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Have you ever considered going back to school?

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dawn_kiebawls

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Hey neighbors, TL;DR

I own and operate a successful Lawn and Landscape business locally but lately have been feeling like I'm not living up to my potential, or expectations...A bit of background - I come from a family where both parents have Masters degrees and all 4 of my siblings have Bachelors degrees or higher. I, on the other hand graduated from the School of Hard Knox: Bachelors of Substance Abuse with a Minor in Disappointment. I dropped out of High School because in my Sophomore year I realized I was making close to double my teachers salary by mowing lawns on the weekends but I was also fighting a crippling drug addiction. I was making really good money when I dropped out but feel like my choices have cost me everything. My family has loved me through the throughs of addictions and into the success of my business but I still, and always will, feel like the the black sheep of the family.

Anyway - I've finally grinded hard enough to the point where I can be remote enough and pursue a degree in Turfgrass Management without losing a reasonable amount of my customers (focusing on my most and selling my least profitable customers). I'm just not sure if it's worth it to even get the degree at this point. Like I said, I make good money and all of my lawns look awesome. My lawns are awesome and I want to monopolize my market so I think I'm going to go for it. I'm just curious if anyone has any thoughts. Admittedly, my weakest point is actual business practices so I don't know if I'm making a huge error or not.

I'm just looking for opinions; trying to bounce the thought off of some more educated and more well versed people than I. thanks for any all input. Cheers!
 

McKnuckle

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Congrats on considering this and on putting your insecurities out there. That's a brave and important step!

My personal feeling is that once one is in the workforce, and earning "enough" to make a comfortable living, any additional formal education should serve a goal that you can clearly express. In other words, don't do it because you want to catch up to your siblings, make your parents proud(er), or relieve your own regrets.

I would do it if it will open doors for your career growth and earning potential. If your weakest area is in business practices - a critical part of any independently owned business - then perhaps you should focus there. I don't know what Turfgrass Management is, but unless that degree would give your customers reason to pay you more, or attract more customers with a broader range of skills, then maybe it's not the best area of study. I know that I don't ask my landscape architect about his education. His company's presentation, marketing materials, professional conduct, results, and billing practices are what pull me in and then keep me there - or not.

I fired a lawn care company I had used for years, a small one with the owner's name on the truck, because his billing practices were terrible. Hand written bills, occasionally not taking account of my past payments, that I had to constantly double-check and reconcile, with no electronic records of anything. I felt bad about it, but it was a pain to deal with and there were one too many disputes. So that's a core business practice he failed at.

I just want to point out that I deeply value education for ANY reason, including no reason at all, because learning contributes to personal growth and that's extremely satisfying. But for a wage-earning adult with responsibilities, going back to school, as it were, is a sacrifice in time and cost. So it has to be considered carefully in light of the potential rewards.

P.S. I have a B.A. from a good liberal arts college, but declined to pursue a Masters because I wanted to get going with my career. That was 30 years ago... Any education I pursue now will be for my own indulgence.
 

Dland

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As another successful small landscape business owner I'll share my thoughts on this subject, since I have had them too:

Probably you already know a lot of the material in Turf Mgt that would apply to your residential business.

I knew several people in that degree when I went to school, most of them were planning to manage golf courses, sod farms, or similar properties. I took overlapping classes with some of them, and know a lot of their material, at least at the time I was there, did not really apply much to residential lawn care, or at least what most customers would expect to pay for.

I actually have a 4 year degree in Plant & Soil science, with focus on soil chemistry and taxonomy as well as agricultural land use and various food crop specialties. I don't use much of what I learned in school in maintaining customers' yards, though it probably helps their impression of me when I talk all learned like, though very few of them know I have a degree in anything.

The times I've thought about getting more education it has been with the goal in mind of doing something other landscaping.

In my case, I decided I'm too old to consider career shift, since this work is paying the bills. So I have focused on running a profitable and evenly paced business. Most of this in my case comes down to getting and retaining high quality employees and customers. The former being the most difficult.

After over 30 years at this, I do find myself in a more managerial role or at least less in the field. This includes learning my way around bookkeeping program, profitable project bidding, as well being in house mechanic, heavy truck and equipment operator. I only mow and stuff when crew is way behind due to rain days or something.

