Employee Spotlight with Ricardo Soto
Cagwin & Dorward is regarded by many as a leader in landscape maintenance in Northern California, largely thanks to its exceptional people, like Ricardo Soto.
Cagwin & Dorward Job Title
How long have you been at Cagwin & Dorward?
I’m going on 25 years with the company. I started when I was 25 years old.
What do you do as an Account Manager at Cagwin & Dorward?
I manage my people, which consists of seven maintenance crews and truck crews. My time consists of directing people to ensure each team member is on the right property, providing proposals to clients, meeting with clients, performing quality check-ins on my properties, and training my people.
I was told by a senior leadership person at Cagwin & Dorward that you are, “the go-to person for subordinates and peers as well as senior leadership.” This person described you as impressive and that you exemplify the standards of the ideal account manager. What do you believe are the qualities that make you an exceptional leader?
First, and foremost, I always look to create a safe work environment and provide my people with what they need to be safe. After that, I believe good leaders model and train their people on how to treat the customer, to be honest, and to own mistakes when they happen and make them right as soon as possible. I believe those are the qualities of a good leader.
I was also told you create an amazing employee culture with an emphasis on customer-centricity and safety. How do you build that type of culture?
When I first started working at Cagwin & Dorward, I started at the bottom as a gardener. Step-by-step I advanced in the company and what I learned is that when you motivate people, recognize them when they do something good, or help them when something goes wrong, people will respect you. They want genuine feedback. They want to know that you care about them and that you will be there for them.
Once a month, I like to do a barbecue for our people to recognize the people on our team who are doing good and to celebrate that we are safe. Our people love a good barbecue and they appreciate it when I recognize and show them appreciation for the job they are doing.
I assume this is one of the reasons why people like working on your team.
Yes, about half of my team has been working with me for at least five years.
If I was speaking with the people on your team what would they tell me about you?
They would tell you that I care about them and that I do my best to help them with whatever they need personally as well as on the job.
Is teamwork important?
Yes, we always work as a team. It’s about teamwork and communication.
A lack of communication can result in an unsafe workplace. When you communicate effectively, people learn what is expected and as well as how to use equipment, and what equipment is necessary for the job, and all of that helps you reduce the risk of injuries and helps ensure people get home safely at the end of the day.
I understand your territory grew an impressive 34% in base maintenance from the prior year and that you have a 96% customer retention rate.
That’s pretty accurate. Our customers love our team because we do quality work and we are kind. Kindness goes a long way.
We always try to respond to the needs of our customers in a timely manner.
We check in with them regularly and make sure we take care of their needs.
What do you look for in a person to be on your team?
First, honesty. Second, are they motivated and want to grow? I want that person to know that I expect 100% every day — not 75% or 80%. I want 100% every single day.
I want them to know they are part of customer service. The customer is watching and they see if we care about how we treat each other, how we treat them, and do we get the job done right. This is also why we grow and people want our services.
When you were growing up what was your dream of what you wanted to become?
When I was a kid, I thought I was going to be a police officer. But as I grew older and I saw the things police officers go through, I said to myself this is probably not what I want to do.
When you are not working what do you do for fun?
I spend time with my family. I have a wife, three daughters and two boys. We barbecue and cook for our family all the time. We are a close family with about 50 extended family members and we all like to get together, usually on the weekends.
Who are the mentors in your life?
One of the big mentors in my life is Chris Lawrence. At one time, he was an owner of the company but retired a few years ago.
Executive Leadership Team – Cagwin & Dorward, 2016 (left to right): Charlie Thompson, Jeff Englehart, Chris Lawrence, Steve Glennon, Ron Macler, Aaron Majors, Kristen Giomi
I admire Chris for his positive attitude and he was always there to help and to teach me how to problem solve and approach issues personally or at work.
Who has the greatest influence in your life?
My dad. He taught me to be honest and to work hard.
What are you most proud of in your life?
My five kids. When my first kid (a girl) was born, that was the happiest day of my life. I love my wife and my kids and now I have a granddaughter. I’m a pretty happy guy!
If you could have dinner with three people throughout history, dead or alive, who would be those three people?
My grandpa, my grandma, who lived to be 110 years old, and my other grandpa and grandma.