Sitting in a Burger King sipping on an ice coffee early one recent morning I watched two young men working on the property at a small family-owned restaurant across the way.
The site contained some greenery apart from the asphalt parking that typically dominates such properties. Six or seven shrubs (just shrubs) populated the front of the restaurant, several on either side of its entrance. A narrow strip of grass, about five feet wide or so, framed the site on three sides.
The two young men, both dressed in jeans and non-descript, sleeveless t-shirts, worked industriously on what little greenery there was. One raced a Toro zero-turn up the narrow band of lawn, while his partner, a STIHL unit on his back, blew the clippings off the asphalt. The pair's purposeful activity, including the commercial-grade equipment, suggested to me that they knew the drill.
. . . But, who were they I wondered?
Having lived in this northwest Ohio community of about 6,000 souls almost all of my adult life I figured I knew about all of the "landscapers" in the region. But, I couldn't recall ever seeing them before. They looked like so many other similar operators in my neighborhood. No company uniforms, not even an identifying t-shirt. Apart from the loaded landscape trailer, their older red Ford F-150 pickup offered not a single clue to suggest that it was a commercial vehicle.
Being merely an interested watcher, I had no reason to question if it was a legitimate business. A business owned by one or perhaps both of them? Partners? Or, perhaps they worked for a larger operation. I took in the scene just as I saw it: two young guys, somewhere between the ages of 19 and 23 out busting their humps on what promised to be one of the hottest days of the summer.
Yes, it's probably easy for more experienced company owners, especially those that compete for some of these same smaller properties and at approximately the same level, to see these tiny operators as industry interlopers. And, to be honest, I also had to check my immediate impulse to view them in that light - which might have been generous given their appearance.
Shedding the "muscle" shirts while on the job, and wearing, if not uniforms, at least matching company shirts would have helped remove any doubt I might have had about them being fly-by-nighters. Similarly, a nice company logo, with telephone number and website on the side of their truck would, it seemed to me, be a wise move.
At least in my mind, looking the part of professionals would be a big stop toward lifting them a notch or two above many of the other small, almost indistinguishable "grass cutters" rattling up down the quiet streets in my small community.