Life as a landscape employee

Capt J-rod

LawnSite Senior Member
HVAC, Commercial refrigeration, Plumber pipe fitter, Electrician, Licensed surveyor, something that has to be done by a professional and has to be done in your back yard. The trades are dying on the vine. Never been easier to get an apprenticeship, get paid to learn. Study for your own contractors license and then be ready to jump when the time is right. Side jobs are all cash in the mean time.
 

Jashley73

LawnSite Member
Location
Louisville, KY
Learn welding.
Not the worst idea, really. It's a useful skill, the equipment is cheap, and it can lead to many other things.

I took some community college classes for welding. Saw that they had a machine shop. Took a class, then landed a job at a machine shop. (And I'm still going after 16 years, and a couple opportunities to try other things relating to, and because of my experience in machining.)

But learning the skill, and buying an old stick welder for the garage can pay you back many, many times over the years.


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To the O.P.


I'll say this though - Be deliberate with your college/tech/vocational choice. If you don't know exactly what you want to do post-graduation, that's OK. Get the pre-requisites that you'd need, but then try to focus on the degree/certification that will be useful.




I would also advise you try a job in sales at some point.

I put my machinist's tools down for a few yeas and did B-2-B sales of industrial cutting tools to machine shops & factories. Ultimately, I went back to working in the shop, but those few years focusing on sales was invaluable experience. I learned a fair amount about communication, emotional decision making, psychology related to marketing/sales, sales/business in general, and learned what rejection is all about, and how to deal with it... (Either cut through the objection to get to the truth, or just be OK with being rejected, and don't let it slow you down...)



I would also recommend a few books to read.

1- "How to win friends & influence people" by Dale Carnegie. If this book were required reading, we'd have a much friendlier society. This is a book that should be be-read - or chapters at least - from time to time as well.

2- "The art of money getting" by P.T. Barnum. Short read, and the audio is free/public domain. The title is misleading on purpose. The "art" of money "getting" is actually the "discipline" of money "saving."

This book is invaluable with the financial mindset that it espouses, and the opening line is 100% applicable to lawn & landscape here in the USA. It should also be required reading, and should be re-read from time to time...

3- "Who moved my cheese" by Spencer Johnson, M.D. Short read, super valuable when you have to make a big change in life. At some point life will punch you in the gut, and force you to make a big major life change. Short of the Bible, this book will be the next one I'd recommend after losing a job, etc...

4- "Never split the difference" by Chris Voss. A fascinating story about negotiation & communication. Exceptionally well written, and the audio version is fantastic.
 

Youngandfree

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
VA
Not the worst idea, really. It's a useful skill, the equipment is cheap, and it can lead to many other things.

I took some community college classes for welding. Saw that they had a machine shop. Took a class, then landed a job at a machine shop. (And I'm still going after 16 years, and a couple opportunities to try other things relating to, and because of my experience in machining.)

But learning the skill, and buying an old stick welder for the garage can pay you back many, many times over the years.


---------- --------- ---------- ---------- ----------

To the O.P.


I'll say this though - Be deliberate with your college/tech/vocational choice. If you don't know exactly what you want to do post-graduation, that's OK. Get the pre-requisites that you'd need, but then try to focus on the degree/certification that will be useful.




I would also advise you try a job in sales at some point.

I put my machinist's tools down for a few yeas and did B-2-B sales of industrial cutting tools to machine shops & factories. Ultimately, I went back to working in the shop, but those few years focusing on sales was invaluable experience. I learned a fair amount about communication, emotional decision making, psychology related to marketing/sales, sales/business in general, and learned what rejection is all about, and how to deal with it... (Either cut through the objection to get to the truth, or just be OK with being rejected, and don't let it slow you down...)



I would also recommend a few books to read.

1- "How to win friends & influence people" by Dale Carnegie. If this book were required reading, we'd have a much friendlier society. This is a book that should be be-read - or chapters at least - from time to time as well.

2- "The art of money getting" by P.T. Barnum. Short read, and the audio is free/public domain. The title is misleading on purpose. The "art" of money "getting" is actually the "discipline" of money "saving."

