Leaving the rat race.

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by leardriver, Sep 2, 2007.

  1. leardriver

    leardriver LawnSite Member
    Messages: 22

    Well guys, I've finally decided I need to get out of the rat race. Next year I'm going back into the lawn/landscape business. Having been an employee for most of my working life makes me envy the guys who run successful companies. Time for me to do the same!

    I graduated from the University of Georgia in 91 with a degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Just a fancy name for a Human Resources Guy. I always wanted to learn to fly, so I sold my jeep and used the money to get my private pilot certificate. Long story short, I got all of my ratings and commercial certificate and became a flight instructor from 93-96 making about $12,000 a year and waiting tables on the side to make ends meet. In 96 I flew cargo in a DC-3 and in 97 got a job as a copilot flying learjets for a charter company making a whopping $20,000 a year. In 98 I upgraded to a captain and made between $50,000-$70,000 until I left in June of 2001 for my present job. Started as a first officer (copilot) for ASA/Delta Connection making $19,000 and upgraded to captain in 2006. My current pay is about $63,000.

    Many of you are probably asking why I am listing pay. Well, it just goes to show you that not all airline pilots make $200,000 a year and it's a long road. Mostly because the system is based on experience and seniority. Granted 9/11 played a large role in my progression from first officer to captain at my current job, poor management is the real culprit. Don't get me wrong, I love flying airplanes, but I'm tired of being a number in a mismanaged corporation.

    I mowed lawns as a kid and worked on a maintenance crew during the summers while in college. In 2004 I did some pressure washing on the side and in 2005 I started Silverleaf Lawn & Landscape, LLC and built it up to about 30 accounts running a Quick 36 and eventually a 52" Hustler Super Mini Z. In 2006 I had my Redmax 7001 blower and stick edger stolen. I decided not to replace them because I was about to go to class to upgrade to captain and lose my senior schedule as a first officer. So I sold most of my accounts.

    Well, now it's 2007 and I'm itching to get back into business in 2008. My flying schedule should be conducive to running a side business, but eventually I am willing to take a leave of absence from my
    job to build up the business and one day leave my job.

    It took me a long time to figure it out, but I'm an entrepreneur at heart and really enjoy running my own business.

    Sorry for the long post, but that's my crazy story!
  2. leardriver

    leardriver LawnSite Member
    Messages: 22

    Anyone else make the jump from another full-time profession into the industry. I would like to hear your story.
  3. QualityLawnCare4u

    QualityLawnCare4u LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,758

    I hope you do well in your new biz. I like it also but was more or less forced into it from former job being phazed out. I am looking for a new job now to get out of the lawn biz but live in a area not so great for employment or lawncare. Good luck to you! Atlanta should be a lot better than Waycross, Georgia.
  4. leardriver

    leardriver LawnSite Member
    Messages: 22

    Not really a new business, just returning to it. I'm lucky, because Atlanta is a great market for the lawn/landscape business. Long growing season and plenty of busy professionals that don't have time to work in the yard and are willing to pay for quality work. There is plenty of competition, but you can differentiate yourself by doing consistent quality work.
  5. Tim Wright

    Tim Wright LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,034


    You are going to work your tail off and put out a lot of money to equal what you have been making flying the friendly skys on someone elses expenses.

    But, it is better to enjoy what you are doing, than to be making middle class income and misurable (probably misspelled).


    Messages: 18,668

    I think I would find a specialty or niche that doesn't require employees in the beginning. Irrigation repair and service is an example. Need to have some basic knowledge of course. High end yard service with lots of hands on gardening. Perennial gardening is something services fail miserably at in Dallas. You want a niche that captures a unique market. If you get out there and compete with Joe Blow's mow and go you'll miss the airline biz real fast. Good luck, I can tell from your story you have perseverance which is a major ingredient for success.
  7. J Hisch

    J Hisch LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 952

    I couldnt agree more with FIMCO in the above post. Mowing lawns requires alot of equipment and more can be made with less equipment. Especially in the line of Irrigation repair. 2000 bucks and a truck and you are well on your way in irrigation repair/service. folks dont mind paying 65.00-75.00 dollars per hour for irrigation labor. Mowing lawns is how I started my business and quickly found out our crews need to mow alot of lawns per season to keep cash on hand. Solo operations most will tell ya it takes seven days a week to stay in the black all year long. And most who tell you they are solo and doing fine, well we will see as long as they stay healthly and fill like mowing lawns untill age 65. making a living that about all you can do mowing solo. Volume and more volume is the key to generating profits with mowing.
  8. leardriver

    leardriver LawnSite Member
    Messages: 22

    Hey guys, thanks for the input. When I was a first officer in 2005-2006 I was operating solo and built up to 30 properties my first year. I picked up about 12-15 people in the first 2 months by putting out flyers ( by the way this has been a very effective means of marketing for me). I actually had to turn down some business that did not meet my criteria. Don't get me wrong, I believe it is important when starting out in any business to take what you can get to generate cash flow and then weed out the non profitable or pita accounts later, but some of the jobs I turned down just were not something I wanted to take on. You know the type.

    As for equipment. I believe you get what you pay for. I sold my Hustler 52" Super mini z when I stopped mowing in 2006. No sense in letting that kind of mower sit around if it's not being used. I still have my quick 36, Redmax trimmer, enclosed trailer and have replaced the stolen Redmax 7001 blower and edger because I knew I was going to return to the business. I will buy a larger mower when the business dictates.

    I also don't plan on operating solo after the first year. I am well aware of the cost of hiring employees and have discussed this at length with my accountant who is also a pilot with my airline who operates a company called aircrew taxes. This guy is sharp! He worked for Arthur Anderson in the early 90's and has extensive experience with small business accounting. On the legal side, my father was an attorney for 34 years (before retiring) and handles all my legal issues. I plan on getting my pesticide applicators license before spring with the help of another pilot friend of mine who also operates a lawn care business. Last but not least,a former airline pilot friend of mine who operates a commercial window tinting business is helping me with marketing. If you are beginning to see a theme. You are right. I believe it is important to seek advice from people who are experts or successful in their field.
  9. LindblomRJ

    LindblomRJ LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,570

    My advise. Stick with flying airplanes. No equipment to invest in. If ASA does nothing for you, switch. Seems the airline industry is climbing out of the effects of 9-11. I thought flying corperate would be a fine job.

    If you are dead set for a career change. Fimco has some great advise. Find a niche. Seems everyone mows lawns.

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