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Swampy
11-20-2007, 03:40 AM
I'm in school right now for a Associates Degree for Landscape (Ornamental) Horticulture. I plan on getting a Municipal job so I can make my bank, I know a bunch of municipal guys from small talk, family friends, plus the current owner I work for. But I've been tossing around this idea of being a landscape horticulture for hire as well. My first target is the home owner.

"Whats happening to my _______ (trees, shrubs, turf)"
"I bought these at ______ (local box store) and they seem sick, what am I doing wrong? or they are not flowering like in the pictures."
"I have no idea what to plant here next to my ______, I don't want to look at this(or hide from public view)"
"I just built a house in a new subdivision and I want my curb appeal to look better than the "Johnson's" next door."

Now I see owning smaller commercial tools and equipment but not extensive I.E. Skid steers, bigger mowers, boom sprayers. But with home owners, I can pass out a respectable business cards to pass on bigger jobs to company owners. I.E. the problem of a home owner that has a mass clover problem, I can pass a card "Ma and Pa Liquid lawn service" off saying they will deal with your problem contact them for services or schedule a appointment.

Now to the Maintenance/Design/Sales side:
From what I picked up, alot of bigger HOA (taking high end), Condo associations, public and private golf courses, development companies, and municipal contracts are requiring some one with a horticulture background to be on staff. Now we all have probably discussed in house and out of house employment. Bigger companies wouldn't have a need for me, but smaller guys getting off the ground and chasing bigger contracts would be able to employ me (or contract).

Say your chasing a development company for a new building being built for lawn care but they want to you get a design to install the landscape first, and then give you the contract for lawn maintenance I would be able to do it for a hourly charge. Or when it comes to maintenance/renewal/replanting for a high end HOA requiring a horticulturist to walk the property once a week, bi weekly, monthly, etc. to identify problems with either natural/or crew (not telling you how to run your business but more like a second opinion). This can also work into sales, lets say your company is big in mowing and lawn spraying, and you get a big mowing contract but no lawn spraying service added into that contract well then they contact you about weeds coming in, send me out there to Identify your problem/solution, talk to owner of the property to give him the low down, where they are coming from and the correct treatment needed.

But this is a idea I was kicking around nothing really set in stone as of yet So give me something to expand on and a yeah or neh on it.

txgrassguy
11-21-2007, 11:35 AM
With reservation and some trepidation - you have the beginnings of a viable plan.
I see several potential problems:
1. The vast majority of homeowners will not pay you for a "consult" to diagnose their ornamental problems. Typically what these type of residential people want is a quick, cheap fix. So this negates your going to a spray or install business to "front" or line up the work for them as the profit margin simply doesn't exist in this type of market to both pay you and the actual company doing the work.
2. Exposure. Yes you have experience - to what amount you haven't mentioned, and a degree is an important starting point. However, to obtain the market recognition a plan like you mention necessitates really getting out and pounding the professional networking pavement. You will have to come up with something that sets you aside from all the other graduates.
3. Golf Courses/Design Firms: Not a bad idea, however, the market has slowed recently (okay for the last ten years) which means these associations are stream lining their budgets. Which means you won't just be a Horticulturist, you will be laboring on the course, maybe spraying, maybe a second assistant somewhere - basically educated grunt labor. You do have to start somewhere but unless you have an "in" for this type of market - good luck. This area is even more saturated than the consulting, "fronting" aspect you mentioned earlier.
Good Points:
1. Education - don't stop with just a 2 yr degree - acquire the BS then the MA to really set yourself apart.
2. The more formal education you have, the more accessible these types of positions become available. And the more you become involved in the professional networking the more your opportunities expand.
Tips:
1. Don't be solely focussed upon actual field work. Use your degree in the wide arena the turf market offers - check into selling professional turf products, ie. machines, programs, etc for a established equipment dealer/company.
2. Don't be afraid to check into actual municipal positions that require some type of agronomy background. Be a parks superintendent, or a similar type of grounds management professional for the local, state or even federal level. Heck, check with the large manufacturing plants in your area as the vast majority have their own in house people. Pretty much just expand your target to increase opportunities.
3. And above all else - PERSEVERE. All the good intentions, plans and aptitude means diddly squat if you aren't willing to knuckle down, pay your dues, and stick it out.