This book is invaluable with the financial mindset that it espouses, and the opening line is 100% applicable to lawn & landscape here in the USA. It should also be required reading, and should be re-read from time to time...

3- "Who moved my cheese" by Spencer Johnson, M.D. Short read, super valuable when you have to make a big change in life. At some point life will punch you in the gut, and force you to make a big major life change. Short of the Bible, this book will be the next one I'd recommend after losing a job, etc...

4- "Never split the difference" by Chris Voss. A fascinating story about negotiation & communication. Exceptionally well written, and the audio version is fantastic.
How to win friends is a great book for anyone in business or even trying to get ahead in their field that deals with people.
 

TYTILIDIE

LawnSite Member
Location
Colorado Springs
Coming from someone who spent tens years as an employee and 17 years as an owner I have a lot of insight for you.

Your main problem as an employee really, is WHERE you work and WHO you work for. If you work for the small guy with big dreams that excite you and YOU are part of his plan, stay with him! However, you have to know that he has what it takes to get you where you want to go. With a guy like you, he just might be able to make that happen. If you start your own thing you should be warned, it is NOT for everyone, no matter how much it pays, no matter how much freedom you think you have, if you build a serious business it isn't just a business, it is a monster, one that WILL eat you if you don't feed it.

The first question I would ask yourself is, do you think that YOU really have the balls, the integrity and the know how to do that AND sustain it? Are you willing to ALWAYS be learning and applying what you have learned? Are you willing to smile in the face of bad fortune when you are constantly paying for employee mistakes, your mistakes, lawsuits, etc.? Most people don't. I would highly recommend that you consider that your body WILL fall apart someday. That is hard to see at your age. If you are in the field and you get seriously injured, more than likely most of your customers are not going to wait for you to heal. That is why it is important to have employees. I hurt my back BADLY when I was 32, I was in my 4th year of business. I was terrified. Needless to say, I HAD to hire people even though I didn't want to. This can happen to anyone at any time.

What I have done however, is built a million dollar company and growing, where I take my star employees and build a plan for them that correlates to our growth. For example, right now I have an irrigation tech who makes $20/hr. He will be getting a raise to about $22 here shortly. That really isn't that impressive. If you want to make good money in our industry you have to be in management. We are teetering on needing to start a 3rd 3 man crew (we have a 4 man and a 2 man crew right now). Once we fire up that 3 man 3rd crew, I will need to split my responsibilities up for my operations manager who makes $70k. This will lead me to make my irrigation tech an Account manager at which he will go from making $25/hr (within the next year) to making about $60-65k salary. Good news for him is, he no longer has to beat himself to death to get ahead. Even though he does enjoy it.

So you see, I have a plan for all of my people. For me, landscaping comes first in the WHY I do what I do but, my close second, becoming my first as I grow is my people. It is amazing to install or maintain a landscape and watch it grow but, nothing can compare to watching your people grow. So, is your boss that kind of guy? If so, I might stay with him. Does he have a plan? Remember, people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan! Are you that guy? Do you love LIABILITY? If yes, then you might be a good fit to start your own thing.

Point here is, if you can see a path to your success then go for whichever one will lead you to accomplish your goals in life, just make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.!
 
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The Green One

LawnSite Member
I am turning 21 in a couple months and have been landscaping since my junior year of high school with a friend who started his company in high school. He has grown the company fairly well having a good amount of residential and commercial properties and connections. I am currently making $18/hr without any benefits.

I was wondering how comfortable is the living being a landscape employee or anyone who still does landscaping as their full time occupation. Is it worth whole sticking around or should I go back to college? Has anyone started a side hustle? I was possibly thinking of starting a stump grinding company for the weekends and winters. Just wanting to know if being a landscape employee is a comfortable occupation to keep.
thankyou


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cold-beer

LawnSite Senior Member
I am turning 21 in a couple months and have been landscaping since my junior year of high school with a friend who started his company in high school. He has grown the company fairly well having a good amount of residential and commercial properties and connections. I am currently making $18/hr without any benefits.

