As Dolly Levi says in “Hello, Dolly!” “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It isn’t worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”
What she didn’t say is that you might save money in the bargain. And speaking of things that grow…
In preparation for the sale of my house, I had already considered an established landscape designer and installer who had been highly recommended to redesign certain areas of my property that had been damaged by Irene and Sandy.
After I had given him the details of the plantings I wanted and asked for his design input, I received a very comprehensive quote. I must confess that I gulped at the expense of the projects I had envisioned. Still, I wanted my landscaping to look its very best for my broker’s open house, and I was prepared to move forward.
But when a realtor colleague, Carole Fitzpatrick, announced at a sales meeting that her son was actively engaged in the landscaping business, I decided to ask for a competitive bid from him for the same job. When a very young John Fitzpatrick arrived, I gave him the same requirements, adding that I had already received one quote, but didn’t tell him the details. When I received his quote I gulped again, this time because it was almost a third less.
Before I accepted, however, I checked to make sure that he was properly licensed and insured as a home improvement contractor, an important step for any homeowner before hiring a new supplier. He was. I was doubly impressed to find that he’s still a college senior who’s scheduled to graduate until next fall and plays lacrosse while running his business.
“He’s worked since he was 12,” his mother told me when proudly describing her son’s entrepreneurial ambitions.
When asked how he priced his jobs so favorably, John said “I can be more competitive because I don’t have a lot of overhead and I’m anxious to build my business.” Perhaps John works at his business after classes and lacrosse practice, but he is no part-timer when he arrives with his equipment and his staff of young men. Never once did I have the feeling that my property was in the hands of amateurs. In fact, John pointed out that one of his helpers had served for eight years as a property manager of an estate owned by an area celebrity.
At 22, after having worked in a bagel store and a sports shop, John is on his way with his own business.
“When I was 12, I had four lawn mowing jobs a week and over the years I’ve built that up to over 50,” he said.
At a minimum of $40 per clip, the income for a young man not yet out of college is impressive. With his profit, he has invested in two trucks, a trailer and lawn mowers which he stores in a rented yard.
As I look back on my years of home ownership, I remember many home service providers who have helped me meet the challenges, pains and joys of improving and maintaining my homes. Those men and women become part of our living experience.
Such relationships can be long-term when satisfaction with a provider’s work breeds unshakeable loyalty, or it can be very brief if things don’t go exactly right. On one end of the spectrum, we used the same electrician for 35 years until he retired. On the other, a recent interview with a tile installer was so unpleasant, with his refusal to provide even a wild guess of what the estimated cost of a job would be (“Just time and materials,” he said, with no estimate of what that time might be), that I ended that deal before it began.
Today we have Angie’s List to help us find good suppliers, although I much prefer a recommendation from someone I know personally who has had a good experience with a supplier. That said, the house cleaner we now use was found in a Pennysaver ad. “My house has never been so clean,” my wife now declares with joy after every cleaning. Sometimes you just get lucky.
But if you happen to be looking for an ambitious young entrepreneur to tend to your lawn this summer, re-landscape your property or plow snow in winter, you might contact John Fitzpatrick of Fitz’s Landscaping at 914-618-1549. Dolly Levi would be pleased.