he could be working in his landscaping business. In addition, by being so close to home, he could plan his schedule to attend class from 7-11 every day, run home for lunch, work in his landscaping business until 4:30, go home grab a quick bite for dinner, shower and go to his night job (where his future wife also worked 🙂 ) return home at 10 pm and repeat this schedule for 4 years which is what he did. When it comes to dedication and getting the job done, Mike has always been a “hustler” in the best and most honorable sense of the word.
Mike studied 4 years and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business administration from Adelphi University but freely admits his success is mostly due to his time studying on his own voraciously reading business books from his own private library collection and from the “school of hard knocks”. In other words, critical teachings of the true business world dealing with real people in one to one business situations on a daily basis for most of his life. These are things that just can’t be taught in school.
After college graduation Mike worked full time in and continued to grow his business to 250 weekly landscape maintenance clients. Although he loved what he did, Landscaping work on Long Island is seasonal and lasts for only 9 months. Snow removal work was not steady and Mike is not one to sit idle for even a moment. This meant seeking employment (something that is really hard to do for someone with an entrepreneurial spirit) and for three winters he worked for non green industry related business. While working there he took the opportunity and soaked up every experience he could and gained valuable experience from these successful established businesses assisting customers one-on-one while continuing to hone his own business skills.
Grateful for the experience, the work ethic instilled in him and lessons learned, Mike knew that working fulltime for an employer was never going to be in his future plan.
In the winter of 1988 Mike decided to take a month long trip to Los Angeles California with the wild idea of investigating opportunities to start a landscape business that could operate year round. He left the frigid cold and dreary grey January New York scenery and 5 hours later, he set foot off the plane and entered into a temperate climate where palm trees, flowers and green grass thrived during winter months and immediately realized this is where he needed to be if he wanted to remain in the green industry.
Mike returned home and over the next two years studied different aspects of landscape industry specialization. Low Voltage Garden and landscape Lighting was one area that he realized might have potential as it was in its infancy and was a virtually untapped niche market all over the country. 1988 was a busy year as Mike got engaged to be married with the ceremony to take place in early September of 89.
Mike continued to work his business hard as it continued to grow in New York and planned another trip to LA for January of 89 this time bringing his fiance’ Denise along for a six week stay. Together on this trip they decided this was their future and Mike and Denise shocked family and friends and purchased a home in a suburb just outside of Los Angeles known for good schools and growing city to raise a family.
His Career Begins. . .
Mike has been lucky to have supportive family throughout his career. True to his “All In personality” and commitment to Succeed, Buying the home in California was the decision that changed the trajectory of his career. In September of 1989 Mike and Denise were married and In November Mike closed the sale of his New York based landscaping business. In December 26th of the same year, Mike and Denise left New York by car and arrived in California January 1st 1990 with a dream and ferocious work ethic but no business prospects.
Mike knew that breaking into a new state as an unknown with no established local reputation would not be easy. He felt that since he had started a from scratch business in New York from nothing that he could do it again in California using the same formula. He started at the bottom and took on any jobs asked of him from a local landscape contracting company, learning all aspects of the company all the while taking night classes at the local community college to learn the different plant materials and studying to pass his landscape contractor license exam which occurred in October 1990. Mike was awarded the California state contractor license number 606109 and began operations shortly thereafter under the dba Gambino landscape.
Mike’s idea of getting into the specialty of landscape lighting in Los Angeles at least initially proved not to be an easy one. There was a reason why there was no stand alone dedicated landscape lighting businesses and that’s because most of the lighting jobs where being done by landscapers and electricians (A fact that is still true today). So Gambino Landscape started Building a successful landscaping portfolio in Los Angeles including lighting for all landscape projects which gave them a local presence and reputation for quality and excellence.
Experience has proven that you never know where an opportunity might lead. In the spring of 95, Mike attended a three day seminar in Redlands California at the corporate offices of Loran Nightscaping the originator of the 12v lighting industry. Mike was inspired and learned how to design, install and sell landscape lighting which ultimately changed the destiny of the business. Gambino landscape became Gambino landscape Lighting later that year, discontinuing all landscaping services beyond the design, installation and maintenance of low voltage landscape lighting systems.
Mike’s perseverance paid off and 5 years after starting Gambino Landscape in California, he was Landscape Lighting only virtually the only company of its kind in the area. Throughout his years, he has assembled what he believes to be, “The finest landscape lighting team anywhere.” Our team is made up of trained by myself specialists, not generalists, who bring their particular skill set to every project, from design and installation, to project management and art direction, to technology. The result is stunning, iconic projects with an enduring legacy. It hasn’t been without its challenges! Mike not only oversees the business functions, but he also is on site working with his team on the day-to-day operations and puts together teams with the right chemistry for each individual, complex project.
He prides himself on bringing unique ideas and passion for the artistry of light, and to collaborate with residential and business clients that value the landscape environment and see it as critical to their lifestyle at night. Although it’s hard to pick “favorites” throughout his career, Mike is exceptionally proud of several large projects completed in several states and countries over the years.
What Inspires Him. . .
Mike finds much of his inspiration from nature and the outdoors. He is as passionate about continual business improvement as he is about finding new and interesting landscape lighting clients and projects. He also enjoys real estate opportunities-buying, living in improving, refining and enhancing his and his family’s lifestyle. He finds beauty in all things including architecture, art, music, cars, travel and his family.
He has an intense work ethic and loves making people happy with his Garden Lighting Art. His sometimes gruff disposition sits in contrast to his immense heart. People might be surprised to learn that Mike is a huge animal lover and family man.
Spending time at home, when not at work, is exceptionally important to him, and he spends as much time as he can with his wife of 30 years, parents (who followed him with a move to California) and two sons both whom have recently joined the company working daily along with their Dad.
What the Future Holds…
Mike’s goal is to continue Gambino landscape Lighting’s legacy, with the experiences and guidance he has learned in his nearly 45 years in business for himself. He doesn’t rest on the laurels of the firm’s amazing portfolio of completed works. He will continue to nurture client relationships, seek out the best projects, and find the most talented people to work on them, while continuing the legacy of excellence and creativity to drive Gambino landscape Lighting forward as the leader in Low Energy consumption, Garden and Landscape Lighting Design, Installation and maintenance services.
Have a Question for Mike?
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This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 29 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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