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View Full Version : Big picture stuff, need advice from people who were down this road


pattytastik
10-28-2011, 01:36 AM
As some of you know, I am 17 and have been mowing lawns and doing some maintenance, nothing major (mulch, bush removal, very little landscape design). I recently decided that Business is for me, and Landscaping is also for me. I realize that mowing lawns isn't the best source of income (in many circumstance, not meaning to bash anyone) but I am interested in Landscape design and maybe even hardscaping.

I am applying to a bunch of pretty good schools for Business management and a minor in Landscape Management. (UPenn, UMaryland, BinghamtonU, RutgersU to name a few). I was just wondering how you guys think I could transition from my lawn care business to a more Landscaping oriented business.

Should I just wait until I graduate with a business degree and Make a big investment into the business (multiple trucks, advertising, location, employees, equipment etc.) Or should I gradually grow it throughout college?

Most of this is just venting, so i'm sorry lol.

My picture of the business in say 15 years from now (10 years post college) is about 2-4 trucks with 3 or 4 workers and doing primarly landscape design and some maintenance, and some lawns just as a bridge to landscaping work (just in the begining to get established)
Main Questions:

With this kind of a business, what kind of an investment would be good for after college?
I'm thinking I would buy 2 semi-used trucks to start (20k total) 5k In advertising, 10k in equipment, plus employee salaries and maybe even get a lot or some kind of office. So I'm seeing a 50k initial investment. Does that sound in the right ballpark?

If I am successful, how much could I earn (salary wise)?
My goal would be to make 100k+, I don't need to be rich, just enough to raise a family comfortably.

If you read all this thanks for bearing with my rambling lol.

Swampy
10-28-2011, 02:52 AM
I'd keep mowing, it opens a lot of doors for landscaping/hardscaping/design. I just sold around 5,000 in landscaping work to one of my lawn clients on just chit chating with him when I caught him on a saturday (IT guy never really around during the week, and studying his field on weekend as programing changes alot).

Truck wise, if I where you, 1 ton dumping flatbed for hauling palletized material (retaining wall block, pavers, sod, timber, and natural stone) cause of the ease of off loading with a skid loader. The dump is extra, you never know when your going to need it. A Medium Duty Single axle dump truck (why not heavier? Most landscape materials are light wieght, also if you'd need to order larger amount of material get it delivered, those jobsites you need all your boots on the ground). A dedicated dovetail mowing truck, these are slick plain and simple, also winter time work great as a sidewalk crew truck so you can ramp up bigger/ride on snow blowers and atv's instead of hauling a trailer threw snow. Finally a run of the mill pick up, great as a tool carrier, refueler, parts getter, bidding/estimating, measuring (for the design), general use truck.

Now some may think I'm talking out of my @ss but don't do everything, honestly think more as a general contractor vs full service. One advantage is overhead, you don't have tools and equipment sitting around waiting for work. While say hardscaping and landscaping may share some of the same tools/equipment, most of the expensive tools/equipment are not compatable with each other service (example a plate compactor has use in hardscaping while landscaping has no use). Do the work you feel that you can do with out incuring a ton of cost, and learn to sub the rest out (hardscaping/paving, irragation, lighting, pond/water features, rough grading)

pattytastik
10-28-2011, 04:02 PM
I'd keep mowing, it opens a lot of doors for landscaping/hardscaping/design. I just sold around 5,000 in landscaping work to one of my lawn clients on just chit chating with him when I caught him on a saturday (IT guy never really around during the week, and studying his field on weekend as programing changes alot).

Truck wise, if I where you, 1 ton dumping flatbed for hauling palletized material (retaining wall block, pavers, sod, timber, and natural stone) cause of the ease of off loading with a skid loader. The dump is extra, you never know when your going to need it. A Medium Duty Single axle dump truck (why not heavier? Most landscape materials are light wieght, also if you'd need to order larger amount of material get it delivered, those jobsites you need all your boots on the ground). A dedicated dovetail mowing truck, these are slick plain and simple, also winter time work great as a sidewalk crew truck so you can ramp up bigger/ride on snow blowers and atv's instead of hauling a trailer threw snow. Finally a run of the mill pick up, great as a tool carrier, refueler, parts getter, bidding/estimating, measuring (for the design), general use truck.

