I Wish to Known As a Rookie Landscaper

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Some people are able to see right away that they would like to work in the trades. Perhaps they were drawn to MAC trucks in sandboxes or they just wanted to keep the family business going. Others are more fortunate to find their way in the trades by being more elusive.

Phil Sarros, a 18-year veteran of the landscaping industry, was part this group. When he started the company that would become his landscaping business, it wasn’t even a landscaping firm. It was actually an apartment cleaning business. Phil quickly shifted and placed a magnetic sign advertising his landscaping services on his truck. We spoke with Phil about the five things that he wishes he knew on his first day working in the landscaping industry.

The Internet is great — but you need a mentor

YouTube allows anyone to search for landscaping videos from many sources. Many of these videos are great and very informative. YouTube does not have quality control. If you have further questions about a specific part of the video, it may be difficult to get an authoritative, concrete answer that you can trust. As an authoritative source, a mentor is possible.

Phil said, “Find a mentor early in your career. Someone you can trust to show you the right way to go.”

Get the essentials

A lot of trades require special tools to be able to work on a daily basis. However, landscaping is not one of those trades.

Phil said that landscaping is easy to start. All you need to get started is a few basic tools for your truck.

Special tools may be required for certain landscaping projects. These can be rented if needed. Phil suggests purchasing rakes and shovels as well as an edger, a backpack blower, and a few other tools to get you started. Although you may be working in landscaping for a larger company, it is still a smart idea to purchase your own tools. You can do side jobs, make extra money, and have a basic inventory of tools in case you decide to open your own business like Phil.

Pawn Shop Tools: Don’t turn up your nose

A tool’s shiny new status does not mean it is better. While it might be a great look to show up with all your new gear on your first day, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will look the part. Landscaping can be hard work, and it can be difficult on your tools. This feeling of being new-out-of the-box is not going to last.

Phil said, “Don’t be afraid of buying used tools, especially in the beginning.” To find light-used tools, he recommends looking online and visiting pawnshops.

Do not run a business based on ‘Handshake Deals.

“I wish that I knew back then about the importance of having clear, well-drafted contracts. It could have saved me many headaches.”

Phil was open to taking on any project, no matter how large or difficult, early in his career. Although he enjoyed the challenge of large, complex projects, he also found it beneficial for his business. However, there were more chances for Phil and his clients to misunderstand each other. Complex landscaping projects can lead to more problems. Phil suggests that homeowners create written contracts for all jobs so that expectations can be clearly communicated. This will ensure that you are clear about what you must deliver at the end of each job, and your client won’t be able hold you responsible for any unfulfilled expectations.

Take care of your environment

Landscaping can be a physically demanding job. There is no other way. Negative attitude and the heat of summer can make it very difficult to do the job. Phil quickly learned that his actions and words could have an impact on the behavior of others on the job.

He said, “If you’re angry and screaming, people around you will be angry too.”

Landscapers have a job like any other, and they deserve to work in a positive work environment. It is possible to avoid burnout, and you will be happier in your daily life if you contribute positively to the work environment. There will be bad days. Everyone has them. However, that doesn’t mean you have to bring down everyone else.

About the Expert

Phil Sarros, a 18-year veteran of the landscaping industry and the president at Sarros Landscaping, is Phil Sarros. Phil earned a degree from the University of Akron in mechanical engineering before he became a landscaper. He has also been featured on three HGTV shows.

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