An Interview With Austin Landscaper, Jason Jones

Get To Know Jason, The Owner Of Green Earth Landscaping

Are you a native Texan?

Yes, born in Houston my family moved here to the Austin area when I was in high school.

How did you first get involved with landscaping?

I got a job at a commercial landscape maintenance company between my Junior and Senior year and worked there for the summer.

Where did you learn the trade?

I got interested in landscaping at that first job and really learned the art of maintenance.  Then I started tapping into the experience of a couple of experts I know in the business to really learn the nuts and bolts of how it works.  From there I got really curious about installations and did a lot or research and basically learned it from experience and working beside professionals in trades like irrigation and hardscapes.

What is the greatest reward for you when you’re doing your landscaping?

The final product is so important to me, be it maintenance or installation.  Landscaping is not like installing a wood floor, which is done when you are finished and only goes downhill from there.  Landscape work is like living art; it grows ever more beautiful with time if it’s done right in the beginning.  That is very rewarding to me.  I still drive by early installs I did years ago just to see how they’re growing and it always makes me smile.

What made you start your own business?

When I was 19 I realized that my standards and work ethic were consistently higher than the person who I was working for and that bothered me.  One day I decided if my name was going to be on the project then I should be in charge so I opened my own business.

What is the hardest thing about running your own landscape business?

I wear a lot of hats.  I work all day at jobs with the crews then I come home and work all night on proposals and designs, it is very demanding because I take it very seriously.

How do you teach your employees your signature expectations of quality in the work?

When I hire a new person, and I do so carefully, I always work right along side them until I feel confident that they ‘get’ the end result I am looking for.  You can tell someone all day long but until you get in there and show them your expectations it does not really click.

What do you really like about this business?

I love that landscape gives you instant gratification I guess, be it maintenance or installation.  I like spending time with clients really listening to their dreams and then helping them make that a reality.

How do you handle specialty work like irrigation or hardscaping?

We have a certified technician on staff for irrigation and that covers repairs and inspections but I work with a licensed irrigator for system installation, I believe in knowing and managing my subs.  Hardscape is the same, I have a very talented stone mason who comes in for detailed jobs.  You have to have dependable subs for some aspects of this business.

How about tree care that is a very detailed science?

I work with the greatest arborist, he does all the diagnosis and care of sick trees for us and we do all the trimming and take down.  It is a perfect relationship of talent.

What is your favorite part of a job?

The end result of course! For maintenance I really like happy clients who have the best looking landscapes on their block (they do too!).  For installation it is the glory of the end result when you stand back and look at what has been created and your client is standing next to you really pleased.

Where do you see your company going 5 years down the road?

Oh I have a plan, I don’t want to be huge or anything, I am not greedy I want us to be even better at what we do.  I’d like to see us specialized in high end residential  installations and doing maintenance in 1-3 neighborhoods exclusively.  I want to drive down a block and say this is all GEL work and it looks great and I have happy clients in every home!

Some people might say you’re really young to be running a business, you’re not even 30 yet, what makes you different from other young business owners?

Well, I would have to say what makes me stand out when I look at my competition is that I have a very solid work ethic, serious pride in my results, great customer service (I return phone calls promptly, I believe in communication) and great follow through.  I am proud of what GEL does.

Do you feel the need to educate your customers?

I know most people pay for education and it has value but I also realize most people do not have the horticultural knowledge to make good decisions they basically have a vision or an idea so yes I do spend time educating.  Typically people know they want something beautiful and they know what their budget is but I have to ask how much time they will spend in their landscape, how many hours per week are they willing to spend weeding that huge bed, I bring them back to reality and offer time saving suggestions with plant material.

What is one thing you wish clients knew up front?

That you always get what you pay for, and most people realize that in hindsight.  I believe that a job should be top quality with top quality materials done the proper way.  When you skimp in landscaping it always comes back to bite you.  People who think it’s not important to put in the infrastructure they just want the end result always find out the hard way that was a bad choice.  I try to stop that from the beginning.  Someone who wants us to come lay sod but not do the necessary prep work that’s not a good idea.

So what is the most important thing a customer should invest in when installing a landscape?

We’re back to infrastructure, to get a good quality end product you need to have good soil, lay your underground wiring for lighting and irrigation early on, create proper drainage, do the grading, remove the rocks, till the additional soil in with the native soil.  These are all prep items that you don’t see in the end but they are the structure of a quality installation.

What is the best size customer fit for your company?

Wow that’s a good question, most of our installations are $3,500-$7,500 for our base business; then the mid range is typically $7,500-$15,000, and of course we love to do bigger!  People don’t realize that they should expect to spend 15-20% of the value of their home on their landscape to have balance of value and resale.  Maintenance customers , well I would say the more of your neighbors we service the better your price is for sure.  Small yard can be as low as $35 a visit for mow, edge, blow and ant treatment.  But we do large full service work which includes everything and that can run $80-$250 a visit depending on size.

Jason, thanks for your time today what is the one thing you would like for a potential customer to walk away with after reading this interview?

That GEL is a quality company who believes customer service is hugely important and we are proud of our work.  I hope they read this interview and say to themselves, ‘this is a good match for me and I want to work with GEL, I want my job done right and I am willing to invest in a professional company to make it so’.