Now some may think I'm talking out of my @ss but don't do everything, honestly think more as a general contractor vs full service. One advantage is overhead, you don't have tools and equipment sitting around waiting for work. While say hardscaping and landscaping may share some of the same tools/equipment, most of the expensive tools/equipment are not compatable with each other service (example a plate compactor has use in hardscaping while landscaping has no use). Do the work you feel that you can do with out incuring a ton of cost, and learn to sub the rest out (hardscaping/paving, irragation, lighting, pond/water features, rough grading)

I just feel like I need to do something that requires some sort of education (like landscape design or hardscaping) in order to set me apart from the immigrants that are ecstatic to make $5 an hour. What do you think?

JDiepstra
10-28-2011, 04:15 PM
Man this might sound a little harsh but what world are you living in where you can graduate college and dump $50,000 into a business? Ya don't just graduate and buy a bunch of stuff and hope you can keep it busy. You have to get the work first and then buy the equipment. I see bankruptcy in your future if you head down the buy now hope to be able to pay later road.

pattytastik
10-28-2011, 04:32 PM
Man this might sound a little harsh but what world are you living in where you can graduate college and dump $50,000 into a business? Ya don't just graduate and buy a bunch of stuff and hope you can keep it busy. You have to get the work first and then buy the equipment. I see bankruptcy in your future if you head down the buy now hope to be able to pay later road.

I have a family friend that went to school for landscape design, got his degree and went big. He invested a lot of money and he now makes a 7 digit salary. There is risk in owning a business. The safer way is to work and then buy, but that route can take 20 years. Making an investment into my business would allow me to start big. Ever heard the saying "go big or go home?"
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JDiepstra
10-28-2011, 05:04 PM
I have a family friend that went to school for landscape design, got his degree and went big. He invested a lot of money and he now makes a 7 digit salary. There is risk in owning a business. The safer way is to work and then buy, but that route can take 20 years. Making an investment into my business would allow me to start big. Ever heard the saying "go big or go home?"
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Honestly I don't think you know what you are talking about. A smart landscape design business owner would never pay himself a 7 digit salary. Sure go ahead and go big. Most of the time. That fails.

32vld
10-28-2011, 06:57 PM
I am applying to a bunch of pretty good schools for Business management and a minor in Landscape Management.


A business management degree is going to be a waste. You will need to be able to know how to do the work initially because you will be doing the work in the beginning. Even when you have crews you will have to know how things are done to supervise your employees.

So is a landscape management a waste. You don't need to manage nothin!

You want to landscape design you have to get landscape design degree. There are many 2 year programs to get you started.

You should then think about getting a second 2 year degree in contruction technology. Hard scape needs wood working, masonary, some metal, plumbing, and electrical skills.

KrayzKajun
10-28-2011, 07:04 PM
Not to be an a$$. But think because you have a degree you will come out the gate winning bids on $100,000 landscape installs? There is a big difference in having book knowledge and having work expierence knowledge.
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GMLC
10-28-2011, 07:39 PM
In my opinion the business major will be very valuable as well as the landscape minor. I think your choosing the right major and minor combination. My business degree has helped me more than anything in this business(or any business). Most don't fail because of the work they do, its because they made poor business decisions. One of which is attempting to grow to fast and jumping right into debt. Grow your business at the right rate and you can grow as big as you want. But I would not just jump right in with a huge investment. Another recommendation would be to surround yourself with other successful business owners and network as much as possible.

Patriot Services
10-28-2011, 08:29 PM
IMHO a degree in hort would be far more useful than anything business. Keep building your business slowly and learn along the way. A good CPA will help you keep your numbers straight. Nobody started in this business by buying multiple trucks, equipment, crews and then wondered where the business was going to come from.:usflag:

agrostis
10-28-2011, 09:26 PM
If i was 17 and lived in Philly and was interested in landscaping, i would - go to penn state for BA in landscape design. Then a AA in business would be nice, but you are not going to be running a factory. Then get your hand's dirty for 5 year's so you know what your talking about. That would be a start. Then work on that master plan. You have time to do this right.

pattytastik
10-29-2011, 12:01 AM
In my opinion the business major will be very valuable as well as the landscape minor. I think your choosing the right major and minor combination. My business degree has helped me more than anything in this business(or any business). Most don't fail because of the work they do, its because they made poor business decisions. One of which is attempting to grow to fast and jumping right into debt. Grow your business at the right rate and you can grow as big as you want. But I would not just jump right in with a huge investment. Another recommendation would be to surround yourself with other successful business owners and network as much as possible.