Not sure this helps in your deliberation, but if you think you are in a rut, might be time to consider ways out, especially if you still have some youth left. Living up to ones own expectations is important, those of others, not so much.

Maybe try to optimize the business you have, and try to branch out in related fields to make more interesting and hopefully profitable. Masonry(patios & walls), ponds, fencing, lighting, irrigation, specialty plantings are some of the more obvious was to go. There are often free or inexpensive courses or seminars in some of these provided by vendors, or one can learn by doing them, as I did. If in of doubt abilities a given type of project, practice in your own yard.
 

myndflyte

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My line of work and education experience is a little different but here are my thoughts on the path I chose.

Right out of high school I went to college for a degree in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and immediately pursued and received my PhD in Molecular Pharmacology. So my first "real-job" was 6 years after undergrad and it was a post-doc whose salary is pretty much a national standard (~50k/year). After all the schooling and work I had to go through, I thought that salary was kind of BS. So I started looking for industry jobs that can pay a lot (over 100k) but are also super competitive and getting hired is largely based on what you methods you did for your PhD. Since mine involved a very old school method, I was sort of behind on the ball, in that regards.

In the end, I found a job that I do really like but since it is a non-profit, I'm not making as much as others in a similar position. I realize that money is not the end-all be-all but still, it influences decisions.

I have friends from undergrad that went into the work force right out of school and are probably in a similar position that I'm in now and make a similar salary, if not more. Having a PhD has had benefits as I was able to get promoted after only a year at my current job. If I could do it all over again, I might not do the PhD and just go into the work force after undergrad.

So in your position, I guess you have to weigh your current position vs how having a degree would help you. If you plan on just continuing to run your business, then maybe the cost and time of a degree isn't worth it. If you wanted to move into a different business track and position, then the degree might be worth it and help you reach that goal.
 
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Hey neighbors, TL;DR

I own and operate a successful Lawn and Landscape business locally but lately have been feeling like I'm not living up to my potential, or expectations...A bit of background - I come from a family where both parents have Masters degrees and all 4 of my siblings have Bachelors degrees or higher. I, on the other hand graduated from the School of Hard Knox: Bachelors of Substance Abuse with a Minor in Disappointment. I dropped out of High School because in my Sophomore year I realized I was making close to double my teachers salary by mowing lawns on the weekends but I was also fighting a crippling drug addiction. I was making really good money when I dropped out but feel like my choices have cost me everything. My family has loved me through the throughs of addictions and into the success of my business but I still, and always will, feel like the the black sheep of the family.

Anyway - I've finally grinded hard enough to the point where I can be remote enough and pursue a degree in Turfgrass Management without losing a reasonable amount of my customers (focusing on my most and selling my least profitable customers). I'm just not sure if it's worth it to even get the degree at this point. Like I said, I make good money and all of my lawns look awesome. My lawns are awesome and I want to monopolize my market so I think I'm going to go for it. I'm just curious if anyone has any thoughts. Admittedly, my weakest point is actual business practices so I don't know if I'm making a huge error or not.

I'm just looking for opinions; trying to bounce the thought off of some more educated and more well versed people than I. thanks for any all input. Cheers!
What is your goal here? (yea, short term is the degree, but I assume it's a step towards something).

BTW, if your goal is just to simply be "better educated", I'm behind that 100%. I don't believe that education must have a direct connection to a vocation. People who are well spoken among peers, educated on diverse subjects, and think clearly will rise to the top, even when their degree is in English Literature :)
 

davidabcd

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I'm just looking for opinions;
You most certainly have come to the right place for opinions!
Kidding aside, it's always about pros and cons. Consider the present impact and future 20-30 years (or longer) from now, what makes you happy against real-world necessities. Don't leave yourself flatfooted. Also, I wouldn't base your decisions on what "Person X" is doing or saying unless it's something you truly agree with and desire as opposed to doing it simply because they want you to.
Any plan is better than no plan.
Good luck.
 

