A landscaper’s best advice

Departments - Editor's Insight

January 9, 2014
Chuck Bowen
Editor's Notebook
Chuck Bowen

Just after the show last year, I got an email from Dylan Stapp. He’s a 17-year-old junior at Holy Cross High School in Louisville, and he runs the eponymous Stapp’s Lawn Care.

He wants to learn more about both the business and technical side of things, and get off to a good start.

“I’m looking at a few different ways: I’ve looked at business school, turf management degrees and also landscape design degrees. What is your opinion on what I should go do to be successful?” he wrote me. “I’m very passionate about lawn care and want to run a successful company.”

It was heartening to get a message like that, especially as I’d been on the road for what felt like weeks and had just heard dozens of contractors and educators lamenting the future of the next generation of landscapers.

The labor picture isn’t rosy, but Dylan’s a living, breathing example of someone who’s excited to get involved in the business. Here’s what I told him:

1. Read Lawn & Landscape every month. (A shameless plug, yes, but I only recommend the best.) You can get us on your iPad or iPhone, or at www.lawnandlandscape.com. We profile owners and share best practices that will come in handy as you grow.

2. Attend your state’s annual trade show/turf conference. You’ll be able to meet other owners and talk to them about how they got started.

3. Call up the biggest or most popular contractors in your hometown. Most folks in the industry started out just like you, and are happy to offer their advice to someone making his way.

4. Just get started. The barriers to entry are so low that you can start doing landscaping. Practice at your house or your friends’ houses, offer to do work cheap for neighbors so you can practice.

5. Focus on the business side of landscaping, not just design or horticulture. Both are important, but a solid understanding of how a business operates and turns a profit will serve you better than any number of soil science classes.

I think what I told Dylan was pretty good, but I’m interested to hear what you think. What advice would you give him? What do you wish someone had told you when you started in the business?

Send them to me at cbowen@gie.net and I’ll pass them on to Dylan and run them in a future edition of Lawn & Landscape so other new owners (or old hands who maybe could use a reminder) can learn something, too. 

– Chuck Bowen