Thanks for the polite and logical response. I agree about the gradual building of the business. And to the others that thing a design degree would be better than the landscape management, it is very similar to a LS design major just with some business classes.
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tamo
10-31-2011, 12:21 AM
Definitely get your degree, but don't expect that to help you make 100K right out of the gate.

I graduated with honros with a degree in marketing from a good school and honestly it didn't teach me one thing about running a landscape business. It's one thing to read how to manage employees in a book and than actually do it, especially if you're 23 and your employees are older than you with families ect...

The only real way to learn is by trial and error, and learning from mistakes. It's a lot easier to absorb the mistakes you'll inevitably make without a 50K investment hanging over your head.

You can pour all of the money you want into advertising initially, but if you don't have a portfolio of superior work, you won't be pulling in big ticket jobs. People won't drop 50 thousand on a project just because the owner has a degree.

People will spend 5 thousand though. In my opinion you have to start small and learn from simple jobs. Again, it's a lot easier to live and learn on a small patio job than a major project.

You can't learn hardscaping in a classroom. It is a skilled trade that takes years to perfect.

There's no shame in starting small and growing a business organically.

There's no way your family friend makes a 7 figure salary. He might do 7 figures in sales a year, but there's a BIG difference.

diamondhedgelandscaping
11-03-2011, 04:15 PM
Ya i have to say, it sounds like your dreams will be a bit of a reach. When i was 17 i wanted the same thing, then 10 years later, the real world hit me. First off, college is fine, but i always say you cant teach common sense. I've hired "college educated" guys and started them off mowing for instance, and they're covering cars, siding, and mulch beds with clippings. Point is, i'd say 85 percent of big landscaping business owners dont know, nor care to know the chemical makeup of weed killer, or the rate of mulch discoloration, etc. Much of the stuff you'll spend 40k on throughout your 4 years in school to read from a book will be learned in your first year of actual landscaping. I agree with the guy who said a 2 year degree in construction tech would be a good way to go, especially for hardscaping. You must learn forming, and planning, but also have the common sense to even consider putting in a patio, and that's something school will NEVER teach you.

Here's my suggestion: 2 year degree at a comm college so that you can still advertise a bit, and still get work going, consider this your initial "investment" use that money and 2 years to get your tools, not sure about a dump truck to start off with, as insurance, registration, dot stops and fines are a bit too much for a 20 year old. Get yourself a used dump trailer and a truck to pull it. Advertise for mulch/stone beds, lawncare, and then work your way up to hardscaping. SAVE UP and buy yourself tools you'll need for the hardscaping, wet saw, circ saw, chisels, sledges, etc, and start with a small patio.

Please dont think your going to graduate, apply for and get a 50k loan from the bank, as OP stated above, you need customers to keep your equipment busy, YOU need to do the work for a while to build an appreciation for the business, YOU need to know what an edging line looks like, or mulch, or trimming, YOU need to build a reputation in your community. But honestly though, to graduate college, hire even 1 outstanding employee may take you months. I've been through 5 this year alone. Once you fire said employee, YOU need to pick up the slack and pick up the work he was supposed to do, and/or finish the work he started. Bottom line YOU have to have a hand in everything, most of which a degree cant teach you. Start small, Rome wasnt built in a year. Pay cash for as many tools as you can, stay away from bank loans and ffs credit cards!!!! especially if your not established

pattytastik
11-03-2011, 04:23 PM
Ya i have to say, it sounds like your dreams will be a bit of a reach. When i was 17 i wanted the same thing, then 10 years later, the real world hit me. First off, college is fine, but i always say you cant teach common sense. I've hired "college educated" guys and started them off mowing for instance, and they're covering cars, siding, and mulch beds with clippings. Point is, i'd say 85 percent of big landscaping business owners dont know, nor care to know the chemical makeup of weed killer, or the rate of mulch discoloration, etc. Much of the stuff you'll spend 40k on throughout your 4 years in school to read from a book will be learned in your first year of actual landscaping. I agree with the guy who said a 2 year degree in construction tech would be a good way to go, especially for hardscaping. You must learn forming, and planning, but also have the common sense to even consider putting in a patio, and that's something school will NEVER teach you.

