1. Missed the live Ask the Expert event?
    Not to worry. Check out the archived thread of the Q&A with Ken Hutcheson, President of U.S. Lawns, and the LawnSite community in the Franchising forum .

    Dismiss Notice

My life unfolding into the future (follow me through)

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by GraZZmaZter, Nov 25, 2008.

  1. GraZZmaZter

    GraZZmaZter LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 740

    Now as some of you may or may not have heard, I'm selling my lawn biz. Basically I'm burnt out on doing things how i have been for the last ump-teen years(manual labor) and need a break from it. Ive got a truck to plow with this winter, than ridding myself from all clients. Selling off all equipment in the meantime.

    However, i have no intentions on leaving the green industry at all. I'm going to make the transition of making money with my hands to making money with my mind...

    Here are my short-mid range goals.

    1 year from today (9-25-08):

    * pay off all debts from being in biz..
    * Begin school at Michigan State University for Landscape Design?Horticulture
    * continue working a 9-5 and doing side jobs for extra money until school homework schedule overlaps

    2-3 year plan:

    * continue working 9-5 jobber..
    * build credit score as high as possible
    * finish my degree from MSU
    * re-evaluate what exactly i want to do with degree..
    - work for another company at their offices
    - work from home as essentially a sub-contractor for design work and garden/plant advice
    - take more college here in Flint for Small Business Administration
    a. 1-2 more years - start another company

    Long term:

    8-15 year plan:

    * be partially/fully retired and sail off into the sunset!

    What do you think? I'm 32 and i have a 4 year old daughter, a new house, a new life with my family and i will enjoy obtaing these goals. Their will be ups and downs and possible restructuring/changes made to this plan.

    Won't you all come along for the ride and give me all your input. I will give regular updates with new posting: FIRST UP - Read Next Post
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2008
  2. GraZZmaZter

    GraZZmaZter LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 740

    First up...

    I am taking the MSU extention class for Master Gardener ... It starts Jan 09.

    Until than i will study my books for 3a 3b certification (turf-ornamentals) and take the tests their also b4 spring..

  3. Lawnworks

    Lawnworks LawnSite Fanatic
    from usa
    Posts: 5,407

    A degree isn't magic. Most of the successful companies owners I know of HIRE people w/ degrees b/c there lack thereof.

    If you are tired of manual labor, you should have hired employees... that takes care of that! This then leaves you w/ an incredible amount of time to study and take classes... and also to keep your current clientel and decent stream of income... probably alot better than working a $10 an hour 9-5 "jobber".

    I think school is basically a waste of time unless you get a a degree to be a certified landscape architect.
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    I agree with Lawnworks. Being much older than you I too am considering partial retirement and am looking to knock off manual labor. If the client base is worth anything turn it over to someone that can continue to build it while having a vested interest in the income.

    Your expertice can build a new business that works together with your replacement to find jobs that you hopefully design. Strategies that help new customers create and pleasant outdoor living environment that is cost effective , yet profitable for you and your associate.

    Design is tricky, like singing. Either you have a popular voice or not. I can never design because what I prefer and enjoy in a landscape involves gardening more than anything. How many people enjoy gardening? [Too few] I have a knack for pruning, planting, etc. so folks are pleased and trust my judgement with that. Designing - NO. :)

    The old adage - "Do what you are good at" comes to mind here. good luck.
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653


    The degree is all right, I'm super cool with that and I hope you succeed there.
    As someone already said these things are no accident, now you'll need to apply yourself
    or the whole thing will just be another big waste of time but wait wise guy...

    Because I think that's part of what makes us, what decides later where we are,
    is the earlier years, our choices and our decisions there somehow drop us off at
    a point in the road later in life that also at some point in time no longer adapts
    itself to change.
    It is thus that unless you make that decision to really work hard at it now,
    while you still have a little time left, that something might still come of it.
    Take this not as nay saying, take it as a warning:
    Don't mess it up this time boy, it could be your last chance.
    And when I say could I mean it probably is, mess this one up there may well be no more.
    That Michigan State is a nice college, a degree from there will mean a little of something.
    So do it right.

    Now, on that retiring in 8-15 years bit :p
    Well, erm...
    Just, you know, do the best you can.

    Last edited: Nov 26, 2008
  6. PHS

    PHS LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 724

    Have you been following me around :laugh:?

    Grazz, If design is your passion then do it. If you're just looking for a non-labor job think carefully before you make that commitment.
  7. NC Greenscaper

    NC Greenscaper LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 446

    I liked alot of your plan to I got to the part about a four year old daughter, new house, wife and a new life.

    I would take all this advice with a grain of salt. Because none of us know you or your situation. But I like the advice above that hire employees, then work your education into your schedule, and begin to transition your company into design if thats the way you want to go. Good Luck
  8. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,742

    I did pretty much what Grazz wants to do when the local landscape economy hit a wall in the early 90's. I sold my half of a landscape company, looked for a designer job in more thriving parts of the country, and finally decided to get a degree in landscape architecture.

    A few things that I learned along the way and since are these:

    A Master Gardener's Certificate is completely worthless in the real world. It is a program designed to recruit volunteers to look things up to answer questions at county extension programs (fact, not snotty analogy). They provide short courses to give a person some very basic knowledge in order to have a clue of understanding someone's question and to be able to provide a general answer or look up a general answer. There is a requirement of a certain amount of volunteer time to get the certificate and the "Master Gardener" title is forbidden to be used professionally. Only do this if you are looking for some basic horticultural knowledge - it won't really help you get a job. I have worked in several companies where it actually is looked at as a negative.

