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College or Company?

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by tom's lawn care, Jan 26, 2010.

  1. tom's lawn care

    tom's lawn care LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 295

    I will be attending college most likely out of state in another year, and I am having a very difficult time deciding what I am going to do? I was thinking of trying to run my company while attending college out of state, or should I just sell it and start back up when school is done with? Thanks for all the imputs!
  2. echeandia

    echeandia LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,131

    Go to school.
  3. STL Cuts

    STL Cuts LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 493

    I graduated high school in May 2008 and was in the same predicament. I went away to school and still have my business going at the same time.

    Here's what I did. I have a buddy of mine that stayed in town and has his own small business take over half of my yards and had an old coach of mine that teaches and runs his business take the other half. They take care of the yards for me while I'm gone and I take care of them when not in school or when I randomly make a trip back to STL.

    You must (in my opinion) take your guys that will be doing the work for you while your gone to each and every yard, introduce them, give the customer a business card, point out any obstacles in the yard, and basically familiarize them with each and every account. DO NOT just call your customers and tell them such and such will be taking care of you while I'm gone, add the personal touch of actually taking them around, be professional about it.

    You must make sure you have dependable people, and that is not easy to find. Call each of your customers and explain your situation to them and assuming you have built a good relationship with them they should all be fine with it (at least in my experience). This works especially well with the elderly customers as they love to see you are trying to better yourself by getting a college education.

    Be sure to call periodically and touch base with each and every customer. This gives you an opportunity to check up on your "fill ins" and make sure everything is going well and it also shows that you actually care and that you are not just pawning them off to someone else while you're gone.

    It will seem a bit overwhelming, but once you get a system in place you will be alright.

    I don't do a ton of landscaping, mostly mow and blows so this balances out well. If you have landscape jobs, just line them up for a weekend you are coming home or on your next break.

    During the first semester, I make sure to call and check in with everybody around aeration time so I kill 2 birds with 1 stone so to speak. You check in with them, see how things are going, and then schedule them for a weekend you will be coming back to aerate. When you come home for Christmas break stop by and visit each of your customers. Starting last year I baked little loaves of pumpkin bread and delivered them to all the customers, they loved it. This year, I did the same thing, but also added a Christmas card with Santa on a ZTR (got those from House of Cards) and let me tell you they all got a kick out of it. It has even landed me some new customers b/c the customers had friends & family over around Christmas saw my card, and next thing I know I'm getting calls from people asking to cut their grass for the year in the dead of winter!

    Second semester be sure to work as much as possible during Spring Break (get everything going, stop by customers' houses, any late cleanups, etc.).

    Another little thing that I do is I get the guys that help me out while I'm gone a Jimmy Johns gift card when I come back for Christmas. Show them you appreciate them. Treat them right and they will return the favor.

    I'm a sophomore in college right now and so far it has worked out better than I could have imagined. If you have any questions feel free to PM me or ask away on here. I know I was in the same situation as you and would be more than happy to help you out as much as I can.

    For me, I wanted to get the whole "4 year experience" of college and haven't regretted it at all. Go to school, get your degree, and don't look back. With the economy the way it is (espescially after I graduated in 2008) there is no better time to be in school!

    I feel like I just wrote a novel lol. Hope this helps.

    Also, feel free to share a little more about your operation to give a better idea of what you're working with and we can provide some additional feedback.

    Good luck!
  4. tom's lawn care

    tom's lawn care LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 295

    Well I am 16 years old, I will be 17 in the spring and I started mowing with my Dad's friend about 2 years ago and I just loved it. So I bought a exmark 36 delt drive and used my dad's trimmer and blower. I had 3 regular lawn accounts to mow every week down the street from my house, while I continued to work over the summer for my dad's friend. So last year I got my liscense and I decided to buy a gator made 16 ft. open landscape trailer, and I sold my exmark and bought a 52" Wright stander, and new trimmer and blower. Then I bought a scag 61" Turf Tiger, an lots of extra toys. I currently have 22 regular mowing and mulch accounts ect. I am hoping to double, maybe triple my accounts this spring and continue on the same path through mid summer next year. Then I am off to college, and I need to do something with my accounts and equipment. Well that's my story (any critisism welcomed.) Thanks
  5. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,943

    I commend you for your effort in growing your business. You have done well in a very short time. You don't say anything about ownership or debt, so maybe the story is a little different when more of the story is uncovered. But, that is not important -- no intent to be critical, just stating the obvious. Being not important, no need at this time to reveal more.

