Editor’s Note: It’s time to make an effort to welcome industry newcomers

May 9, 2016 -  By

palmieriThere’s a memorable scene in the classic holiday comedy “Home Alone” when the mom, played by Catherine O’Hara, says, “This is Christmas. The season of perpetual hope!”

While many people would agree with her, my exposure to the landscape industry makes me think of this time of year—spring—as the season of 
perpetual hope.

Think of all the new businesses getting off the ground (or attempting to). All the people going out on their own to be their own boss. All the new (and used) trucks on the road.

Many readers like to refer to these newbies as “low-ballers” or “fly-by-nighters.” And many of them probably are—at least for now.

Take the kid, David, who recently posted on my community’s Facebook page. He introduced himself as a senior at the local high school and posted the following message:

“Since the weather has turned for the better, I am posting to see if anyone needs any yard work/lawn care done. I have worked for many people over the past couple of years and can provide references as requested. I can provide almost any service, such as weeding, edging, trimming, mulching, mowing, yard cleanup and much more.”

When pressed for his rates in the comments, he offered up $10 to $12 an hour. When asked about gutter cleaning he said he could do it, “but I would have to use one of your ladders because I can not fit one in my car.”

I could only imagine the criticism he’d take if he posted something like that on one of the green industry forums or Facebook groups. But instead of ridicule, what if we gave newcomers like this young man 
support? What if we thought of them as “future professionals” rather than “undercutting competitors?” What if an industry veteran reached out to him and offered to take him to a state association meeting? Or offered to take him out for coffee to talk business and offer some advice?

So many of the people I’ve interviewed for LM articles over the years—including Mark Leahy, the lawn care operator with a $5.3 million business on the cover of this issue—talk about starting out as a kid to make some extra money. (Mark even bought his first car with his mowing earnings before he had a driver’s license.)

In fact, stories like this are part of the fabric of the industry. I wish I had some data to back me up, but I’d guess they are the rule among successful companies rather than the exception. I also wish there were data to show how many attempted “lawntreprenuers” decided they didn’t like running their own businesses but realized they could make a good living, doing the work they liked to do, by working for someone else.

With a labor shortage upon us and a younger generation among us that supposedly isn’t keen on hard work, when we see someone eager to enter the industry, no matter their knowledge or background, let’s see it as a sign of perpetual hope—and offer to help them out.

I, for one, messaged David and said I could connect him with local landscape companies if he decides he’d rather cut his teeth working for someone else. Or, if not, I let him know where he could get a subscription to LM.

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About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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