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5 Questions with Josh Perkins of Plant Studio Landscapes

December 14, 2021 -  By
Photo: Patty Castillo

(Photo: Patty Castillo)

Josh Perkins
President, Plant Studio Landscapes
Muncie, Ind.

1. Tell me about how you got into the business.

I’m a landscape architecture grad from Ball State. I did three internships: one design/build; one in a design-only office; and one in an environmental restoration company. That allowed me to see the business through some different lenses. When I graduated, I went and worked in the northern suburbs of Chicago, which is a fantastic market. We wanted to be closer to family, so we moved back to Muncie, and we started Plant Studio Landscapes six years ago. We’re a landscape maintenance, landscape construction, landscape install (company). Three years ago, we got into doing in-ground pools.

2. What’s a trend that you’re seeing in your area?

Landscape contractors are now pool contractors. We had an opportunity three years ago to get into it … so we got into it a little ahead of COVID. It’s odd to talk about the opportunities COVID brought us. I think we were all scared to death. We shut down for a week. We didn’t know how to manage this or how to handle employees. We just took an abundance of precaution, and then we kept pushing. All of a sudden, we went from ‘We have a couple of pools to build,’ to ‘Our year is sold out.’ The same with next year.

3. What’s your favorite tool in the shop?

The No. 1 thing we use is our Vermeer mini skid-steer. That’s the most valuable piece of equipment that we own, the most bang for the buck. People fight over it. Now we’ve got to get another one. It’s just so handy on every job we do. I had no idea how handy it would be when we bought it.

4. What’s labor like in your area and do you have the workforce you need?

I don’t think anybody has the workforce they need. We have done a better job this year. Culture is the buzzword right now, but we think it’s more than that. We made some changes internally. I grew my business by push, push, push. Don’t whine and complain, just get it done, but I wasn’t focused on my team the way that I should (have been), and I wasn’t listening. The first thing we did, and it was hard, we had to do a little pruning: the guys who didn’t want to work with others or came in late or a variety of problems. As an owner, you’re just looking for bodies, and I was stuck in that cycle. Finally, I said, we have to cut them loose, and we’re going to do what we can with the good guys we have. Within two weeks, we noticed the attitudes change. Once I saw that, I bought in. So then, I focused on how to take care of the good guys we have. We started doing events, breakfasts, lunches, a pool day, a bowling day. Those things have been huge for my team.

5. What is your most memorable day at work?

When I first started my business, I was scared to death. I’ve got a wife and two young kids, and I went from a sales guy with a nice income to, ‘It’s all on me now.’ I remember a business owner told me, ‘In two years, you will have somebody who can run your business for one week, and while you’re away, the world won’t come crashing down.’ I remember taking my first family vacation and being at ease thinking, they can handle this. At times, as owners, we see ourselves as too grandiose when our employees are quite capable. The other one … getting to $1 million seemed like a really big deal. I remember the night I ran the invoices — it was in the middle of the week — I went and got a bottle of champagne and popped the cork. I probably should have waited until Friday because I felt a little rough the next day.

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Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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