I was wondering how comfortable is the living being a landscape employee or anyone who still does landscaping as their full time occupation. Is it worth whole sticking around or should I go back to college? Has anyone started a side hustle? I was possibly thinking of starting a stump grinding company for the weekends and winters. Just wanting to know if being a landscape employee is a comfortable occupation to keep.
thankyou

Being a a landscaping employee is a step above fast food. It's a job you do when you're a kid, you're a felon, or you're just not a smart guy.

No shame in learning the business for a few years if your plan is to go out on your own, but being a landscaping employee is not a career unless you're management in a bigger outfit. $18 an hour is fine for a kid, but even in a rural area, anything under 50k is not a livable wage in today's world if you want to buy a home, go on vacations, drive a new vehicle etc.


College vs Self employment

DON'T GO TO COLLEGE UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AND IT REQUIRES A COLLEGE EDUCATION.

If you want to be a doctor, engineer or even a teacher, College is a necessity. If you're going with the idea that it will simply lead you down the path to a great unknown career, save your time and money.

A large portion of the people I know (including myself) had to pay off college loans for many years for a piece of paper that only led to a miserable soul crushing job.
In my case, I got a marketing degree that led me to a job as an account manager and eventually a marketing manager for a marketing firm. I made just under 80k a year at that job, and I hated my life. I had no freedom, was treated like dirt, and had to work with angry menopausal women everyday. It was awful, so I had a career change to selling insurance and investments. Once again, the money and benefits were good, but the job had all the same problems as the one I replaced with it and the added stress of insane unreachable quotas.

Eventually, I went back to running a small landscaping maintenance business, which was something I did before I went back to school. It was the best job I ever had and still is. Look, you got to be a real dummy not to be able to make a buck in this business, and it's about the most stress free thing you can do if you keep it small. The draw backs are that it's not a guaranteed paycheck (neither is anything in the corporate world these days either), and benefits like retirement, healthcare, paid vacation etc.

For me, the benefits thing is meaningless because my wife works for the government. I have a great healthcare plan, and she has an incredible retirement plan that allows us to invest my extra income into real estate. We're slowly building a good amount of wealth that will be supplemented by her retirement in about 10 years. She's also European, and a member of the EU, so we will most likely be retiring on the other side of the pond in Malta anyways. My situation is unique and unrealistic for most people. If you're going to hustle for years on end in this business, SAVE YOUR PENNIES FOR A RAINY DAY. Be smart with your money and get ahead early in life. Buy a home when your in your 20's instead of that brand new truck or taking girls out to dinner every and partying weekend If you can do this, self employment is amazing because it gives you a level of freedom you just don't get from a 9-5. I can tell you straight up that almost all of my friends and aqaintences that are self employed are happier that those that are working for the man, and there's a mountain of statistics that parrot this with the general population.

My two cents. You're young and have a lot of options, but just remember, you're going to be 40 years old and needing to have life somewhat figured out in the blink of an eye. If you kick azz now, by the time your my age you'll own your home outright and be texting your crew chief from Costa Rica in November inquiring how the fall clean ups are going. Very few of us get to do that because we get a late start at all this. Just remember there's a lot of opportunity out there if you're motivated.











90
 
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another member

LawnSite Member
Location
Central VA
Wow, so many people here have attended the same school I did: school of trades/school of hard knocks.

First and foremost; if you're going to college, go STEM. We don't need more liberal arts majors. Otherwise, go trades. Tradesmen have far greater chance to own a business and buy a home, which is the real path to wealth. Starting a job out of college with a fancy degree, car payments, an expensive mortgage, and some serious tuition debt will leave you hitting 40 with ulcers, aches and pains from being stuck at a desk, and hating people simply because office environments are soul-crushing pits of despair.

The trades are how a middle class came to be in the first place, only back then it was guilds, journeymen, and master craftsmen, not unions.

I spent 8 years working for Uncle Sam on submarines, spent another 8 working at Sears as a home service tech fixing literally anything from air conditioners to mowers, table saws to TVs. Did construction after that (trim carpenter so good money). Somewhere along the way I bought a house, another house, went through a few divorces, and now my Day Job is software support/data management with ZERO college. It can be done- just gotta prove an ability to learn. However, I never really got ahead (and not because of divorces)... I simply was never an "owner" until that last job as an "office worker". Well, the software company I worked for was bought out, and we were an ESOP (employee owned) and I was fully vested.