Here's my suggestion: 2 year degree at a comm college so that you can still advertise a bit, and still get work going, consider this your initial "investment" use that money and 2 years to get your tools, not sure about a dump truck to start off with, as insurance, registration, dot stops and fines are a bit too much for a 20 year old. Get yourself a used dump trailer and a truck to pull it. Advertise for mulch/stone beds, lawncare, and then work your way up to hardscaping. SAVE UP and buy yourself tools you'll need for the hardscaping, wet saw, circ saw, chisels, sledges, etc, and start with a small patio.

Please dont think your going to graduate, apply for and get a 50k loan from the bank, as OP stated above, you need customers to keep your equipment busy, YOU need to do the work for a while to build an appreciation for the business, YOU need to know what an edging line looks like, or mulch, or trimming, YOU need to build a reputation in your community. But honestly though, to graduate college, hire even 1 outstanding employee may take you months. I've been through 5 this year alone. Once you fire said employee, YOU need to pick up the slack and pick up the work he was supposed to do, and/or finish the work he started. Bottom line YOU have to have a hand in everything, most of which a degree cant teach you. Start small, Rome wasnt built in a year. Pay cash for as many tools as you can, stay away from bank loans and ffs credit cards!!!! especially if your not established

Thank you for the reply! What you said makes a lot of sense, however I think that getting a business degree is very important. If for some reason my business does fail, I would have a myriad of opportunities with a business degree. Also, I have started my business small, I have over 60 weekly accounts and over 150 clients that I've done landscaping (small stuff) for. I have only done minor landscaping such as bush removals, hedge trimming, mulch installation, soil grading, and some landscape design. I have been in business for 5 years and I have already learned many of the things that you were discussing.

diamondhedgelandscaping
11-03-2011, 05:27 PM
Thank you for the reply! What you said makes a lot of sense, however I think that getting a business degree is very important. If for some reason my business does fail, I would have a myriad of opportunities with a business degree. Also, I have started my business small, I have over 60 weekly accounts and over 150 clients that I've done landscaping (small stuff) for. I have only done minor landscaping such as bush removals, hedge trimming, mulch installation, soil grading, and some landscape design. I have been in business for 5 years and I have already learned many of the things that you were discussing.

