December 1, 2019

Lessons learned

Landscape pros share business knowledge they learned the hard way

Guy Dowhy

Solve their problems

Guy Dowhy, Owner of Dowhy Design & Landscapes
Winnipeg, Man.

My biggest lesson is when I learned the answer to every client request is, “Yes we can.” We are often the last contractor in, following a new build or renovation, and the client just wants to know we can solve their problems — and that they don’t need to worry about it. Our staff knows the answer to a client request is, “I’m sure that won’t be a problem, I’ll let the supervisor know.” We may be landscape contractors, but ultimately we need to specialize in customer service.

Derek Lippert

Plant a tree let it grow

Derek Lippert, Owner of Quiet Nature
Ayr, Ont.

Business is a long-game. Once you decide to start taking things seriously, it is a multi-year journey to growing and developing your business, and it can’t all be done at once. You have to be patient. Just when you think you have one thing figured out, there is no time to sit back and relax because the next element of your business will be in desperate need of attention. It’s also a journey of personal growth and development. I don’t think that you can grow a business to any scale without also being willing to develop your own mindset, patterns, and habits.

Brad Saugstad

Remember your purpose

Brad Saugstad, Owner of Terraform Landscaping
Squamish, B.C.

I was fortunate to learn a lot about the business from my boss at the company I worked for before starting Terraform. He was really an inspiration; he told me that it would be tough, and he told me I needed to charge more for the work I was doing. But there are some things you need to learn for yourself. What’s the purpose of working hard to build a business? It can be hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance when you’re running a business, but if that’s what is important to you, you need to make that balance a priority.

John Verhey

Walk the walk

John Verhey, Owner of Limestone Trail Classic Garden Structures
Beamsville, Ont.

After spending many long, hot summers working in a welding shop, I graduated from college with a Civil Engineering degree. I was fortunate to quickly find a job in construction while the economy was in a deep recession. Since then, my career has navigated through various industry sectors — construction, steel fabrication, automation, material handling and manufacturing. Somewhere along the road, it became very apparent that my passion was in entrepreneurship and pursuing exciting opportunities and ventures. The biggest lesson I have learned in my career is; your integrity is your greatest asset. Your job, project, team, term or business can change and pass by — but you are only remembered for who you are, and you are only bringing yourself to the next event. ‘Do what you say you are going to do.’ The precursor is to listen.

Mark Bowering

Scale pace and standards

Mark Bowering, Owner of Bowering Gardens, St. John’s, Nfld. 
You can’t just jump into a $100,000 job when you’re starting out. As you get better and the more mature your company gets, the better quality your product is going to be. You can’t start off expecting to be number one. You have to prove yourself first, and that takes a few years. Another thing is to make sure the quality is always there, because otherwise, it will come back to bite you. You never want to have to go back to do something over on a job. It’s a waste of time for everyone, and it will impact your reputation. So you need to make sure it’s done right the first time. And one more thing I’ve learned is to prepare in the fall for the following spring. Make sure all your equipment is well maintained and ready to go, that your tools are put away and organized. You can’t put it off until spring because there’s no time then.