Ty520

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I think this is a tricky subject. substance abuse aside.

as you indicated, you were making more money than your teacher as a kid mowing lawns. Many skilled trades that most people look down on can make for a very comfortable and successful life. I always get a chuckle out of this meme:

5e39cd8e75eec.jpeg


I have a PhD, but am an ardent critic of getting a degree for the sake of having a degree.

i grew up poor, but I knew what i wanted to do for a living since i was a little kid. i knew it wouldn't make me rich, but I knew i could live comfortably if i worked hard. I worked my @$$ of to get a scholarship for undergrad, and worked as an assistant to pay for graduate school; I graduated without any debt, and wouldn't have gone to school, otherwise.

I also have a cousin who landed a job as a machinist straight out of high school that paid more than i was making with a PhD

I know plenty of "Educated" people who are dumber than a box of hair, including medical doctors.

IMHO, unless you have a plan as to why it will matter, how long it will take to pay it off, and how to use it to begin making dividends in your life, it isn't worth it.

a Business degree is probably the exception that is arguably, practically always of value.
 

Dland

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While I do tend to agree with you on some aspects, and did take a few Bus courses, a lot of the on the ground stuff for a small company usually needs to be learned by experience.

Small group leadership for instance , is not covered in most business curricula. Time spent running crews is hard to teach in a room, be they in a fast food place or on a work site. Time spent as a "sub manager" is good experience too, learning how to motivate a crew who you don't even have wage/hiring authority over. Makes one all the better mgr if or when one has full control.

Apologize if raving on, it is one of those days, for better or worse....

I did remind one of my kids she would might end up financially better off if she went into a trade, but of course she did not listen, and is likely better off in long run, at least she is getting a science based degree.
 
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jseyfert3

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My viewpoint is what will the degree get you, and what will the degree cost? It seems to be common thought these days that any degree is worth it and one should get a degree in anything. I strongly disagree with this viewpoint. I think a degree should lead you to a solid career that will make you a good return on your investment of time and money to get the degree in the first place. Ideally in a field that you at least have some interest in, as you don't want to hate every minute of your job.

Now, that's NOT to say that getting a degree or other education purely for education's own standpoint is a bad idea. In fact that can be great, and if that's what you want then go for it. But it doesn't sound to me like that's what you want.

My family has loved me through the throughs of addictions and into the success of my business but I still, and always will, feel like the the black sheep of the family.

Anyway - I've finally grinded hard enough to the point where I can be remote enough and pursue a degree in Turfgrass Management without losing a reasonable amount of my customers (focusing on my most and selling my least profitable customers). I'm just not sure if it's worth it to even get the degree at this point. Like I said, I make good money and all of my lawns look awesome. My lawns are awesome and I want to monopolize my market so I think I'm going to go for it. I'm just curious if anyone has any thoughts. Admittedly, my weakest point is actual business practices so I don't know if I'm making a huge error or not.
See, what this is saying to me is that you want to get a degree to try and gain approval from your family. I'm not sure that this will get you the approval you are seeking, and you seem to be saying this as well. If you like your lawn care company, perhaps you should prove them all wrong by focusing on continued improvement and growth of your company (which you seem to want to do) until you're making way more than any of them with their fancy degrees.

Research carefully into the Turfgrass Management degree, as someone else mentioned they thought it was unlikely to help with residential yards. What does that degree get you? How will it help grow your business and increase your profits, or will it not do that?

Honestly from what you've briefly written it sounds like you want to continue growing your business, for what it's worth I'd say focus on that, perhaps look into some sort of education (and not necessarily a degree) on improving your business practices as that seems like something that would help grow your business.

If you are looking for a change of career (which it doesn't seem like you are), keep in mind degrees aren't the only path to solid jobs. When I was going to college in ~2013 and working as a security officer, I was chatting to the guy fixing the alarm panel where I worked. I was asking questions, he noticed my interest and said I should apply to the local union when the once-a-year job hiring rolled around. The low voltage electrical work he did had a three year apprenticeship that paid $17/hr, and then after that you started at like $24/hr, up to like $27 after a couple years and there was path to further income if desired (I think master electrician). This was certainly quite tempting, but I ultimately decided to finish my BS in Mechanical Engineering. In any case I've decided that if I ever have kids, I will NOT encourage them to go to college for the sake of going to college like some parents do. And ironically I'm now starting to think about starting my own business, and none of the ideas I've had are related to engineering. :) But that said my degree and current experience gives me a backup if I do start my own business and it turns out not to work out for whatever reason.