    I would rather see you take basic college courses (English, math, biology, ...) at a community college until you get in a degree program. That will save you time and money in getting your degree.

    The next thing you need to get a better understanding of is what job opportunities are created by what degree. Most of us have assumptions of what those are without really knowing what they are. You really want to be sure of what they are before you commit the money and time into getting that degree.

    Another thing you have to watch out for is the conflict between school schedule and work schedule. While most colleges offer night and weekend classes, they are far less flexible in classes specialized for degree programs. Many degree specific courses require others as prerequisites and are only offered at one time during one semester (sometimes every other year) and may have more time commitment than your typical one hour lecture. This is particularly true of landscape architecture.

    It seems that your ultimate goal is to get into other successful companies, seeing how they do it first hand by participating in managing it, and then apply that knowledge to running your own company. This all hinges on your ability to be able to get that insider job. That can be tough. You have to have something to offer that works well for the company that you want to work for. A degree alone won't get you that.

    One of the biggest unforeseen problems that I ran into when I came "back home" with my degree in landscape architecture was that there were very few landscape architecture offices within an hour of where I live. The alternative was to work for landscape design/build contractors. The problem there is that it was very easy to design and sell out the entire year's production capability in a few months. That makes it really difficult to land a full time job as a designer without having project management (lining up materials, organizing the crews,...) and on-site supervisor (working foreman) skills to make you worth having around.

    If you can put together those it will get you a job. Add office skills and marketing abilities and you might get deeper into the office and a more intimate knowledge of how that particular business operates. You have to be very company first in your attitudes and actions to get "in" the office. If you are too close to the guys working for the owner, you'll be left on the outside when it comes to a working knowledge of the operations of the company.

    If you can get work as a landscape construction foreman, it will help you get work for a landscape design/build. Having had a mowing route won't help. Without that experience in managing people, you might not get hired since most companies can not support someone as only a design/sales guy. Most contractors don't find a need for a plant scientist (hort degree) because it does not often get them more work or increase production.

    You will need to work for a medium sized company to get into their operation of their office because smaller ones don't need extra help in there and bigger ones have specialized office staff. You'll need one that is big enough to need management help and small enough to use you as part of that management.

    My advice if you do this, is to work for successful companies that do what you want to do and more than one of them in order to see different ways of doing things. Different things are only successful under certain circumstances. Without seeing differences, you won't recognize that.

    I wound up working in civil engineering offices as well as design/build landscape companies (got my degree at 35). Now I do full site planning for commercial developments in an engineering office as well as having a landscape architecture office on the side doing residential landscape plans. I have a secure job with benefits and can pick and choose my landscape design projects on the side with very little overhead.

    No one is going to score your pay on any degree or certificates that you hold. An Associates Degree is almost worthless in our industry other than the basic improvement it may give you in your ability to write, speak, or do basic math. A Bachelor's Degree takes 4-5 years and will get you into interviews that you otherwise might not get (especially in landscape architecture offices - no degree = no interview). You either have to go all the way, or put the time and effort into gaining experience working for others.

    I scraped through the time and expense and basically came out of it having to restart my career with school debt. There was no instant pay off when I got done. It all worked out, but it was not easy.
  9. GraZZmaZter

    GraZZmaZter LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 740

    It appears, after briefly skimming through the posts that i may have failed to mention a BIG point which factors majorly into my decision to go with these goals.


    Respectfully to all of you, i more-than-likely have been in this industry for more years than most ... 22 ... and I'm 32 ys old. Even before mowing lawns i remember going door to door with a shovel in the winter to make some bucks. Just need to do something else for a bit.

    Than within the last few years i have been doing landscape projects and have built a pretty nice portfolio. It just appears to me i hit alot of brick walls and have to turn projects down due to lack of experience and knowlege of the industry. More aggrivation..

    I tried going to school while running a biz, but it would never get my full attention because of all the focus i would need for business matters. I still work 12+ hours a day, its just that my energies need to be refocused at this point... into other avenues.

    I appreciate all the comments ... keep them coming
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2008
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    Grazzmaster, sorry to see you go. Always enjoyed you being an active LCO and member of the site. I am sure you'll continue here on LS to some degree. But still sorry to see you shut down the biz.

    Overall, I think your goals are good ones. Some of the things you mention, I wish I could go back and redo but I am in no position to do that. I got too big of a ball rolling to ever take a step back like that.

    Specifically, I like the idea of taking landscape design classes and even more, I like the idea of taking more business classes. My major in college was Business Admin. but I dropped out my Sr. year. Still less than a year away from graduation. But I have no time and little reason to go back now. Plus, most of the things I would have learned in that last year, I've already learned now - I just learned them all the hard way - which really sucks. I wish I could go back in time and really LISTENED to my business professors. What I did learn in the college of business at my University, I've used many times. All the classes I took on accounting, business law, business computer related classes, etc. - I've used things I learned in every single one of those classes. But all the stuff they taught in the Sr. year classes, like I said, I ended up having to learn the hard way. Which isn't fun. Would have liked to get a "heads up" before I made a lot of the mistakes I've made. But it is what it is.

    So needless to say, I think you're smart to focus on these things before you really jump back in and make a go of it.

    The other thing you said that I really think is key is the credit score thing. If I could go back in time that's another thing I would have changed before I started my business. Because good credit can really make a big difference in this business. It helps you manage cash flow. That's the key thing. Without it, you're at a huge disadvantage compared to firms that have it. And corporate credit is all still related to your personal credit. So I think you're wise to make that a big priority too. Very few companies are really successful without it.

    I wish there was a way you could figure out how to do all this without spending so many years away from the business. But I can't argue with your plan. I think, overall, it's a very smart one!

Share This Page