Oh to be “young” again.
Sometime around junior year of high school, a friend of mine asked if I was interested in a job working for a local company called “John’s Lawn Service”. The friend of mine knew John from his church, and he was looking for his replacement as he had decided to take a different job. I was 17 years old, and had various jobs already since I was legally allowed to work (not including working for friends and family on farms, in their yards, …etc). So I said “Yea that sounds good. When do I start?”. Andy said John would like to meet me first, but he thought I would be a great fit. That was the first thing I learned from John – you should probably meet prospective employees, before you hire them (shocking right?!).
When I arrived at John’s Lawn Service headquarters (which also happened to be his home), he and his wife came outside to introduce themselves and we chatted, and he quickly let me know that he would be glad to give me a job and I can show up the next day to start. This experience – a referral from a friend, who met a guy at his church, who needed to hire, and invited me to his home for an interview – is the foundation of how small lawn care companies hire today. And it works.
What followed (and continues to this day), is a professional relationship, in an industry that is diverse, dynamic, and serves the consumer markets, as well as commercial, institutional, industrial, and municipal. What started that day, was an opportunity to learn from an experienced (mid career) entrepreneur. He made a living good enough to live a “good life”. His client’s always paid. Most of the time he didn’t work nights or weekends. John was a lawn care professional, his own boss, and he just hired me to be his helper. I really didn’t care about job titles at the time. I hadn’t entered that world yet. I worked for John while I attended community college, then off and on through undergraduate school. I didn’t realize it yet, but I would return to this industry after going to college, and working in my field for 10 years. John knew what lawn care was. He was Level 5 – Expert. His client’s didn’t shop. Much of his business was referrals, so no traditional marketing required. “The work sells itself” he once told me.
Most readers are thinking at this point that I learned how to cut grass. And I did, that is true. That was only the surface level of lawn care as I would realize. For example, cutting grass without a skilled weed whacking, is like cereal without the milk, or spaghetti without the sauce. And by the way – what height should the grass be cut at? Do you have a liability insurance policy? Are the blades sharp? Did you leave clumps in the yard or on the sidewalks? Did you “lay stripes”? Finally – how to do communicate to the client? Ah ha. Maybe lawn care is mostly about the service? Or, maybe the client is confident because of how you present yourself? Like so much in life, it depends.
Lawn Care is a home service where you enter property with permission, and it is a multibillion dollar industry nationwide and globally. Some would say it is for the “unskilled”. That couldn’t be further from the truth. And I’m going to tell you why. I just haven’t decided where to begin, so I started as far back as I could remember. But now that I think about it, I should probably go back to where most people are formed. My childhood. Who am I? What kind of person ends up here? Until then, enjoy your yard, enjoy the outdoors, and take notice of all the “Lawn Care” professionals all around us. See you again in Part 2.