Ariana Carlson

Owner, Yachats Yardscapes and Stone + Fern Northwest

Ariana Carlson is an active member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals Women in Landscape Network (powered by Bayer) which provides a forum for industry professionals to support each other’s professional growth. The Network is free to all industry professionals.
Photo courtesy of Ariana Carlson

As one of the few female landscape contractors offering design/build services on the Oregon Coast and also as the sole breadwinner for my household, the pressure can seem like it’s always on. I often used to find myself answering client communications at all hours of the night and day and still couldn’t keep up with everything. Something had to change.

I’m someone who likes to get a lot accomplished in a day, and I absolutely love my job — the opportunity to build something beautiful that others will enjoy for years to come, and that I feel proud of, is one of my favorite things in life. But I wanted to spend more time with my children and friends, and my commitment to running a business that offered prompt, accurate communication and reasonable turn-around times was hindered by how much I was trying to do.

Being overwhelmed, tired, or always busy means you’re less likely to have time to communicate clearly and effectively with your staff, vendors and clients, which costs your business money and can affect the reputation of your business over time.

Those of us who face additional barriers in the industry such as skin color, gender or presumed age/youth often feel we need to work harder to make the same progress others may naturally experience. Here’s what I’ve found helps me run my businesses in a way that works better for our vendors, employees, clients and myself.

1. Hire people you trust and who understand the ethics with which you run your business.

It can and will save your business thousands. Or, it might even save your business. Find a way to afford to pay someone to do the things that suck your soul dry and take your attention away from what you need to be doing — nurturing your business. Take care of your business and it will take care of you.

2. Have solid contracts.

It costs less than $1,000 to have a licensed attorney look over your contract to make sure it protects you (less if you go through Legal Aid). Your business is your livelihood. Well-written contracts protect your future. Consider adding a clause about expected client behavior to your contracts. Choose a business structure that protects YOUR interests.

3. Develop well-thought-out SOPs.

They can be time-consuming to create, but what they save you in headaches, lost time and late nights is worth it. Hire someone to write them if you have to. It’s money well spent. SOPs cut down on miscommunication between clients, vendors, management and staff, which benefits everyone, and saves you money.

4. Play to your strengths.

I was a member of the Planning Commission in the small coastal town in which I lived when I founded my first landscape company. That experience gave me insight into variances, lot lines and other knowledge that relates directly to my career. If a prospective client mentioned how young I looked during an initial bid (which happened frequently), I would bring up my involvement in city government or my volunteer work with charitable organizations. I also advertise that my business is woman-owned, which is a HUGE selling point.

5. Face your challenges.

If you think an employee, vendor or client isn’t taking you seriously because of your age, gender, skin color, or some other factor, you may have to stand up for yourself (always do so in a way that keeps you safe). It can be difficult at first, but it’s necessary. You will get used to holding boundaries and speaking up for what you and your business require. Your business will benefit from you choosing to be brave, and so will our industry.

Women in LANDSCAPING is a column brought to you in partnership with the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

May 2022
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