or years, H. Jaclyn Ishimaru-Gachina, president and CEO of Gachina Landscape Management, was by her husband’s side as he ran the company. A “Game of Thrones” fan, Ishimaru- Gachina jokes that she was like the “hand of

the King.” Though she was at home raising her boys, Ishimaru-Gachina’s husband, John, spoke about every aspect of the company and the industry for the last 30 years—and she listened. Like a sponge, Ishimaru- Gachina absorbed and learned it all, never quite realizing that she would be stepping up to the plate to apply that knowledge. The plan had always been for her sons to

take over. However, after 10 years in remit- tance from prostate cancer, John Gachina succumbed to the disease in 2015. The company was suddenly at a crucial crossroad. “John had hired a general manager prior to his passing who was tasked with mentoring our sons until they were ready to take over the business, but he didn’t work out,” Ishimaru-Gachina says. “I was the only person to step in to bring John’s heart and soul back into the business. Failure was not an option. I had a mission and a legacy to contin- ue: Keep the company thriving until our sons were ready.” Today, Ishimaru-Gachina actively oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, which is celebrating its 31st anniversary this July. What had begun as a humble three-em- ployee “gardening company” has now grown to 450 employees with Ishi- maru-Gachina at the helm. Recently named the NALP’s 2019 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, NALP caught

up with Ishimaru-Gachina to find out more about what drives her.

WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT IN BUSINESS? Looking back over the past three years, seeing the best managers in the industry every morning working at the company because they chose to stay and support my leadership.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST BUSINESS CHALLENGE TODAY? The tight labor market and the uncertainty of the available talent is a constant concern. In April 2018, our human resources director, Denise Ritch, introduced the Certification Program. New employees are graded on experience and knowledge and trained before joining a crew. This way a new employee is joined by other new employees to form a team that experiences onboarding together; they are in it together. Best practices are trained consistently throughout

the company. The new employee doesn’t join a field crew until they are competent. This program has also afforded a new job opportunity for crew leaders and has greatly reduced turnover.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT BARRIER TO FEMALE LEADERSHIP IN THE LANDSCAPE INDUSTRY? There are not enough woman role models in our industry, but that is changing. It is inspiring, timely and hopefully aspirational that NALP recognizes women leaders.


Hearing the successes and the “what I learned stories” about how we’re satisfying clients to keep Gachina Landscape one of the best companies in the industry. With “what I learned stories,” I give the managers the opportunity to not only speak about their successes, but also difficult situations that they’ve encountered and had to be creative to solve. The team can learn from these experiences. Many times, you learn more from difficult situations than from successes.

WHAT CAN PEOPLE FIND YOU DOING ON SATURDAY MORNINGS AT 9 A.M.? I am in the car traveling to Livermore to train and raise my skills in dressage. In French, dressage means training. Originally it was a way to train the horse to understand the cues that the rider was giving for a movement. In battle, the horse needed to move sideways, forward, turn, speed off, jump and back up to keep the rider in battle and alive. In the Olympics, it

Gachina at the Learning Center dedication at Foothill College (page 30, left), the Gachina team at NALP’s NCLC event earlier this year (page 30, right).

National Association of Landscape Professionals 29

Photos: Gachina Landscape Management

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