I’d like to talk with you today about mountain climbing. No, not literal mountains — climbing the landscape business mountain. As business owners you soon learn it’s not an easy climb. It’s a tiring, frustrating and sometimes dangerous trek. I know because I did it. Yes, I’ve been in your boots starting at ground zero some 50 years ago. I know exactly how long and difficult it is. When I started my climb, there were no guides, so I lost my way more than once. I got stuck on plateaus and slid down the mountain several times during those inevitable storms. But I never gave up. I was determined, and before long, the sun came out and I started up again, trying out different strategies.

When I say I slid down the mountain, I’m referring to the many mistakes I made. I made a lot of them. Some cost me time and it set my business back, and others cost me money — a lot of money. But one thing for sure: I learned from each mistake. I didn’t make them again. In looking back, I don’t feel bad about them because they were hard to avoid because I didn’t have a Sherpa to guide me. I was the trailblazer.

A Sherpa is a guide that all mountain climbers hire to help climb the mountain. For example, no one would ever think of climbing Mount Everest without a Sherpa. That would be suicide. They have climbed the mountain many times and know the right way. They help avoid sliding or falling down the mountain because of their experience.

After 20 years or so in the climb, I stopped and looked around and realized, goodness, I’m at the top. I finally reached it! How did I know I arrived? The business was making money and running without me. How did that happen? Because of the great people I had. I have to say that was an incredible feeling and, I might add, an incredible relief.

Now there are many mountains, some larger, some steeper, but the one I climbed was perfect for me. I was happy to be where I was. For the many that know me, you are aware that I sold my business after 30 years and began a completely new career. Yes, 20 years ago I started doing what I longed to do — speak professionally, write articles and books and be a Sherpa. In other words — a consultant.

After 50 years in the climb, I’d like to give those who have just started or even the experienced climbers some advice. Are you ready? The best money you can spend and time you carve out of a day, is on educating yourself. Read that again and let it sink in. I say that because your company is only as good as you. So let me give you some ideas on what I’m talking about, so you can educate yourself and get to the top more safely and quickly.

1. Read at least one trade journal from cover to cover every month.

2. Set a goal to read or listen to at least one book a month.

3. Attend your state and national landscape conventions.

4. Network to meet other smart and larger business owners.

5. Listen to podcasts to open your mind and provide you with ideas.

6. Attend seminars to increase your knowledge on specific subjects.

7. Spend an entire day with another non-competitive company.

8. Stay up to date with the latest technology affecting our industry.

9. Hire consultants to assess you and your company to help in your climb.

10. Study and earn the various state and national industry certifications.

There you go — 10 solid ideas. But please, don’t tell me you don’t have time. If you think you don’t have time, start with a time management course! Carve out the time because educating yourself is how you get to the top.

Now, you can’t do all these at once, start with one, put it into practice and move to the next. If you work to educate yourself, before you know it, you will be at the top and will have harvested your potential.

Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company.