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What I Learned From Landscaping…

Landscaping was my favorite work, EVER, as it had the benefit of an exceedingly kind medium “dirt.” The fact that you got to work with dirt and different natural materials was not the only benefit, you also would turn a relatively rugged or non-distinct piece of property into a work of art. This would happen in a noticeably short amount of time.

The problem with landscaping is that in Wisconsin you can only dig in the “dirt” about eight, or if you are doing well, nine and a half months a year. So you had to carry your overhead cost throughout the winter without the ability to do jobs. Meaning if you bought equipment, you had to pay for it all through winter, even though there was no work. This required making more profit in the eight to nine and a half months so you could survive in the down months. To cover those other three months was difficult and very detrimental to a new business.

The other issue was the relationship with business demand and supply of equipment and labor. I had several other landscapers who I would buy product and shrubbery from who all had a similar problem.

Most landscapers would get work and then they would have to hire people and then they would have to buy equipment and then once they had hired people and bought equipment, they would need to get more work. There never seemed to be a balance it was a constant spiral or an endless cycle.

Landscaping businesses were behind on either work, not enough people, or once you get enough people, then not enough equipment. If you had enough equipment and people, then not enough work!

The fact you had to lay off your employees made it difficult to retain talent. One solution to solve this problem was to find snow removal work to offset your costs. This too was fraught with problems.

I decided to buy my first investment property to really offset the winter costs. After purchasing my first rehab project I found out that it was way more profitable to be in real estate than it was to be in landscaping. Although landscaping was my favorite type of work and we built a lot of beautiful projects. It was real estate that was able to create the income that was sustainable throughout the year.

That being said, I still love landscaping today and occasionally I work on landscape projects for fun and even for free such as building water features. Landscaping has become one of my favorite pastimes.

The best benefits of being a landscaper are working outside, getting a lot of healthy exercise, and making property owners happy as they enjoy the creations that we put in place—especially the water features. And in general, the gratification of making a house look like a home.

Many of my clients were long-term coming back repeatedly, year after year. That made it very difficult to shut down the business, once real estate took my time and attention.

— Joshua Dudgeon

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