Now I'm 52, building House #4 out-of-pocket, (#1 and #2 did not survive the divorces) and we're looking at retiring in 3 years and living quite comfy. My wife is there, too, and we have a side-hustle helping a buddy when he overbooks or just drops the ball. What's my point?

We have a shortage of STEM majors and tradesmen/women. People with experience in the field who get a degree in- for example- Mechanical Engineering, earth sciences such as Soil chemistry/turf management, or Civil Engineering will have several legs up on the lib-arts majors joining the workforce. Heck, ask my plumber- he's doing extremely well and paying helpers $1000 -$1600 weekly after taxes/benefits because it took him a long time to find good help that can
a: stay sober/clean
b: show up on time
c: pay attention and learn a trade
d: be able to drive legally

Nothing wrong with college. But don't go to college because you can. Go with a purpose, stick to it and follow through. Otherwise, go tradesmen, learn a real skill, and become self-employed.
 

JawT

LawnSite Member
Wow, so many people here have attended the same school I did: school of trades/school of hard knocks.

First and foremost; if you're going to college, go STEM. We don't need more liberal arts majors. Otherwise, go trades. Tradesmen have far greater chance to own a business and buy a home, which is the real path to wealth. Starting a job out of college with a fancy degree, car payments, an expensive mortgage, and some serious tuition debt will leave you hitting 40 with ulcers, aches and pains from being stuck at a desk, and hating people simply because office environments are soul-crushing pits of despair.

The trades are how a middle class came to be in the first place, only back then it was guilds, journeymen, and master craftsmen, not unions.

I spent 8 years working for Uncle Sam on submarines, spent another 8 working at Sears as a home service tech fixing literally anything from air conditioners to mowers, table saws to TVs. Did construction after that (trim carpenter so good money). Somewhere along the way I bought a house, another house, went through a few divorces, and now my Day Job is software support/data management with ZERO college. It can be done- just gotta prove an ability to learn. However, I never really got ahead (and not because of divorces)... I simply was never an "owner" until that last job as an "office worker". Well, the software company I worked for was bought out, and we were an ESOP (employee owned) and I was fully vested.

Now I'm 52, building House #4 out-of-pocket, (#1 and #2 did not survive the divorces) and we're looking at retiring in 3 years and living quite comfy. My wife is there, too, and we have a side-hustle helping a buddy when he overbooks or just drops the ball. What's my point?

We have a shortage of STEM majors and tradesmen/women. People with experience in the field who get a degree in- for example- Mechanical Engineering, earth sciences such as Soil chemistry/turf management, or Civil Engineering will have several legs up on the lib-arts majors joining the workforce. Heck, ask my plumber- he's doing extremely well and paying helpers $1000 -$1600 weekly after taxes/benefits because it took him a long time to find good help that can
a: stay sober/clean
b: show up on time
c: pay attention and learn a trade
d: be able to drive legally

Nothing wrong with college. But don't go to college because you can. Go with a purpose, stick to it and follow through. Otherwise, go tradesmen, learn a real skill, and become self-employed.
Good advice regarding being sober and on time and being able to drive and pay attention.
No need to focus on science and math. All US schools have been jamming that down the pipe for a couple decades now and it's not working. I used to teach at a university where 25% of the freshman class at one point declared "business" as their major. They can't all be owners and managers, as they'll find out soon enough.

If we had more emphasis on the humanities, we might finally end up with a few scientists and engineers who stop and think before forging ahead. If you don't learn to study the arts and humanities then you don't care about humans. Then we end up with booksmart idiots who invent crap like social media, as let it destroy human connections and tear society apart. But it's a great business! That's all that matters to someone who only learns science and math. The math nerds cut funding to public education and cut out the art classes, in the name of cutting taxes and propping up huge corporations. Then they're surprised when nobody has any empathy or sense of justice anymore.

We need creative people. Every story and every tv show and song you've ever loved has come from someone dedicated to art. The artists invented rock and roll, the single most influential innovation in the history of mankind. Without great art, life is not worth living.

If you're actually good at math, go for it. But take a few Shakespeare classes on the side.
 

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