Al Sorbello · Sorbello Landscaping
As Al Sorbello sees it, life is to be tackled head on. Like when he started his own landscaping business, just mere months after he and his wife had their first child and bought a new home. Sorbello smiles as he recalls his first year in business, lugging around a 21-inch Honda mower and the rest of his equipment in his 1998 Isuzu hombre pickup. Thirteen years later, those days in the Isuzu are far in the rear view, as Sorbello Landscaping has become one of the leading full-service landscape design, installation and maintenance firms on the Cape. What continues to guide Sorbello is a commitment to keeping promises, and going above and beyond for his clients.
CCH: How did you originally get into landscaping?
AS: I got an opportunity to work with some friends of mine who were older that were in the business, and I fell in love with it. Even back then—I think I was 14, 15 when I started—it came naturally. I love being outside. I love Cape Cod. I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years at this point. It’s been a lot of trial and error and the school of hard knocks along the way. I’ve always been huge on going to trade seminars and taking courses to improve as I’ve gone along, trying to learn every aspect of landscaping, including aspects of design, and surrounding myself with the right people who know more. One of the things I love most about what I do, in all honesty, is that people pay me to show up when they have something they’re not happy with, and for me to take my mind’s eye and be able to project and give them options that will literally change the way they live on Cape Cod—when I can make their window of time here in the summer that much better and they can share that with their family and friends, that’s fantastic. I love that, and that’s what really keeps me going.
CCH: In an industry that is increasingly competitive, how do you stand out and continue to find success?
AS: There’s one thing I really pride myself on: If you call Kerida, our operations manager, at the front desk, and there’s an issue of any kind, my goal is to be on the property personally within two hours. That personal touch and commitment to my clients has been the key to being successful. I call them clients but honestly there are friendships that are built over the years with those people, and a lot of trust. They know I’m going to see things through—not just through the initial design phase, not just during the installation, not just for the basic maintenance immediately after, but also for the long-term I commit myself to my clients. I strive to set myself apart by being the absolute best possible option for someone who knows they need landscaping, doesn’t know exactly how to go through the process, and wants someone to take them from A to Z and beyond. There’s always room for improvement, and that’s a big part of it too—every year I try to improve both myself and our company and be more progressive. We’re at the cutting edge of the trends.
CCH: What’s currently on your radar as far as emerging trends?
AS: One thing that’s huge in Europe and on the West Coast and in Florida is living walls. An entire interior wall becomes live plants. We’re actually starting a whole new division called The Living Room. There’s a concept called biophilia—it’s that innate connection we have to nature. You know how when you’re in the woods you just feel really good? Well, we’re bringing that to people on the inside of their homes and bringing the outside in.
CCH: How do you approach creating the high-end gardens and hardscapes your clients are seeking?
AS: At every facet of the process, from the design phase through the installation, we do a ton of consulting with our clients. I meet them as many times as they want. My job is to reach into their mind and ask a lot of well-thought-out questions so I can pull from them what direction they want to go in. Everyone has an idea of what they want, but sometimes they have no idea how to get there. It’s about asking the right questions, and bringing them to the site throughout the process. At the end of the day, my clients are going to have exactly what they want, and there are no surprises at the end.
CCH: What do you think distinguishes your company’s projects?
AS: People are looking for a classic Cape Cod look, and we do a phenomenal job of delivering that Cape and Islands experience to their homes. Not only when you pull up to the front of the house do you have that cozy cottage, secret getaway look, but also in the backyard, especially around the patio. We’re known for fine, high-end gardening, and that separates us. We have a state-certified horticulturalist on staff that we put through college to get her credits to get to that point—we love building from within.
CCH: That idea of “building from within”—how key has that practice been to your success?
AS: It’s huge. I have several employees that have been with me for over 10 years. On the Cape, where the labor market is such that people are so quick to dollar shop or look around, to be able to build loyalty is one of the things I’m most proud of. And our clients have come to know our core people, and they’ll ask for Val by name, Dana by name, Justice by name; they’re on a first-name basis with a lot of my guys and girls. It’s nice for me to have the confidence to let them take care of things and give them that authority to make decisions. I like to see them feel that empowerment and then have the satisfaction of having accomplished something successfully on their own. That makes for a better company.
CCH: What advice do you have for fellow young professionals looking to succeed here in this industry?
AS: This applies to anyone in any business on the Cape: Look to resources and consultants that know what they’re doing. Keep educating yourself for your field in terms of not just scholastic accreditation but also what other professionals in your trade specifically are doing. And staying current or ahead of the latest trends is massive.
CCH: So I understand you have a pilot’s license—what else do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
AS: One thing I’m really passionate about—and this is a big part of my love for the Cape—is boating. I love being out on the water, there’s nothing like it. Now that I have two kids (a boy and a girl), it’s not so much, “Hey, let’s go hop on the plane and fly around for the afternoon.” It’s more like, “Hey kids, let’s go hop on the boat and go over to the Vineyard or Nantucket, or go into the bay and look at the right whales.” We’ve had some amazing experiences as a family being able to do that. A lot of people say “I love my job,” but I really do love my job because it allows me to experience the beauty of the Cape, and that goes a lot further than just being on land. I’m looking at people’s homes as I’m boating along the coast, and it gives me a lot of ideas.