Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Columns - Devil's Advocate

Regrets, I’ve had a few. I think we all have. I called a few of you to uncover your woulda, coulda, shoulda moments.

July 9, 2009
Pat Jones

Pat JonesI’m a sucker for old movies. Unless I’m tuned to ESPN or Discovery, I’m usually watching Turner Classic Movies. (Side Note No. 1: Ted Turner launched the channel because he wanted to be able to watch “Gone With the Wind” and “Casablanca” without a bunch of commercials. It’s good to be the king.)

The other night, I was watching “A Guy Named Joe,” a great old Spencer Tracy flick where he plays a dead pilot who comes back as a ghost to help trainee World War II pilots learn to fly. He takes an impossibly young Van Johnson under his wing and turns him into a stud pilot. Action, romance and hijinks ensue. (Side Note No.2: The movie was remade as “Always” in 1989. Sucked.)

As the movie progressed, I kept thinking how cool it would have been to fly a fighter plane back in the 1940s. I’m sitting on the couch on my 47-year-old butt thinking, “I coulda learned to fly and been like one of those guys.” Sigh. Another regret heaped on the pile that seems to come with middle age and the realization that so much is now behind me.

It’s strange how often thoughts of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” creep into your cranium more often as your waist widens and your hairline heads north faster than Santa Claus after a tough Christmas Eve.

As I mused that I coulda been a pilot, I thought about other missed opportunities. I wish I woulda scared up $40,000 and bought my buddy’s old farmhouse out in the country years ago. It sold for more than $1 million when a developer put up a bunch of McMansions nearby.

I think sometimes I shoulda stayed in law school and become a successful attorney instead of pursuing a silly dream to write for a living. (Sidenote No. 3: That said, I probably would have put a bullet in my head by now if I’d had to practice legal scumbaggery for a living.)

Regrets, I’ve had a few. I think we all have. I called a few of you to uncover your woulda, coulda, shoulda moments.

  • I wish I had not accepted B and C performers because I could not find an A performer (or did not want to go through the pain of firing and re-training new people).  I have accepted mediocrity and that has affected the quality of our work, my business and my life.  We are a smaller company in 2009, but while we will do less business, with A players we will likely realize a similar profit and I have fewer headaches. – Andy Blanchford, Blanchford Landscape Contractors
  • We should have put less emphasis on new construction (landscape installation) and more on maintenance. We have always been a full-service landscape management firm at heart but allowed ourselves to get caught up in commercial landscape installation as the economy was cranking, fully aware it would not last forever. – Tom Fochtman, CoCal Landscape
  • Poor hiring decisions have set me back more than anything else. – Tom Heaviland, Heaviland Enterprises
  • I regret not having set up policies, procedures and systems sooner.  We have run by the seat of our pants since we started our business and just a few years ago we realized we needed to take a serious approach to this problem. We have had to un-teach the old stuff and re-teach these new systems we are implementing and it has been hard to break old habits. – Benton Foret, Chackbay Nursery & Landscaping, Foret Land and Tree
  • I would have developed a stronger marketing and branding program. We never experienced a lack of work and got lazy. We have recently completed a thorough marketing assessment and are instituting new methods to reach our “ideal” potential customers. – Bob Wade, Wade Landscape
  • In the past we have made some of our hiring and promoting decisions based on future anticipated need, rather than actual present need. While this is a hard balance to strike, nowadays I see the importance of being conservative in such actions without selling short the future growth opportunities of the organization. – Kurt Bland, Bland Landscaping Co.
  • The most important thing would have been to pay more attention to the future. The history of any successful long-term business is one of anticipation of the future. Every business should be thinking cutting edge and have a plan for survival if there are factors beyond one’s control. – Joe Cialone, industry nursery consultant
  • I wish I’d found a mentor earlier … and saved more cash! – Matt Noon, Noon Landscape

See, even the best of the best have regrets and their own woulda, coulda, shoulda moments. I’m curious to hear how you’d change the past if you could jump in the time machine and hit the reset button on life. In fact, let’s talk about it. Log onto to lawnandlandscape.com’s forum to share your ideas. I’ll be waiting there for you.