The Story of The Landscape Doc
Every nickname has a story. Every company has a story. Every person has a story. Here’s mine.
Let’s start in the present day. Today we have a vibrant, rapidly growing business that is filled with passionate people who love what they do. We serve a mix of high end residential, commercial, and industrial clients providing landscape construction, landscape maintenance, and snow management services over a four county area. Our team of up to 40 people design, install, and maintain some of the most artful paver patios, eye-catching landscapes, and lush, green grass that you’ve ever seen. We’ve won national awards and been featured in trade magazines. So how did all this come about?
By accident. Now, don’t misunderstand, we didn’t accidentally succeed…there was no magic formula or pixie dust that got us where we are today. That was all blood, sweat, and tears. Believe me. I learned hard work from my parents and grandparents, and there were no silver spoons.
But a landscaping business? That was an accident. My business started as a means to an end. You see, when I started mowing lawns in junior high, I was just saving money for a car (a GMC Jimmy, which turned into my first “mowing truck”). When I continued mowing lawns in high school, it was to make some money to buy clothes, impress girls (mostly unsuccessfully), and start saving money for college. When I kept building the business through college, adding landscape construction and maintenance, lawn treatments, and snow removal services, hiring “real employees” (not just my brother and cousin like it was in high school), it was because I chose a private college and REALLY needed to make some money. Not only did I choose a private school, I decided to go into a graduate level program to earn a PharmD, a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
What I didn’t expect was that somewhere along the way, I caught the entrepreneurial bug. Also along the way, I got hooked on the high that comes from taking a blank or worn-out landscape and turning it into a work of art. What started as a means to an end became what I thought about the most. I found myself skipping class most days in the spring to go home (over an hour away), hitch up the trailer and work until after dark, to keep customers happy and breathe in the intoxicating smell of fresh-cut grass. Over the weekends, I would coerce a college buddy or two to come home with me and work on a larger landscaping project. I still distinctly remember the satisfaction that came from installing my first brand new landscape – from the design to stepping back to admire the finished product. There was nothing like it. In my 5th year of pharmacy school, we had an exam every Friday at 7am. I had landed the snow management contract for the WalMart about 30 minutes away from campus. I’m not sure if I was lucky or unlucky, but I remember that year, on at least 4 or 5 occasions, plowing snow all night starting the evening before, then rushing back to campus to take that 7am exam (somehow I always passed).
Once I graduated after 6 long years of pharmacy school, of course everyone expected me to use my degree and make plans to dissolve my landscaping business. I wasn’t ready to do that right away, so for 2 years, I worked a full time job as a pharmacist, while still running ProScape, which was still steadily growing. We were starting to build a team and an impressive portfolio of clients. It was during that time that I started to learn about leadership, systems, accounting, communication, and business processes, because I was no longer doing as much of the day to day work in the dirt. That’s when the entrepreneurial spark turned into a fire. It only took a little bit of extra fanning of that flame by a business mentor and instigator who I met through church, to convince me to quit my job as a pharmacist and pursue my passion for landscaping and business.
With the support of my wife, I took the plunge. I stepped off the diving board. I quit my full-time, secure, well-paying job as a pharmacist. Pharmacists, at least at the time, were voted the most trusted professional, and it was one of the most in-demand positions in the state of Ohio. I had received a sign-on bonus when I first started at the pharmacy, which I had to pay back because I hadn’t fulfilled my initial 3 year commitment with them. What was I doing? Crazy or genius?! That was debatable. You might imagine the cross-eyed looks I got from people when I told them that I wasn’t a full-time pharmacist anymore! I put myself on a salary that was one-third of what I made as a pharmacist and I worked a bazillion hours. No stock options, no bonuses, no paid vacation. It wasn’t about the money, or position, or respect. It was simply that I had passion, a vision, and a determination to build a great business.
The Irony of the Landscape Doc
While I was a pharmacist, it was like I was leading a double life. I mean, what white collar professional gets off of work, changes into work boots and spends all his days off as a landscaper? And when I was representing ProScape, I didn’t really like to make it known that I was a pharmacist, for fear someone would think I was weird.
Eventually I just embraced it. I told my story. I let the cat out of the bag. And it turns out, the guy with the white collar-blue collar confusion was pretty memorable. Everyone seemed to remember the pharmacist that was a landscaper, or the landscaper that was a pharmacist. It apparently isn’t a very common combination.
I don’t remember who it is was, but recently I was telling my crazy story to someone, and they remarked, “So you’re like a Landscape Doc!”. At the time I just chuckled and went on with the conversation, but later I got to thinking about it more seriously.
I realized that many of the clinical skills, patient interviewing techniques, and prescribing of solutions that I often joke “I wasted”, are actually what helped me help people through the years. Instead of helping patients, I help clients. Instead of digging into the root cause of someone’s physical pain, I dig into the root cause of her landscape pain. Instead of working with a team of doctors, pharmacists, and technicians, I work with a very talented team of landscape professionals who design, manage, and execute incredible work and customer relationships. I am using my learned skills and God-given abilities in a way that I didn’t expect, but that are still very impactful.
So I am accepting the moniker, The Landscape Doc, nearly 10 years after earning my doctorate and nearly 20 years after starting in green industry. While I am not publishing peer-reviewed drug trials in the medical literature, I have decided to st
art writing about landscaping. I’ve committed to regularly writing and educating people about the work that we do. What is also interesting is that along my journey, I’ve found that landscaping is good for the body and the soul. I know my blood pressure drops when I walk by a Lilac in the spring or listen to the trickle of a water feature we’ve built. I know that friendships are strengthened around the table on one of our paver patios, and that life’s questions are answered sitting around the fire pit gazing at the fire. I am still helping people, albeit in a different way than I once intended!
Do you need some help? Let The Landscape Doc prescribe the right solution for your landscape pain!
P.S. You can hear even more of my story by watching this video: ProScape Video