    Go to college, rid yourself of the business, and focus on your education. The business is a very short-term entity. A sound college education is a long-term entity, and will serve you for starting a career.

    I read so many threads on LS about "going to college, and kept my business going," I shudder. College education should be a full-time focus. This is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shine at the educational endeavor. Attempting to keep something else running is a distraction where your emotional and mental energies should be directed. How many times have we read on LS, "... I took classes in the morning, ran my business in the afternoon, ... all worked out fine, ... college was a waste of time." College is an experience, an opportunity to build relationships, explore other avenues, a place where your leadership skills can be developed and honed in organizations, just to name a few. Going to class a couple of hours per day, leaving and getting back to your mower isn't going to allow you to take advantage of all other parts of education. To be sure, you can grind through the courses, get the credits, and at the end walk with a diploma. Will it mean all that it might? Not at all. Usually, the "grind ... get, ... walk ... diploma" folks are the ones that will write on LS about "waste of time."

    The other major consideration is being open to career choices. Choosing grass cutting for a career at age 16 is far too short-sighted. Even though having made a choice to attend college full time, with an on-campus environment, and starting with a major course of study, will often change their direction in mid-stream. A significant part of the college experience is the exposure to career opportunities you now know nothing about. If you choose courses wisely, you will find yourself exploring areas of interest you never knew possible. And, guess what? You may just find yourself liking what you have learned and realize this is a career path that is right for you. To make a decision now about having a grass cutting business, spend the time and money for a college education, with full intent of returning to cut more grass is just not wise. College is a huge investment in terms of money, and time. Why would you not make the most of the investment? Trying to split your attention will not allow you to make full use of your investment.

    I know there are many considerations for such a decision. I've tried to give you some thoughts that are over-arching, attempting to keep the big picture in before you. I worked in industry for 35 years, working in entrepreneurial settings, hiring people just out of college all the way to PhD folks. Now, I've had my business here for 15 years. I've also watched many young people (including my own) make these kinds of decisions for a few decades and see the outcomes. I hope my experience may be helpful to you.

    You have a very long work life ahead of you, will make at least four career changes, most likely more. A good college education will give you the tools to "learn to learn," a skill necessary to be nimble and flexible for making the career changes. Learning is a life-long necessity, and does not stop when you leave school. The people willing and able to continue learning new things are the ones who will be successful.
  6. stroker51

    stroker51 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 819

    I went through a similar situation when I graduate high school in 06. I kept my little business going, maybe a 30k a year gross gig, and went to our local community college that had a pretty good hort program. Spent two years there, now fully on my own. I can see the whole networking and relations side, but the fact is that most college kids, I know 95% of my classmates who went that route are this way, are there to party, show up to class and get the bare minimums to graduate....there seems to be a huge over emphasis on education in our culture....and in this economy you are almost better off to learn some kind of trade, maybe not in this industry, but a trade that is a necessity to everyone...and go that route. My gamble paid off. Had I got out of the biz, sold my mowers, accounts etc and gone full time to school, I would have been trying to start a biz this spring or been trying to get a job in the industry upon graduation, in this economy I will take my salary and the learn on the go education I have gained, along with my assets, cash.....basically net worth over my education. I plan on this being my main income for a while, but the key is investing your salary and profits wisely and not being in debt over your head. It is not rocket science to be financially fit in life. I dont know how much this will help in your decision, probably complicate it some but for me it worked out well to gain some knowledge while I was in school, then go all in. Some of the wealthiest guys I know in this business have no education, but are very financially conservative and it has paid off well. On the flip side I do wish I had stayed in school to learn some of the design/construction side but my grandpa taught himself to build pools and when he died was one of the most respected swimming pool contractors in the region. So I see it as I can teach myself anything. Good luck to you in your decision.
  7. STL Cuts