Anyway, hope this might be slightly useful, and good luck whatever path you choose!
 
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dawn_kiebawls

dawn_kiebawls

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Congrats on considering this and on putting your insecurities out there. That's a brave and important step!

My personal feeling is that once one is in the workforce, and earning "enough" to make a comfortable living, any additional formal education should serve a goal that you can clearly express. In other words, don't do it because you want to catch up to your siblings, make your parents proud(er), or relieve your own regrets.

I would do it if it will open doors for your career growth and earning potential. If your weakest area is in business practices - a critical part of any independently owned business - then perhaps you should focus there. I don't know what Turfgrass Management is, but unless that degree would give your customers reason to pay you more, or attract more customers with a broader range of skills, then maybe it's not the best area of study. I know that I don't ask my landscape architect about his education. His company's presentation, marketing materials, professional conduct, results, and billing practices are what pull me in and then keep me there - or not.

I fired a lawn care company I had used for years, a small one with the owner's name on the truck, because his billing practices were terrible. Hand written bills, occasionally not taking account of my past payments, that I had to constantly double-check and reconcile, with no electronic records of anything. I felt bad about it, but it was a pain to deal with and there were one too many disputes. So that's a core business practice he failed at.

I just want to point out that I deeply value education for ANY reason, including no reason at all, because learning contributes to personal growth and that's extremely satisfying. But for a wage-earning adult with responsibilities, going back to school, as it were, is a sacrifice in time and cost. So it has to be considered carefully in light of the potential rewards.

P.S. I have a B.A. from a good liberal arts college, but declined to pursue a Masters because I wanted to get going with my career. That was 30 years ago... Any education I pursue now will be for my own indulgence.
Thank you for taking the time to give such a good response. I think you're right that if I do pursue any more education to focus on a 'business' degree of some sort. I've been a lawn care professional for over a decade and at this point, unless I want to become a Superintendent of a golf course or another athletic field I'm not going to get much out of a turfgrass degree I don't already know.

I was that small company with hand written bills, poor record keeping, even worse organizational skills for several years and suffered the same fate as him with a lot of customers in my target demographic. Once I sobered up I took everything more seriously, became organized, got a professional logo designed and started to both look and act the part of a real business. That was the real turning point in both my career and life. My foot has been on the gas ever since. Cheers!

As another successful small landscape business owner I'll share my thoughts on this subject, since I have had them too:

Probably you already know a lot of the material in Turf Mgt that would apply to your residential business.

I knew several people in that degree when I went to school, most of them were planning to manage golf courses, sod farms, or similar properties. I took overlapping classes with some of them, and know a lot of their material, at least at the time I was there, did not really apply much to residential lawn care, or at least what most customers would expect to pay for.

I actually have a 4 year degree in Plant & Soil science, with focus on soil chemistry and taxonomy as well as agricultural land use and various food crop specialties. I don't use much of what I learned in school in maintaining customers' yards, though it probably helps their impression of me when I talk all learned like, though very few of them know I have a degree in anything.

The times I've thought about getting more education it has been with the goal in mind of doing something other landscaping.

In my case, I decided I'm too old to consider career shift, since this work is paying the bills. So I have focused on running a profitable and evenly paced business. Most of this in my case comes down to getting and retaining high quality employees and customers. The former being the most difficult.

After over 30 years at this, I do find myself in a more managerial role or at least less in the field. This includes learning my way around bookkeeping program, profitable project bidding, as well being in house mechanic, heavy truck and equipment operator. I only mow and stuff when crew is way behind due to rain days or something.

Not sure this helps in your deliberation, but if you think you are in a rut, might be time to consider ways out, especially if you still have some youth left. Living up to ones own expectations is important, those of others, not so much.

