Are You a Landscaper or a Business Owner?

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by Sean Adams, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. Sean Adams

    Sean Adams LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,597

    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?

    To read this blog post and more like it go HERE
  2. Chris_NC06

    Chris_NC06 LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Sanford, NC
    Messages: 6,825

    Good read.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  3. branchoutshrub

    branchoutshrub LawnSite Member
    Messages: 118

  4. Njon16

    Njon16 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 33

    Brilliant post
  5. McFarland_Lawn_Care

    McFarland_Lawn_Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,445

    Spot on....if everyone thought about this and made a PLAN of where they are going and what they want to be, it would reduce a majority of the headaches.

  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I've been a solo-operator for years now and I don't have to worry about marketting, becuz my customer retention has been stable for most of my adult life... I also do complete care of lawn and landscape, so not only is the lawn mowed meticulously but is growing as a top notch lawn w/out disease issues as well... The landscape beds are healthy vibrant well puned and easy on the eyes...

    I record the relevant numbers at the end of each day, and quarterly I go through the check book to assess the sales tax and estimates on the taxable income... I used to spend my off time(winter) working for H&R Block so knowing the relevant numbers to record, keeps my OUT of the office during the season that I'm outdoors, living the dream...

    The thing I notice more than anything with other scapers, is their focus is on MONEY right now... My POV is 'excellence now', and the money will always be there... We took on a couple new clients a couple of years ago becuz the wife got bored... keeping employees busy and profitable creates a lot of waste and sends pricing sky-high, which I love... I'm a bargain at 3/4 the charge of employeed LCOs and way overpaid at the same time...

    I think LCOs want to be like TGCL for the sake of ego, and really don't enjoy the work the way others do... I love the work and don't want employees, killing my buzz... :)
  7. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 19,650

    Im Solo also, but I dont own my business... my business OWNS ME.

    Truefully if I didnt enjoy this business I wouldnt do it.

    I will say after 5 years Im finally where I want to be, this year I have no plan to advertise and should have more work than I want. Finally
  8. Sean Adams

    Sean Adams LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,597

    I am all for the solo-operator - it is a choice and a lifestyle. I am not knocking it by any stretch.

    One thing I have always talked about though is the "what-if" scenario, and in this industry, it is a very possible what-if....

    What if you get hurt? Break your foot and can't work for 6 weeks?
    What if you hurt your back? Many people in this industry have experienced this, myself included.

    To be honest, some of the most successful business owners I speak with and work with absolutely HATE this kind of work. They started out doing the work and realized very early on they did not like it, but they liked being in business for themselves, employing and managing people, and providing a needed service people appreciate.
  9. Biogreen

    Biogreen LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    Sean, that is a great post.I will pass it along to a few of my landscaper buddy's. This will show them why i spend so much time at chamber of commerce events, networking groups, call backs for customer retention, shopping around for better product prices and hiring spray techs.
    Scott Trevisan
  10. KrayzKajun

    KrayzKajun LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,737

    Great post. This year im truly transitioning from landscaper to a business owner who has a background in landscaping.
    Posted via Mobile Device

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