lamdscaping career
Q: My teenage son started his own yardwork business last summer and really put a lot of effort into it. I think he might consider landscaping as a career, but how should he go about it? And if he does become a landscaper, what would he do during the winter?

—Jolynn Trudeau, Lowell, Mass.

A: Roger Cook replies: Most people enter the landscaping business by apprenticing to a landscape contractor or by going to college. If your son decides to apprentice, he should go with a company that does a lot of different projects so he can develop a variety of skills. If he chooses college, he can look into the two- or four-year schools that have landscape-contracting programs. They typically include some hands-on experience and business courses.

In the meantime, he should attend every seminar he can on this subject. These events are often sponsored by local arboretums or by professional landscape associations. He'll learn a lot, and he'll meet people who might even be able to act as mentors for his career.

As for the winter, there's plenty of work for someone with a truck and some ambition. Snowplowing jobs, for instance, which sometimes turn into landscaping accounts. Hardscaping—installing walls, patios, and the like—tree pruning and felling, even selling firewood can also keep him busy and making money in the off season. In those early years, it also pays to work for a plumber or mason in the winter because a good landscaper often needs both those skills.

Finally, please emphasize to your son that he also needs to learn business management and accounting skills. They'll help him grow his business and avoid the financial pitfalls that landscapers—and many other tradesmen—stumble into.
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