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Need Landscaping career advice...

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Mac_Cool, May 26, 2006.

  1. Mac_Cool

    Mac_Cool LawnSite Member
    Posts: 62

    I was recently laid off and have decided to start a new career and I'm leaning heavily toward landscaping. I'm 38 and have a family so I need something that can be lucrative fairly quickly... here are my thoughts.

    I can get an associate's degree in landscaping from a local technical college while working part-time doing lawn and site maintenance. I could add basic landscaping to my services and possibly pursue additional education for a 4 year degree. Any comments, advice, or recommendations on 2 vs. 4 year degrees in landscaping? Or on a career in landscaping? What other resources are available for related subjects like horticulture?

    There is a nearby university, NC State, that offers both 4 year and Masters degrees in landscaping but the design school is fairly difficult to get admitted to (or so I've heard) and the tuition would make things very tough on the family.

    I have no problem getting my hands dirty but ultimately I want to run a business not be my own employee. I have twelve years experience running businesses so I have that going for me.

    Any comments from locals (Raleigh area, North Carolina) are especially welcome. Thanks for any assistance.
  2. Newbie07

    Newbie07 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 140

    I too would be very interested in this kind of information only from a very different kind of person. I am 16 years old and will be a senior in highschool next year. I am in the top ten percent of my class and because of this will be accepted to Texas A&M University at College Station (Gig EM' AGGIES!!!) Its a big 12 school by the way, you northern guys seem to have never heard of it, HA HA. Anyways they have one of the best landscaping programs int he country and i would attend the school for at least four years and then open my own business possibly continueing to mow throughout college. I like the creative ascpect of designing and then installing and operating my own business. I am also a big outdoors person. Not sure what i would specialize in, new installs or maybe pond work or something of that nature. Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciatted.

    Mac_Cool whatever you choose good luck to you!

    Thanks, Travis
  3. wski4fun

    wski4fun LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 323

    Hope you have good finacial backing to open a LCO. I think it takes a while and a lot of headaches to start new and to support a family, nearly impossible in my opinion. Look into buying one. Makes a world of diff. to have accounts you can count on in the beginning. Also if you have never done it before there are many things to know to be good at it. Not rocket science mind you but certainly experiance. Cash flow starting out will be very hard. Employees will be tough. Buy brand new stuff very expensive. Buy old stuff very unreliable. Always have a plan B. Sorry for all the negitives. There are lots of positives. Money can be real good. Set it up right and make ok money, you can have loads of time off. Working outside is awsome. Buying the equipment and playing with it is like being a kid again and the positives go on and on. If it wasn't a good business there would not be so many people on this site. Good luck. The biggest thing is to have your finances in order and have 50% more then you think you need and have a plan B.
  4. murray83

    murray83 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 347

    "I'm 38 and have a family so I need something that can be lucrative fairly quickly"

    rule out mowing lawns.

    last 5 years i've seen so many operations start up and most fail cuz everyone thinks landscaping is easy where did that ugly rumor start?;).

    truthfully,if your dead set on this start part time,aim to get 40 accounts and wait a full season,if your return rate is great maybe then dive in,its alot of money and alot of headaches and long long hours.

    as wski4fun said your gonna hear alot of negative comments on here from people that have been up this road and back don't take it as insults they're just trying to possibly save you alot of money,time and heartache.
  5. JJLandscapes

    JJLandscapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 682

    buy used equipment with cash.. you know how to run a business so as long as you dont ruin anyones lawn you can run a landscaping company

    If you take loans out or lease everything new and you fail then you will have lost your second job and have a huge debt to deal with as well.. dont buy any equipment that isnt absolutey necessary

    About the degree im sure it will help for very very large and high class homes but around here where the smallest houses are 600k and upper middle class no one asks about degrees and i dont see anyone advertising or in there contracts saying they have degrees in landscaping because i think real world experience is the best education
  6. Cahsking

    Cahsking LawnSite Member
    Posts: 111

    Finally a person asking about landscaping :cool2: Well what to say that has not been said. All of these replies are great info. As far as schooling, I have done that. It helps in a way, but experience is the best teacher. You will learn alot of terms and methods in classes, but until you do it you really will not understand. Let alone develop your own technique. If your really want to get into landscaping, work for someone!! Learn the skill. It has many different avenues as far as seeding, hardscapes, softscapes, fertilization, irrigation, landscape design, etc. If your just looking for a good paying hustle with little work don't landscape. You may have to work 12 hour days just to finish a project in two weeks, and you may have to hire and train someone else to help.
  7. Mac_Cool

    Mac_Cool LawnSite Member
    Posts: 62

    Thanks for the info. Some general comments...

    The mowing is only to bring in income while I go to school and yes, it does have very low start up costs and a relatively quick profitability. Don't believe it? Try opening a dry cleaner, restaurant, print shop or retail store...$30k+ monthly operating expenses and it might be 1-2 years before you see any profit which you'll use to pay off the $500k-$1000k cost of opening the business.

    Yes, working for a landscape company is invaluable that's why every college program requires you to intern with a landscape company. But working for a landscaper doesn't make you a landscaper, I believe in education + real world experience.

    One thing I didn't make clear... I don't have to solely support my family. My wife was a very good paying career and we can live on her income soley but it isn't any fun. I plan to work part-time to ease the burden on the family while I'm schooling. Also, if all my credits transfer (wishful thinking) I've already taken half the classes in the two year program at another college so hopefully I will be able to finish the program very quickly.

    Thanks again.
  8. jim163

    jim163 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 149

    A Little off topic here mac, but thats the ugliest bastard I've ever seen. Please change it.
  9. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,569

    You'll find that the lawn and landscape business is no different though. You'd be very lucky to make any real profit in your first year or even two. You would also be starting at a very bad time of the year in NC, esp in the Raleigh area as grass has been being cut there since March (we have numerous commercial accts in Raleigh, even though we are based in Greensboro) and most folks already have providers, so plan on only really spending any money that you would bring in this year to get started. Buying the start-up equipment even used is only a small part of the business expenses, the weekly operating cost are what will get you, esp with the fuel cost.

    Your plan to get formal training is good and if you decide to get in to landscape contracting will be a must because it will be required to get the state issued license required. Also remember even if you just spray roundup in NC as a business you must also have your State issued Pesticide License, plus your local business licenses.
  10. out4now

    out4now LawnSite Bronze Member
    from AZ
    Posts: 1,796

    The businesses you mentioned have waht are called higher barriers to entry which means more up front investment. Lawns have lower barriers which means more competition and theoretically less you can charge to do it since there is always someone who will work for less. Do your homework first! Find out what the going rates are and how many are out there before you invest in anything! The college education can't hurt you. Take the time to figure out what your costs would be. You can't base your prices on what others are charging becasue their cost structure may be different. They may be able to finace things and have lower aqusition costs due to their size making it harder to compete. Good luck. If you need to know more about how to find all that info this is the place to do it.

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