I get asked a lot from people who do landscaping on the side when they should quit their jobs and go full time into landscaping. First, you will never really be ready, so remember that. Otherwise there are many things to consider, way too many for me to cover in just one column. But I could shed a little light on the subject with a story about how my company was started.
My dad was a part-time landscaper all of his life until one day he went to work at his “real” job and they told him his position was being moved to Chicago. He could keep his job if he wanted to go to Chicago or he would have no job. He opted to stay in Cleveland and do what he always wanted to do: start a landscape business. You see, my dad wasn’t really ready to start his business until he was forced to at the age of 49.
My father was definitely a landscape technician; he didn’t want anything to do with paperwork, phone calls, organizing, planning, budgeting or even collecting money. I actually remember customers coming up to me when we first started and being upset because they never received a bill from us. My dad wanted to be a landscaper; he didn’t want to deal with all of that other “stuff.” He wanted to cut grass, plant trees, design beds and trim shrubs.
I started working for my dad almost from the start. After a few years, I was getting sick of everyone complaining about not receiving their bills or getting their phone calls returned, as well as other administrative issues. I wasn’t really planning on being a landscaper anyway, I was just going to help out for a while until the whole rock star thing panned out, then I would travel the world melting people’s faces off with my awesome guitar playing. Of course, that didn’t work out. But I also had another passion: business. I always thought it would be cool to run a company and be an entrepreneur.
One day I went to my dad and told him I wanted to get out of the field and take care of the business end of the company. I would start with one day a week and do all the billing, pay the vendors, set up our accounting software and answer phone calls from customers. I would also set up a budget, organizational chart and work on the company image, logo and website. Someone just had to take over the “business” or there would be no more business.
The bottom line here is that you have to be ready to be both a business person and a landscaper at the same time. Luckily for me and my dad we had each other, but most people have to do it all themselves when they start out. So, among other things you have to be willing to wear a lot of hats and they won’t all say “landscaper.” Now, are you ready?