Article taken from the Designing Eden llc Inspirations newsletter Summer 2008.
Horticulture and landscape design can be a challenge, even after 20+ years. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, another project or situation comes along which is a little out of my comfort zone. While in school, a professor came into the design studio one Monday morning and told the class that for the next couple of weeks we were going to learn about road design. Grading, profiles, specifications etc… It was then that one of my classmates whispered under his breath “Landscape Architects, the jack of all trades, the master of none”. That statement continues to stand out after all these years. There were many topics that were covered over 5 years of education and 2 degrees. Some I use every day while others I’ll most likely never use. Universities touch on a lot of different areas of the profession but it’s the individual in the workplace who continues to educate himself, create niches, etc.. The environment (mother nature) continues to confuse. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know the most basic things because something I’ve done for years with great success doesn’t work any more. There are plenty of circumstances throughout a season where I honestly do not have an answer. So where do I turn to get these questions answered? Well, every business needs a large support group to bounce ideas off of to be successful. Listed below is my support group which is not in any particular order of importance.
Rich McKean. One of my best friends and the owner of Main Street Nursery. Besides building a business up from a teenager to annual gross sales of 5 million dollars, Rich is a wealth of knowledge and is a keen businessman.
Michael Shannon, another classmate, is a registered Landscape Architect in NY. Mike is self employed but primarily works for 3 different companies. He works for two different Landscape Architects in the Hamptons doing design/sales. The majority of his projects are typically million plus with some reaching in the 3-5 million range. Yes, that’s just for the landscape!. At his third job, Mike is a project manager and estimator for a landscape company which does a majority of the landscape installations in the metro New York area. From Battery City Park to the MOMA courtyard, Mike is the man behind the scenes. The stories he has about getting these jobs completed are just incredible.
Barry Block. owner of a landscape business in the Hamptons, Barry lives for marketing and knows enough about it to write a book. He has won numerous local and national awards, he’s been on HGTV P. Allen Smith’s garden show and has gotten exposure in quite a few national publications. The one thing I can say about Barry and his wife Beth Ann is they do an incredible amount of work with few employees.
John Holden is a local landscaper who operates a business which is similar in size to Designing Eden LLC. His day to day hurdles are usually very similar to mine. John is a detail orientated guy who enjoys running numbers and creating custom forms/spreadsheets to help in the business. His current project is a totally mobile office that gives him the ability to estimate and print invoices on site.
Matt Giampietro, once of Cheshire and now residing in Florida. Matt grew up in the nursery and landscape business. The nursery his father started was once recognized by the Governor of CT as the first nursery to have annual gross sales of a million dollars a year in the state. Matt has an eye for design and is in Florida doing design work and building fountains and water features.
My wife Christine plays the role of editor in chief of these newsletter’s and other written material. Everything we do for marketing is geared towards women since they are typically our first contact. All new ideas are run by Christine before they are presented to the public. Christine also plays the role of moral supporter.
My father and mother. At 80, he’s had a lot of experiences. He grew up on a dairy farm, then enlisted in the army to get off the farm. He has had his hand in many different professions including carpenter, sheriff, real estate appraiser, land developer, house builder and landlord. At 78, my mom has had a green thumb her whole life, she introduced me to horticulture at a young age and continues to give me ideas.
Last but not least is a group I’ve belonged to for 5 years. NewMilfordBusiness.com is a group of thirty five local business owners who meet every Wednesday morning to talk business, network and pass leads. Members consist of other service related industries and professionals.
If I can’t answer one of your questions, someone in my support group will.