I have had the very distinct pleasure of talking to more lawn and landscape business owners than probably anyone else on this planet. I'm serious. I was thinking about it this morning and for almost 15 years now I have been exchanging email, talking on the phone, meeting in person and communicating via my former site LawnSite with tens of thousands of business owners in this industry.
I've met and spoke to so many interesting, intelligent, hard working people over the years and it certainly has been a pleasure.
However, the one thing that has always bothered me is when I'm talking to someone or I get to know them and their business, I can usually tell pretty quickly if they are going to make it or not. The reason is people in this industry often are quick to put themselves into one category or the other - either they are a landscaper or a business owner.
I will explain.
A landscaper is someone who is very good at his craft. He can mow a lawn very well. He can build a wall like no one else can. He can identify a turf disease in his sleep. He can build a pond that you'd see in a magazine. He can design an outdoor lighting plan that makes a house into a warm, inviting home.
Also, a landscaper knows all the details of his trucks, trailers and equipment. If you didn't know any better you would assume he was a mechanic in a former life. Landscapers love their shops. They love their toys. They love going out and doing the work and they are quick to tell you how their lawns and their landscapes are the best in town.
Is this a bad thing? Not at all. One should always take pride in their work and especially when starting out in the industry, you have to know these things because rarely can a new business owenr afford to hire a landscape designer, a mechanic, and plenty of laborers to do the work. You have to wear plenty of hats as a business owner, but you already know this.
But there is that moment in time when a decision needs to be made. Are you going to continue playing all of these roles, working yourself to the bone, hoping people keep calling you, hoping your numbers add up, hoping you don't hurt your back, hoping you can get all the work done, hoping you can make a decent living from your efforts?
I have nothing against being a solo-operator or owning a small business (an employee or two). Everyone has different objectives and desires. Some people don't want to deal with the "headaches" of employees and they like going out and doing the work themselves.
But even solo-operators and small business owners in this industry have to be actual business owners if they have any intention of remaining in business.
A business owner has a plan. They know what they want to accomplish. They focus on working on their business instead of working for their business. They focus on things like marketing, management, customer acquisition and retention, and they understand their numbers. I am not suggesting that a business owner needs an MBA in Marketing and has to be an accountant in order to succeed. What I am saying is that if you are going to focus on lawn mowing and equipment maintenance and ignore the tasks and duties that will ensure a solid foundation for your company, then it is time to look for a job.
I prefer hiring people who are very good at mowing lawns, building walls, designing ponds and installing lighting so that I can be a business owner and focus on the growth, profitability and the overall success of my company.
So take some time and think about this - are you a landscaper or a business owner?
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