What do you do?

Departments - Editor's Insight

October 4, 2013
Chuck Bowen
Editor's Notebook
Chuck Bowen

Here’s a scene that plays out every few weekends: I’m on my back deck/in a kitchen/at a bar for a birthday/housewarming/party. Whoever I’m talking to asks what I do. “Oh, I’m a magazine editor,” I say.

“Wow,” he says. “That’s pretty cool. What magazine?”

“It’s a trade magazine for landscapers.”

“Oh,” he says. And I can tell in his tone and his furtive glance toward the cooler/bathroom/bartender that he expected me to say something like Esquire or Rolling Stone or Golf Digest.

“It is pretty cool,” I say.

Explaining what I do every day is easy, but it’s not always what people expect. The same thing is true for you all. You might call yourself a certified landscape professional or a lawn care operator or, simply, a landscaper.

Before I joined L&L, I worked for PCT, our sister publication that serves the professional pest management industry. Not exterminators or bug guys or anything else. Pest management professionals. The structural pest control industry has made a big push to rebrand itself this way, to portray its members as guardians of public health and, for the most part, it’s worked.

As a writer, I like the term exterminator. It’s direct. I say it and you can picture it right away. But there’s a negative connotation to it that you can’t deny. That picture is more often than not dirty and grimy and smelly. But that’s why I like landscaper: It’s clear. It tells you what someone does. The green industry is a doing industry and the people who work in landscaping companies do landscaping – they plant flowers and install trees and cut grass.

Landscape industry certified manager sure is a technocratic way of saying landscaper. Don’t get me wrong, I think certification and licensure for any and all facets of the industry are good things. It’s not fancy: It helps consumers determine who’s reliable in a vast sea of pick-up trucks and polo shirts. But just like any name, if you say it the right way it sounds like an insult. Someone who doesn’t appreciate the industry or the work you do says, “He’s a landscaper” like there’s a silent just a at the beginning.

Whatever you call yourself and your employees when someone asks, you should say it proudly. I say this a lot, but won’t ever get tired of it: Landscapers do very cool, very important work. Not only do you get to install and maintain beautiful projects, make people happy and get instant gratification for the job, but you improve the environment and the health of everyone around you. You make the world a better place.

That’s what you do. That’s what a landscaper does.

– Chuck Bowen