I have been monitoring this site for about 6 years, but have not posted, just read. I would like to tell everyone how great I believe this site is. I am in a period in life where I desperately need some personal questions answered, and business has been a learning experience like I never imagined. I will give my story, and then I will ask my questions. I apologize for the long post in advance... I am 30 years old, from a smaller town in the Carolinas. I am married (almost six years) and have a 4-year-old little girl. I have an associates degree in Mechanical Engineering, and an Associates degree in Engineering Graphics. I was an engineer for approx. 6 years out of technical college, and I have worked in retail, high-end sales, machine design, tool and die, and have general knowledge in a variety of smaller fields. Working in the design/eng. fields, I started hating the corporate world, the politics, the day-to-day BS. I went to a smaller company and found it to be similar in more ways than you would believe, so I went into sales because everyone around me says my personality lends itself to sales. People are supposedly drawn to me in an unusually trustworthy manner, although I am not sure why. I worked for a company that sold the movie theater rooms like you would see on Cribs. Big film screens, seating, upwards of $60,000 per room. It was fun, and I was a good salesman, making it to the top of 5 guys within 2 years in sales, and having no previous experience. Then the company changes to a retail environment, with retail hours, Saturdays, and my family was feeling the ripple of my unhappiness. Then, I like so many others on here, decided that I wanted to "be my own boss", and I was tired of working for someone else, making someone else all the profit. I decided to start a Landscaping business because I had side projects from friends, and others, and had interest in landscaping since I was 15. I had the mentality that as long as I could make as good of a living as I was making at all the other BS jobs, and I could call my own shots, I would be happy...I do not have to tell some of you where this is going, but for others, I will finish. I am about to turn 31 years old, and I made a decision that I need to evaluate some things about my business before I spend more time than I need to do the wrong thing. Most importantly, I realized that my company is my "job" and not my "business". I have to be there almost 75% of the time, and that was not my intention. I decided to start educating myself more on money and business, and less on how to install irrigation. The results have floored me. Over the last six months (winter is really slow here) I have read several books that have totally changed my viewpoint on life itself, both in business, and in my personal life. I have recommended these books to every single person in my life that I care for, because of the impact they have had on me. The list of books for your reference is: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie (Author) Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert T. Kiyosaki (Author) Why We Want You to be Rich: Two Men - One Message by Donald J. Trump (Author), Robert T. Kiyosaki (Author) Seven Secrets of Great Entrepreneurial Masters: The GEM Power Formula For Lifelong Success by Allen E. Fishman (Author) Guerrilla Marketing: Secrets for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business (Guerrilla Marketing) (Paperback) by Jay Conrad Levinson (Author) This brings me to the questions that I have from the Business side of my dilemma. I feel like the first thing I need to do is evaluate some sort of statistics on my area. Populations, incomes, spending, habits, etc. to get a better feel for my market. How do I find out all I can about the population and market in my area? How do I know how to measure what my business could actually make, if I do not know how much is out there being spent right now on landscaping? Problem number 2...My market. How can I truly measure what my profit margins on installations are so I know what kind of jobs I should try to get. I think there is more money working with builders on new construction installs, with higher profit margins on plants, mulch, irrigation, plus less traveling because you are at one job site the majority of the week. We can successfully complete irrigation, 100 shrubs, few trees, 30 yds. mulch, 9000 ft. of sod in a 5-day work week (5 guys during season). That is pretty much a house a week (if we had that much business). Grass is a lot of loading and unloading, and the crew's labor really raises the cost per hour of the grass cutting side of the business. I am aware that I have not really given any specifics on my business, but I am trying to get some of the clutter out of my head onto paper. For reference, last year was year #2 and the company had roughly $110,000 Total Gross, $65,000 GP, and $20,000 net. I am not even sure how to tell if this is good for a second year business. I took no salary all year, as my wife has taken on the financial responsibility of our normal lives so that I might find us a better life one day through business ventures down the road. She's wonderful to me, and I have had a horrible time emotionally with the winter months. The fact is that I have been working to pay my way since I was 14, and now I feel guilty because my wife is "keeping me up". I often wonder if the Landscaping business is ever going to provide a decent income for my family. We have made the decision to take our future into our own hands. We know that the luxuries all of our friends are enjoying now, are not an option for us until we get some passive income coming in from investments. The plan has shifted, and now any income generated by the company will be invested in some sort, real estate, IRA, or other business ventures that have a low start up, high profitability. I feel like the "big picture potential" of my business ventures has been limited. Maybe I will change my company to a non-profit organization that is involved in Global Warming efforts somehow. Maybe I will have to use the investments and Landscaping is a stepping-stone. I am constantly looking for LEVERAGE. I am going to be successful in business, but I am not too proud to know that it will take a strong support group of people to get me where I want to be. I need to continue learning, and asking people who know is the best way to do this. I am asking for ANY and all advice (please keep it serious) that you guys can offer me, business related, other business ideas from your area, researching methods, marketing ideas, tax advice, etc. Does anyone recommend using a business planning/consulting group, or growing large scale vs. staying smaller. Also anyone going through the entrepreneurial struggles of trying to be successful, please advise me on the lessons that you have learned so that I can achieve my goals. I will gladly answer any and all questions you all have if I can be of service to you in any way. I also am sure you will have questions because this post has been all over the place. I apologize again for the length and boring details. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME.