Written by Gene Caballero on November 06, 2014
Landscapers are the best people I know.
Like so many of my fellow landscapers, I started mowing lawns when I was a teenager. Our neighbor offered to pay me $15 to cut his grass while he was out of town and that’s all it took; I was instantly hooked on becoming my own boss.
Over 15 years’ time I grew the little lawn mowing business to a real company founding Peach Tree Inc. in Nashville, TN. The company has around 130 employees and 7m in annual revenue. Last year I navigated the successful exit of that company to a national organization. It was hard work but the journey was the reward.
Running an organization of that size proved to be daunting, however, creating something bigger than myself was a fulfilling experience. Our company created prosperity for our people and that’s why we did what we did. Much of our operating core was comprised of Guatemalan immigrants and these were the finest people I have ever known. Typically, they would come to the United States for several consecutive lawn mowing seasons, saving as much money as they could to improve the lives of their families back home by building homes, ranches, and setting up farms stocked with cattle.
This became our company’s purpose. In weekly meetings, we would get progress reports from our men on how projects “back home” were coming along. In the halls of our office and in the shop we displayed picture collages of all the homes, farms, and business that had been established by our people in Guatemala. Celebrating these victories gave us fuel to get through the tough times, particularly when economic recession that began in 2009.
Selling the company in 2012 to pursue my vision of building GreenPal was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made. Navigating the emotional process of letting go of something I have spent the majority of my life building affected me more than I had anticipated; it felt like leaving my family.
I gave my farewell speech to my men, and handed the reins over to their new boss. I helped with the transition for several months and the experience felt like another man moved into my home and my job became to instruct him on how to handle my wife.
Over the 15 year journey I gained indispensable values from my people at Peach Tree. They taught me discipline, hard work, pride, and leadership.
Now I get to experience it all over again with GreenPal. I meet with our landscape vendor partners, and I’m reminded of the same qualities my men at Peach Tree have. Perhaps it is the brutal heat of the summer, or just the competitive nature of the industry, but something about the landscaping business creates hardworking people of integrity. Same as with the people at my former company, the landscape owner-operators I get to meet with literally bust their ass every day to grow their business, and provide for their families.
I’m lucky to still get to play a small part in it and the same values still guide me today. Recently launching GreenPal in Tampa Florida, I have really enjoyed meeting with dozens of landscape professionals there. Ill never grow tired of this industry and good people that make it what it is.
As a tribute , I made this short video to illustrate what it is like to be a landscaper.
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