Well a lot of what your saying takes me back, I mowed all my neighbors growing up and, developed a great work ethic, but you havent been "in business" for 5 years, that would put you at being a 12 yr old business owner. Sorry and im not being mean, but lets call it what it is, you were the neighbor kid who mowed, which honestly is impressive in and of itself with kids these days, you have a great work ethic, and kids need to be more like you. Yes you've learned alot doing work for the neighbors, but there's a whole realm of logistics you have yet to grasp. What happens when a complete stranger gives you 800 bucks to mulch her property, you must do it properly, and right, and put up with the phone calls if you dont. Unlike now, your neighbor isnt going to give you too much of a hard time. You need to figure out the materials on your own, transport said materials, figure out how your going to haul or have hauled 7 yards of mulch, etc... There's a lot to overcome and much to learn once you really decide to hit the GO button and start to advertise. Think of it like this, when you took your driving test, you very well may have known how to drive, gas on right, brake on left, lights, etc... Then you sit down to take the test and are asked a thousand questions, most of which dont know because in this particular hypothetical scenario i've created you havent studied :) Now when you first started driving you thought it's easy, but once you hit the GO button to get your license you are just now seeing it's not what you thought. College is a good choice, but just go for 2 years, heck chances are, you'll only use half of your knowledge you learned there, and only remember half of that lol, then ask yourself why you agreed to being in debt with college and you'll admit you didnt need it in the first place, that's just my take, but it wont hurt, dont get me wrong. You stated " If for some reason my business does fail, I would have a myriad of opportunities with a business degree. If your already saying IF, i'd reconsider going into business for yourself anyways lol. And what would be your "myriad of opportunities?" It doesnt matter to me if you have a degree or not, a friend of mine is a very successful landscaper, 8 employees, 20 years of business etc... he hired a college guy cause he sold him self well, well spoken, dressed etc, so Chris (the landscaper) had him jump in the bobcat and fill a truck up with mulch, he couldnt figure out how to even start the bobcat lol.....its just something we laugh about, needless to say, he didnt last very long. I said that to say this, just because you have a 2 year degree doesnt mean ppl will beg you to work for them, it's gotta be all or nothing in your two choices, either MAKE your business work with some college, OR go straight college, now THAT will open up a myriad of opportunities. A customer has never asked me if i went to school, they dont care. This is why im investing so much time into your original post, this is why i care, pay attention to this plz. Real life story and its happening now. Another friend of mine has rich parents, graduated 4 years from school, and has a few hundred in debt, sure his trucks kick ass lol, super nice, shiny equipment, brand new, not used. This year we had TONS of rain, LOTS of down time infact we broke rainfall records, and he's hurting so bad now, on the verge of selling off trucks, laying off guys, bankruptcy and 6 years after he graduated he's still broke :/ Your talking a smaller scale, but its the same point, just think about it, i'd hate to see you in debt and broke before you even enjoy what your doing, there's enough stresses, dont compound it by debt. oop, well supper is ready i gotta go, anyways, think about it, and give me your thoughts.

Torchwood
11-03-2011, 05:57 PM
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pattytastik
11-03-2011, 06:06 PM
Well a lot of what your saying takes me back, I mowed all my neighbors growing up and, developed a great work ethic, but you havent been "in business" for 5 years, that would put you at being a 12 yr old business owner. Sorry and im not being mean, but lets call it what it is, you were the neighbor kid who mowed, which honestly is impressive in and of itself with kids these days, you have a great work ethic, and kids need to be more like you. Yes you've learned alot doing work for the neighbors, but there's a whole realm of logistics you have yet to grasp. What happens when a complete stranger gives you 800 bucks to mulch her property, you must do it properly, and right, and put up with the phone calls if you dont. Unlike now, your neighbor isnt going to give you too much of a hard time. You need to figure out the materials on your own, transport said materials, figure out how your going to haul or have hauled 7 yards of mulch, etc... There's a lot to overcome and much to learn once you really decide to hit the GO button and start to advertise. Think of it like this, when you took your driving test, you very well may have known how to drive, gas on right, brake on left, lights, etc... Then you sit down to take the test and are asked a thousand questions, most of which dont know because in this particular hypothetical scenario i've created you havent studied :) Now when you first started driving you thought it's easy, but once you hit the GO button to get your license you are just now seeing it's not what you thought. College is a good choice, but just go for 2 years, heck chances are, you'll only use half of your knowledge you learned there, and only remember half of that lol, then ask yourself why you agreed to being in debt with college and you'll admit you didnt need it in the first place, that's just my take, but it wont hurt, dont get me wrong. You stated " If for some reason my business does fail, I would have a myriad of opportunities with a business degree. If your already saying IF, i'd reconsider going into business for yourself anyways lol. And what would be your "myriad of opportunities?" It doesnt matter to me if you have a degree or not, a friend of mine is a very successful landscaper, 8 employees, 20 years of business etc... he hired a college guy cause he sold him self well, well spoken, dressed etc, so Chris (the landscaper) had him jump in the bobcat and fill a truck up with mulch, he couldnt figure out how to even start the bobcat lol.....its just something we laugh about, needless to say, he didnt last very long. I said that to say this, just because you have a 2 year degree doesnt mean ppl will beg you to work for them, it's gotta be all or nothing in your two choices, either MAKE your business work with some college, OR go straight college, now THAT will open up a myriad of opportunities. A customer has never asked me if i went to school, they dont care. This is why im investing so much time into your original post, this is why i care, pay attention to this plz. Real life story and its happening now. Another friend of mine has rich parents, graduated 4 years from school, and has a few hundred in debt, sure his trucks kick ass lol, super nice, shiny equipment, brand new, not used. This year we had TONS of rain, LOTS of down time infact we broke rainfall records, and he's hurting so bad now, on the verge of selling off trucks, laying off guys, bankruptcy and 6 years after he graduated he's still broke :/ Your talking a smaller scale, but its the same point, just think about it, i'd hate to see you in debt and broke before you even enjoy what your doing, there's enough stresses, dont compound it by debt. oop, well supper is ready i gotta go, anyways, think about it, and give me your thoughts.

