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Joe Valdes stands in front of Cuban, American, and Mexican flags.

At Valdes Lawn Care & Snow Removal's main office in Woodbury, Minnesota, owner Joe Valdes proudly displays Cuban, American, and Mexican flags. The Cuban flag represents his homeland. The American flag represents his adopted home. And the Mexican flag represents the cultural heritage of many of his employees.


Valdes emigrated from Cuba 15 years ago. "I wanted freedom and a better life for me and my family. That was the best decision of my life. America is truly the best country in the world to raise a family and grow a business."


Snow-removal business snowballs

Valdes got his start working in restaurants while shoveling snow to make a few bucks on the side. His first job was doing dishes. A year later he was managing the whole restaurant. "I love the restaurant life, but I like to be outdoors and doing something different every day."


As his side business snowballed — pun intended — Valdes decided to go into business for himself full time. 'We've been growing every year. It's been amazing. I've created a monster (laughs)."


The fledgling company started out with three employees mowing grass and clearing sidewalks of snow. Over the next two years it expanded to 10 workers. Today the full-service landscaping and snow-removal business employs 57 people.


Business is 90-percent commercial, including townhouses, office complexes, and retail malls. The company gets all of its business through word of mouth. Many of Valdes’ customers and employees have been with him since day one. "It's all about honesty, respect, and building trust. I try to treat my employees and customers the way I want to be treated."

Deere has their back

As business grew, so did the company's need for compact equipment. In 2006, Valdes began buying machines from his local John Deere dealer, Frontier Ag & Turf. "Deere makes a great, reliable product, but even more important is the service and support I get from our local dealer. When you build a company this size, it's all about who has your back. And our Deere dealer is always there for us, no matter what time of day and no matter how bad it is outside. It could be 11 o'clock on a Saturday night when everyplace else in town is closed. I only have to dial the phone and they are there."


"When 70 percent of your business is snow removal, downtime is not tolerable. Many properties have to be plowed by six in the morning, no matter what. We can’t have machines down — they have to come through. And with the support of our local dealer, Deere equipment always does." Productivity was another important consideration — Valdes has found that John Deere compact loaders and skid steers are more productive on snow-removal jobs than plow trucks. "When we started out, it would take us 10 to 14 hours to plow two inches of snow using plows and trucks. Now we can plow 10 inches of snow in only six hours using wheel loaders and skid steers. You spend a quarter of the time when using that equipment. The stuff you can do with these machines is amazing."


Valdes recently added 304K Compact Wheel Loaders to a fleet that includes 244J Wheel Loaders and E-Series Skid Steers. "The traction is great for snow moving. And their smaller size makes them great for navigating around the yard and loading trucks. They have great reach, and the lift capacity is huge. Plus, they’re very comfortable and visibility is amazing."


Valdes uses a skid steer every day, whether it's removing snow or shrubs, final grading, or laying sod. "It is one of the best machines in the business for what we do. We have many different attachments for it — including buckets, forks, brooms, and grapples — and use it for anything you can imagine. We really couldn't do the jobs we do without it. There's no way."


Building a successful landscaping business has been a long road, but Valdes has no regrets. "Every day has challenges. But I’m grateful for having excellent employees and equipment. And I have a great relationship with John Deere that will continue for as long as I’m doing this."