Maybe try to optimize the business you have, and try to branch out in related fields to make more interesting and hopefully profitable. Masonry(patios & walls), ponds, fencing, lighting, irrigation, specialty plantings are some of the more obvious was to go. There are often free or inexpensive courses or seminars in some of these provided by vendors, or one can learn by doing them, as I did. If in of doubt abilities a given type of project, practice in your own yard.
Thanks for the insight! I would like to think my business is about as optimized as it can be. The only landscaping we do is Spring and Fall cleanups, no installation. Annually we spread about 350 cubic yards of mulch! Clean ups, Fertilizing, Mowing, Aeration, Overseeding and Leaf Removal. With these added services our 6 month season in Zone 5 is stretched to 9. I pretty much take the winters off. I have all the equipment for Snow Removal but I let my crew do that and split 100% of the income from it as their 'bonus'.

You already mentioned my concern that I won't learn much valuable (or applicable/practical) information with a Turngrass degree that will apply to my residential/commercial accounts.

I don't feel I'm in a rut, just looking to take my business and myself to the next level. I love what I do!

I think this is a tricky subject. substance abuse aside.

as you indicated, you were making more money than your teacher as a kid mowing lawns. Many skilled trades that most people look down on can make for a very comfortable and successful life.
I've been sober for a long time (can't say sober because I drink, but I've been off drugs and clean for a decade). I love getting dirty looks when we're working in high end gated communities from residents because we're doing dirty, low level blue-collar work. I just smile and wave, load my 60k of mowers onto my 19k trailer, load up into my 50k truck (All of which is paid off and has paid for itself 5 times over).

One of my long time, very well off customers generously offered to file my taxes for me and help me with that (in exchange for services). He about s**t his pants when he realized I could be his neighbor if I wanted to be. Also, my little brother has a Bachelors degree in theater and performing arts...I'll probably promote him to Foreman next year 🤣
 
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dawn_kiebawls

dawn_kiebawls

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My viewpoint is what will the degree get you, and what will the degree cost? It seems to be common thought these days that any degree is worth it and one should get a degree in anything. I strongly disagree with this viewpoint. I think a degree should lead you to a solid career that will make you a good return on your investment of time and money to get the degree in the first place. Ideally in a field that you at least have some interest in, as you don't want to hate every minute of your job.

After thinking about and listening to the input here I have decided a Turfgrass degree won't get me where I want to be. I wanted to get a degree to improve my business so I'm going to focus on the actual Business side of it.

Now, that's NOT to say that getting a degree or other education purely for education's own standpoint is a bad idea. In fact that can be great, and if that's what you want then go for it. But it doesn't sound to me like that's what you want.


See, what this is saying to me is that you want to get a degree to try and gain approval from your family. I'm not sure that this will get you the approval you are seeking, and you seem to be saying this as well. If you like your lawn care company, perhaps you should prove them all wrong by focusing on continued improvement and growth of your company (which you seem to want to do) until you're making way more than any of them with their fancy degrees.

I don't need the approval of my family. I already have it and I know I'm loved with all the support I could ever ask for. I'm mostly seeking my own approval but also to try and maximize my business (thinking creating a brand or franchising). One of my brothers, who has a Bachelors in Theater and Performing Arts works for me lol. I'm predicting next year I'll be flirting with 6 figures, which is more than my siblings. I want this for me and my business.

Research carefully into the Turfgrass Management degree, as someone else mentioned they thought it was unlikely to help with residential yards. What does that degree get you? How will it help grow your business and increase your profits, or will it not do that?

Honestly from what you've briefly written it sounds like you want to continue growing your business, for what it's worth I'd say focus on that, perhaps look into some sort of education (and not necessarily a degree) on improving your business practices as that seems like something that would help grow your business.

If you are looking for a change of career (which it doesn't seem like you are)

As a side note I actually do have an Associates in Applied Science. I went through a lineman program thinking it would give me some more security/benefits/etc when I was going through growing pains just starting out. Because of some legal trouble I got into when I was younger I couldn't get a job as a lineman. Mowing paid for all my education and I now make more than a lineman. I'm happy with my career, my parents are proud of me and I do have some education. I'm just one to always want more. Cheers!
 
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