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Welcome to the STIHL USA Blog

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Landscapers: Tell Your Story

For years STIHL has been finding ways for landscapers to be successful through innovative products and programs.  We asked Chuck Bowen, Editor and Associate Publisher of Lawn & Landscape Magazine, what the greatest challenge was for the industry and suprisingly it seems to be a perception issue.  Chuck shares with us his thoughts and advice for developing the future workforce of the green industry.

Ask 10 landscape contractors what their biggest problem is and 11 of them will tell you it’s labor. Ask those same 10 owners what they’re doing to help fill the labor pipeline with smart, talented people to hire, and you get what feels like 100 blank stares.

So for professional landscapers, or those considering a future in the industry, here are my thoughts.

Turf and landscape programs across the country are under threat from budget cuts and dropping enrollment. No one is going to deliver quality, young, energetic employees directly to your door. You have to go find them – or develop them – yourself. You can start by telling the landscape industry’s story to anyone who’ll listen.

There’s a disconnect between the perception of landscapers in the minds of the public and the reality of what they do. Consider the following the Cliff’s Notes elevator speech for the uninitiated.

There’s more to landscaping than shovels and rakes. I’m preaching to the choir here, but the landscape industry provides legitimate careers to thousands of people. With the right mix of talent, ambition and (yes, in many cases) tireless work ethic, a young person can develop and move up the ladder at a landscape company, earning more money and responsibility with every step.

You can make good money. The average owner makes $66,000 a year, according to our latest Benchmarking Your Business Report. That’s higher than the median household income. Foremen, account managers and designers all pull down between $30,000 and $40,000 to start. That won’t help you rub elbows with the 1%, but it’s enough to put food on the table and raise a family.

You can help people. Go to our website. Search good works. Go ahead. I’ll wait. We’ve published dozens of stories about landscapers who have pitched in to help their employees, families of veterans and communities through hard times and natural disasters.

You can improve the environment. Landscapers are on the front lines of some of the most pressing environmental questions facing us today. Name me another profession that every day can help positively impact the world through water management, erosion and runoff, carbon sequestration and heat mitigation.

Bottom line is this: Landscapers have a real, tangible impact on the world. Take just the companies on our Top 100 list. In 2011, they grossed $6.8 billion and employed more than 62,000 people. That doesn’t count the thousands more families they’ve supported, or the impact they’ve had on the communities where they work.

So here’s what you can do now – today, even. Call up your local vocational school, high school counselor or FFA adviser. Ask if you can speak to the group about what a great career a company like yours can provide. Offer to give students and their parents a tour of your shop. Tell them about the benefits and opportunities that are available to their kids if they choose to become a green industry professional.

If you want good people, you have to go out and find them. You have a great story to tell, but nobody’s going to tell it for you
Chuck Bowen
Editor and Associate Publisher
Lawn & Landscape