do you think a degree in landscaping is necessary for success in landscaping?

Discussion in 'Lawn Care Business Management' started by christw, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,943

    There are lots of opinions here, all of which come from one side of the fence. "... comes in handy ..." may be important to you.

    How about from the customer's viewpoint? How highly do they think of your work? What levels of customers do you want? ... need? The customer doesn't really care if the degree "comes in handy."

    I have often used the statement, "A shovel and dump truck, makes not a landscaper." The statement is used when seeing the work of a "landscaper," who is the shovel & dump truck guy.

    I don't do installs, walls, or applications. I do the menial stuff. But, I do watch the work of those who call themselves landscapers. I know the background of some of them. The ones who own a degree, know horticulture, and work at their trade aside from the shovel and dump truck are the ones whose work stands out. Most "landscapers" around here are the shovel & dump truck type. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. But, they did a job, and got paid, and I have to give them credit for exerting the effort. They don't know plants, they don't know maintenance, they don't know textures, they don't know colors, they don't know layout, they don't know ( ... ). It is obvious from the outcome. Some of my mowing customers used the shovel & dump truck "landscaper." After a couple of years, many (most?) plantings are dead.

    On the other hand, some of my customers have landscaping layouts that reflect design, good plant selection, great organization, as well as longevity in the plant materials.

    The differences are obvious. Perhaps I have a more sensitive eye than most because of history in my educational background. Can you learn some of the important parts of design, plant selection, and installation through experience. Perhaps, in part -- certainly the latter two.

    The same is true for those building walls and other hardscapes. I've seen some real hack jobs by the shovel & dump truck guys -- perhaps the characterization should be "Bobcat & dump truck." Again, there is more than one part -- design and execution of the plan. Rather than plant selection, the selection shifts to textures, sizes, and other hardscape materials that are appropriate for the job. Just being a skilled craftsman does not qualify one to be a good designer.

    Experience can be very important, as many posts above aptly mention. The question: Is the experience a growth pattern, or the initial skill set repeated many times over? Having 20 years of experience may mean having a great foundation, and continuing to build and grow. Or, 20 years may mean one year of work, repeated 20 times at the same level.
  2. cpllawncare

    cpllawncare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,659

    Maybe off topic a bit but I'm all for licensing and some sort of formal requirements by the state to truly be a "Landscaper" I think it would drive away at least some of the hacks and illegals in the industry. And possibly get the margins up.
  3. BlazersandWildcats2009

    BlazersandWildcats2009 LawnSite Member
    from Houston
    Messages: 197

    It could help to to a degree, but the hacks will always be out there in each and every industry. However, that does not mean you won't benefit from a degree. It's true, people pay for hard work. But put yourself in the customers shoes. Sure, if you know someone that does good work, your going to hire the person that you know does good work. But sometimes in the business world, that's not the scenario. At sometimes you have to earn new clients who know nothing about your work ethics. From a customers eyes, a degree in your line of work on paper, chances our you would win my "bid" if I didn't have a clue on your work ethic. Education goes a long ways, but also taking the right classes such apply. I'm currently taking a speech class for an elective. I could speak effectively with clients in my line of work, but after finishing the class I feel I could speak to customers in a much more professional manner. When it comes to choosing two people, the harder worker wins my bid. But when I'm dealing with two new contractors, the one with the highest education wins. When it comes to talking to me in person, the person that's more professional wins.:dancing:
  4. DA Quality Lawn & YS

    DA Quality Lawn & YS LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,296

    Agree, years of experience is worth WAY more than a 4 year degree. Way more.
    That said, never stop learning whether it is books, trade shows, seminars, etc.
  5. cpllawncare

    cpllawncare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,659

    I wholeheartly agree, I have a degree, and can speak like I know at least a little bit about what I'm doing,LOL. I don't advertise that I have a degree though, so my potential customers wouldn't know anyway, not sure how you would go about that conversation " I have a degree so you should hire me" not sure that would impress too many people these days, all my high end clients have formal education so they wouldn't be impressed I don't think.
  6. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,135

    A degree and then decades of experience to verify all of the book learning is the way to go. I know enough degree holders that are no more than lab rats. On the other hand, I also know too many people who would do well to re learn the business starting with going through the 4 year turfgrass management and ornamentals program at the university.
  7. Trees Too

    Trees Too LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,907

    It certainly can't hurt. But starting out early in life in the biz is also the way to go. If you're not into all the "fancy book learnin'", then go to a Trade/Vocational school and get a certificate. Other credentials you can get are Master Gardener, and Certified Arborist.
  8. ShaneW

    ShaneW LawnSite Member
    Messages: 63

    IMO, business classes will serve you at least as well, if not better. Most LCO businesses fail, not because the owner didn't have a strong enough hort background, but because of a failure to apply basic sound business practices.
  9. Trees Too

    Trees Too LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,907

    Great point! If you're going to be a business owner/manager. There is more to it than having a degree in horticulture, agronomics, and the like. You also need a degree in small business management.

    There is a lot more to the biz than just putting a magnetic sign on a pickup, buying some equipment, and passing out flyers. And calling yourself an LCO!!!!
  10. cpllawncare

    cpllawncare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,659

    Any business is essentially a marketing company, if you don't understand marketing and business mgmnt hang it up.

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