    STL Cuts LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 493

    I respectfully have to disagree here. Obtaining your college degree is basically a MUST in today's economy. Sure you can stick to running your own lawn business, but what if you are a solo op. and get in a car accident, break a leg, etc. Now what will you do? In no way am I saying you can't get by solely on your business, but you need something to fall back on (or build off of). What if you decide 5 years from now that this isn't what you really want to do with your life? Are you going to go back to college? By this time, the odds of you going back are slim to none and you are in a bad spot.

    I know I would not rely on a trade.

    As far as college options, I see some stay in town and will do the 2 year community college route then transfer to a 4 year university to finish their degree. This is not a bad idea. I know in STL they have a program called A+ and all you have to do is tutor for 50 hours and the state will pay for 2 years of tuition at any community college in the state. That's over $100 an hour, and your in high school!

    Then there are others that go the whole 4 year univerity route (this is what I do). My view is college is some of the best times of your life. The resources and networking you gain in college are awesome as well. There is not another time in your life that you will get this experience, you have the rest of your life to work!

    I'm not saying that you should sell the business though. Try and get some guys to run it for you while you're away at school. This is what I do, so I still have the business running while I'm gone and can focus on school, but whenever I come back its work time :weightlifter:.

    To the guys that decided against going to school, ask them in a couple years if they regret it. I can guarantee you that the vast majority will tell you that they regret it.

    Another thing, if you stray away from the lawn business and try to get a "white collar" job without a college degree on your resume (excuse the punctuation) you will in most situations not even be considered for the job.
  8. highlander316

    highlander316 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 334

    i agree with both Roger and STL. I did the morning (or sometimes night) classes with working. I went to school 50 mins away (sometimes back and forth 6 times a week depending on scheduling), and worked so many odd hours, it sucked. I did obtain my BS, however missed out on the social life (the school I went to had none anyway). Luckily for me (and I won't say this will happen for you) a good amount of friends still lived in my hometown, so I kept up the social life here. I hear stories from buddies about stuff they had done while away at school, and sometimes I wish I wouldn't have missed it (although the social life I had at home and the things we did, I wouldn't do over [some stuff not PG material to write about lol]).

    If you can have someone take over while your gone (and not have to worry about anything), then do it. If you know there will be problems, give up the biz, maybe sell some mowers. Whatever you do, don't miss school. You never know what you might miss. Like I said, even though I did the school/work thing, I know if I never got my degree, I would have regretted it. Nowadays, you can't even be a McD's manager realistically without having some kind of degree. Grass will always grow. You only live once. Whether you live at home and go to school, or go away to school, get the degree. It comes down to, if you want the growing up experience or not. Either way, get the degree. And honestly, what the degree shows potential employers, is that you know how (and are willing) to learn, so that if they hire you, they know you can be trained.
  9. unkownfl

    unkownfl LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,837

    To much to read to get caught up to speed. If nobody has mentioned this, I will throw it out there. Grass is going to be around for a very long time unless Al Gore has anything to do with it. You being able to attend and sacrifice the time to go to college is not.
  10. stroker51

    stroker51 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 819

    Both sides can be argued. I said that if I dont go to school by the time everyone is graduating I better own a house and have some good investments, and I'm working on a really nice setup right now, and growing the business to a point where if I decide to get out in a few years, there is something worth selling and having a nice chunk of change from it. Some people are not cut out for white collar work, period. I'm one of them, and I have enough skills in other fields I enjoy, construction, background in cattle and hay production, I could find another gig. I am a dying breed I guess in deciding to do one thing and ride it to its full potential but I was just speaking from my experience. We will see how this season goes and my construction project on my new place but I figure if I can ride it out for a total of 15-20 years and sell out, that leaves me tops 14 years left and then do something else, excavation, pools, I have other skills and opportunities, that's where the trades thing will benefit the not so college material kids a bunch!

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