I find myself thinking about the recent passing of Burt Sperber. For those of you who didn’t know him, it is an opportunity lost. Sperber was a legend in his own time.
Burton S. Sperber was the founder and chairman of the board of ValleyCrest Companies, the nation’s largest, privately-held integrated landscape services company. But he was more than that—he was a pioneer and a visionary. He leaves behind a legacy that, when we too pass, we’d like to achieve.
Sperber learned his trade the hard way—from the ground up. It didn’t come easy. I know there were difficult times in the early years when his company faced growing pains. During that period, it was his intenseness, his determination, and his will to succeed that made him a tough businessman. That was the combination that led him to the pinnacle of success.
I knew Burt Sperber for more than 35 years. I watched his business grow, and I saw some of the top management moves that he made. Whether you agreed with him or not, whether you liked his management style or not, Sperber, with the help of his management team (and he was quick to acknowledge the team), grew ValleyCrest to a volume of almost one billion dollars annually.
I’ve watched his son, Richard, come into the business. Burt made sure that Richard learned the business from the ground up. After working in a few of the ValleyCrest offices, he was sent to Phoenix, Arizona, to open that territory and build the business. After a few years, as he moved from one position to another, he was learning the job he was preparing for: to eventually head up and run the company.
But there was more than that. You could see the love between father and son; you observed the respect Richard had for his father. Even after Richard ‘had it made,’ after he was named president and CEO, the respect and love never wavered.
The icon, the legend, has passed into history, but he leaves behind a legacy, and Richard made a vow to be personally responsible for carrying on his father’s legacy and values, as they were instilled in him.
Burton S. Sperber added and fine-tuned many of the procedures we use in the landscape industry today. He helped pave the way for many who learned from him; but more importantly, his spirit will stand as a beacon of light to help guide future generations.