Ben Collister

Departments - Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight brings you the perspectives of horticulture students and insights into the future of the industry.

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October 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of Ben Collister

The month of December could play an important role in Ben Collister’s life if everything goes as planned. The sophomore at Delaware Valley University in Pennsylvania is slated to graduate in December of 2021, and would one day like to open a Christmas Tree farm/nursery.

“I’ve always been interested in Christmas trees,” says Collister, who won the Richard Foster Award, a scholarship available to outstanding students planning careers in the landscape, lawn care or horticulture business. “We’ve always had real Christmas trees growing up and that’s always been something that my dad’s wanted to do.”

While the Christmas tree goal is more long-term, the drive to diversify his father’s company, Collister Landscape Maintenance in Pennsylvania, is more urgent. As he works part-time at the company, he’s envisioned adding design/build to its service portfolio.

That makes sense, being that he is majoring landscape design/build.

“This is laying the foundation – getting my degree here and then I definitely need to add employees,” he says.

He’s also interested into branching out into commercial work.

“I just enjoy bigger properties,” he says. “I also feel like it’s a lot more profitable – less drive time between properties.”

Collister has an entrepreneurial specialization, which is similar to a minor, in business. Taking those classes will come in handy since he hopes to eventually take on a managerial role at the company.

“There’s quite a few business classes that are part of that – principles of marketing class, I have a management concepts class, business law,” he says.

One lesson he has learned that a lot of landscapers struggle with is the balance between working on the business versus working in one.

“Eventually, I’d like to move into more of a management type position where I oversee stuff and have more people that can be out there in the field,” he says. “Because it’s pretty hard to grow a business if you’re out in the field all day, every day. You can’t be focused on marketing and selling and meeting with clients, all that type of thing.”

And he knows to do that, you need to develop talent to take on the day-to-day tasks.

“Another personal goal is to develop a great team of salespeople, crew leaders and crew members. Developing this type of team will allow me to both achieve my professional goals as well as my personal goal of moving into a management position,” he wrote in his submission essay.

One takeaway from his college courses, which will help him as enters a management role, is how much networking plays an important role in business.

“I didn’t really realize how powerful that can before coming to school here,” he says.

As Collister gets closer to his graduation date, he’s going to take in all he can while at school.

“We have some pretty great professors, teaching all the courses that have had real world experience, whether that be through owning their business or working for other larger companies,” he says. “They’ve been here a long-time teaching this, so they really know the material.”