Swampy
11-22-2007, 06:24 AM
With reservation and some trepidation - you have the beginnings of a viable plan.
I see several potential problems:
1. The vast majority of homeowners will not pay you for a "consult" to diagnose their ornamental problems. Typically what these type of residential people want is a quick, cheap fix. So this negates your going to a spray or install business to "front" or line up the work for them as the profit margin simply doesn't exist in this type of market to both pay you and the actual company doing the work.

I understand what your saying about the average home owner, but from personal experience my boss that I currently work for cut residental (individual) home owners unless they come with a commercial property I.E. Mowing the owners home of development company that gives us 5 buildings and a HOA, granted its not my business but its something that I don't want to count out, I'll need to rethink/tweak this side a bit.

2. Exposure. Yes you have experience - to what amount you haven't mentioned, and a degree is an important starting point. However, to obtain the market recognition a plan like you mention necessitates really getting out and pounding the professional networking pavement. You will have to come up with something that sets you aside from all the other graduates.

I currently only have 3 years in the industry, by the time I'm done with college I'll have 5 or 6 years in because I'm still working a Landscape and Maintenance Co. (depending on how I decide to spread the credit load out, plus there are a few more electives I may choose to take like irrigation, aqua scape, lighting). I think I do get a lot of exposure, well I think, I'll go to my local bar and just start socializing with home owners and commercial property owners, some how it always comes up with something about the industry

3. Golf Courses/Design Firms: Not a bad idea, however, the market has slowed recently (okay for the last ten years) which means these associations are stream lining their budgets. Which means you won't just be a Horticulturist, you will be laboring on the course, maybe spraying, maybe a second assistant somewhere - basically educated grunt labor. You do have to start somewhere but unless you have an "in" for this type of market - good luck. This area is even more saturated than the consulting, "fronting" aspect you mentioned earlier.

I'm not afraid of hard labor (Back in my Corps days my platoon Sgt. had a 20 or 30lb rock called "Sgt. Stone". Well if you'd make him mad or screw up on something he'd say "Lcpl _____ Sgt. Stone would like to see/needs _____" and then you had to carry this rock to its destination, set it down and report back to the platoon Sgt. He would make you run this rock around to the motor pool to get cleaned, to a drainage ditch to eat smaller rocks, or up a hill to overlook the camp.) Again I'm going to rethink this as well.

Good Points:
1. Education - don't stop with just a 2 yr degree - acquire the BS then the MA to really set yourself apart.
2. The more formal education you have, the more accessible these types of positions become available. And the more you become involved in the professional networking the more your opportunities expand.
Tips:
1. Don't be solely focussed upon actual field work. Use your degree in the wide arena the turf market offers - check into selling professional turf products, ie. machines, programs, etc for a established equipment dealer/company.

I never even thought of that, thanks for the imput

2. Don't be afraid to check into actual municipal positions that require some type of agronomy background. Be a parks superintendent, or a similar type of grounds management professional for the local, state or even federal level. Heck, check with the large manufacturing plants in your area as the vast majority have their own in house people. Pretty much just expand your target to increase opportunities.

A few cities around here offer credited internships for Park, Rec, and Forestry Department. My pa was telling me back in his day when he joined the Fire Dept, when they didn't require a fire science degree, that it was pretty hard to get a "foot" in the door. There is a lot of manufacturing plants around here but the majority of them do not run in house.

3. And above all else - PERSEVERE. All the good intentions, plans and aptitude means diddly squat if you aren't willing to knuckle down, pay your dues, and stick it out.

Well right now its just a idea as of right now I still have about 2.5 years left till I get the degree.

Thanks for the help guy