Well, I really have been in buisness for 5 years. I begin working for a neighbor who had a small lawn care buisness and I learned a lot about simple stuff (mowing, edging etc. ) and the following year I purchased 10 accounts from him and i've been growing ever since. We have been progressing onto bigger jobs troughout the years and now that I have a truck we can do even bigger jobs. And in response to when I said "in case the business fails", I am confident that th buisness will be successful, however part of being a good business owner is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. There always has to be a backup option.
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GravelyWoman
11-03-2011, 09:35 PM
In my opinion the business major will be very valuable as well as the landscape minor. I think your choosing the right major and minor combination. My business degree has helped me more than anything in this business(or any business). Most don't fail because of the work they do, its because they made poor business decisions. One of which is attempting to grow to fast and jumping right into debt. Grow your business at the right rate and you can grow as big as you want. But I would not just jump right in with a huge investment. Another recommendation would be to surround yourself with other successful business owners and network as much as possible.

Amen! I have a two year business degree and this small degree separates me from most that are "pulling around a lawn mower." I do make smarter business decesions because of the education piece.
Now, do NOT jump off and buy 50,000 dollars worth of equipment and "pay later." That truly is not wise. SLOWLy and gradually start by mowing a few lawns getting that side growing. Once you have an adequate income coming in then you start with a good software design program and start building the landscape design side! PAY CASH! Do not take on debt based upon what the future holds! Think about what would happen if you were to get hurt and not be able to work....the credit card companies don't care that you can't pay the bills because you don't have a leg! They will want their money!
Thanks and good luck! Slow and steady, but just remain steady and you will be ok!
Gravely Woman

Ijustwantausername
11-11-2011, 11:01 AM
I have a B.S. in Business Management, does it help with the business? Yes. You learn a lot about customer service and accounting, which helps with bookkeeping. However, mowing and other "labor" in the business have to be learned. Also, I know what you mean by wanting to make this and that and spend X amount on advertising and equipment so you can make "this" much. Let me just say, heed the warnings of the people on this site. If it were possible to do what you are saying, people would do it. I think its safe to say those days are over, except for a select few

Lawn maintenance/Landscaping has become a HUGE industry since the economic collapse, and it is cut-throat competitive. The "two guys and a truck" businesses are showing up everywhere. I pay lots of advertising dollars per month, and so does Mike, Mark, Dave...you get my point. I would suggest growing, if you get too big too soon many bad things can happen which can and will ultimately harm your business.

But, the world is yours, do what you want with it.

Georgia Lawn
11-11-2011, 05:06 PM
If I was 17 again I would do a lot of working for big hardscape companies " maybe during the summer when you are out of school fulltime and part while in school trying to get up to managing a crew as fast as possible. This way you could get the hands on experience that you are going to need for managing a crew, working with on the job problems that are not found in the books, getting a feel for how you want to run your own business (inventory, labor etc), and also when you go to apply for that loan you will not only have hands on experience to present to them but you will also have a degree. Just my opinion but I would not blow all of my money buying trucks outright. I would try and keep as much money as close to me as possible. Make that truck make you money over time. If you really want to set yourself apart from all the 1 guy 1 truck outfits then spend some time investing in your self - like you are already doing getting degrees in your field, certifications, and one of the biggest things that people around here seem to like is for you to have a solid portfolio of all your past work that you can hand them if needed (I don't know why but it definitely helps solidify relationships with new customers). Act and prove your a pro and you will get treated like one. Also if you do decide to work for other companies while you are in college keep your business on the books for after you graduate, that way instead of it being a brand new company with little capital you will have a company that has been in biz for a couple of years with a small but steady income for when you go to get that loan ( much easier to get). Good luck hope all this rambling helps.