Getting Started

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by GravelyWalker, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. GravelyWalker

    GravelyWalker LawnSite Member
    Posts: 86

    I am getting the feeling this is a very closed off side of the green industry. It seems most of the companies don't like the idea of new guys coming in to the business. They don't like the fact that you can go learn how to install pavers and seg retaining walls.
    So how is one to get into the business? I have been landscaping for 7+ years. I have built 2 large retaining walls and 2 nice sized patios with stairs, lighting, ect. I did this with an old boss of mine. He showed me what to do and put me to work. I have had no formal education on the subject but I know majority of how and why you do things.
    So besides working for an existing company for 5+ years how do you go about furthering your education that is acceptable to all you guys. If all these seminars everyone is complaining about are so useless. How do you continue learning?
  2. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,770

    If you did a few jobs then you should know the basics, if your boss was doing things right. Aside from that, every job will teach you something. Whether its a unique layout, a unique customer, a specific site condition etc.

    What is it you want to learn?
  3. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,417

    As far as acceptance, do you mean acceptance on an online forum, or acceptance amongst your local contractors?

    As far as acceptance on a forum - that's easy, just agree with everything I say. And kiss my tail - then you'll be golden.

    As far as acceptance with contractors in your area - who cares! you don't need them. they don't need you! You're not in business to be friends, yore (my new spelling) in biz to make your own living.

    I don't care what it is. Whether its auto mechanics, carpentry, piano tuning, legal counseling, whatever. If it does not come naturally - then it's not your calling.
  4. TomG

    TomG LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 675

    Look up getting ICPI and NCMA certified. The classes teach you the book knowledge of installing pavers and walls. There is no hands on training. But it might work out for you that you already have some hands on experience. The classes are well worth your time and money in my opinion.
  5. GravelyWalker

    GravelyWalker LawnSite Member
    Posts: 86

    Thanks I will look into it. That sounds more of what i am looking for
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  6. TomG

    TomG LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 675

  7. clipfert

    clipfert LawnSite Member
    Posts: 196

    He's not kidding
  8. GreenI.A.

    GreenI.A. LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,132

    The best way to further your hands on knowledge is to do a number of smaller jobs until you are more comfortable then start moving up to do larger and larger. Don't bit off more than you can chew. I know you have experience with your old boss, but I'm going to guess that he did the designs, built the proposal and price up, worked up the material list, ordered materials, and most importantly he was there to lead you on those installs. Start slow and small and get used to the different materials and building the proposal and pricing. It's a lot better to learn from a mistake and have to eat 10% on a $3,000 job than it is to on a $50,000

    When I first started I took on a big install, $120,000, it was way to early. I told the clients they would be cooking on their new outdoor kitchen by July 4th, they didn't get to use it until late September. Everything was under bid. At the end I ended up working for just about free. I paid for materials, rentals, labor, I did out the math and with what was left and the time I put in, I basically paid myself $1.76 an hour. $1.76. Above my desk were I do all my designs and build proposals I have a dollar bill, three quarters and a penny taped to the wall as a constant reminder.

    The issue I have with new guys is that often they under price the job so much to often. Usually we can land the contract by explaining why we are more, this is were you're portfolio comes in. But sometimes the customer goes with the new guy because his price is 60% of ours or he promised to provide 40% more patio/wall than we proposed, and he talks them into giving him the chance because he's a h*** of a sales guy and they fall for his pitch. Then when he doesn't complete the job as promised, or goes 2 months longer than promised, or comes back needing 20k more than quoted it often reflects poorly as a whole on the industry. It makes the neighbor think a little bit harder about weather they really want to spend all that money on their landscape after what their friend next door went through. But then again, those stories just as often steer the prospective clients towards the larger more experienced contractors.
  9. PLLandscape

    PLLandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 985

    GreenI.A. hit the nail on the head. I put in a patio and walkway that was much more complex than my brain thought. Luckily it was for my brother and he knew it was going to be a first type job for me. For most experienced guys in this forum the job would be so simple. I've done more "garden" type walls vs. true retaining walls but even those take time to get right and stay right. But with each of those jobs I've learned the what to and what not to so the next may move more smoothly.

    I took a couple contractor training courses (not the big name ones) offered by some of the suppliers and most of it was very technical but offered no hands on. But it did give excellent explanations of what NOT to do and why that is. What it did for me was to easily tell myself certain jobs are not in my ability level and to pass on them.
  10. STL Ponds and Waterfalls

    STL Ponds and Waterfalls LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,177

    My advice is in the beginning use machinery and don't try to do the small installs by hand. I've done a ton of small installs by hand and now my body is paying for it in a bad way. It will save time, money, and more importantly your back.

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