The Level Green Culture Blog

Behind the scenes and insider information for landscaping careers and green industry jobs.

Not sure what the future holds for you after high school graduation?

If you love to be outside, like to work with your hands and are a good team player, landscaping might be a perfect fit.

Level Green Landscaping branch manager James Kole tells how a landscaping job straight out of high school can be the start of something big.

When Brad Butler was offered the job as Level Green Landscaping’s chief safety officer, he was sort of surprised.

”My hobbies are big wave surfing and skydiving, so I thought it was kind of odd they asked me to be in charge of safety,” he says.

Plus he has five kids, and a sixth due in August. And four giant Italian mastiff dogs, weighing in at about 200 lbs each.

When you think about it, if Brad’s managed to stay happy and healthy this long, he must know something.

Sometimes the best thing a landscape company owner can do to solve a dilemma is to ask another landscaping guy.

Or ask six of them.

Imagine all seven owners in a room, talking about their finances, sharing how they do business, puzzling out problems and trading their best ideas.

It’s called The Growth Network, and it’s Level Green Landscaping’s industry peer group.

The owners of seven landscaping companies of similar size from across the country get together regularly to share, explore new ideas and learn from each other.

And once a year, they bring managers, too, so they can meet, mingle and learn together.

Randy Pettko keeps apologizing for being boring. "I probably have the least exciting job here,” says Randy, Level Green Landscaping’s comptroller for the past two years.

Except, he’s got it all wrong. Here are four of the many reasons why Randy isn't boring:

— When he was in elementary school he was a wiz at “Jeopardy” on TV. "I ran the board once.” (That’s brainy guy talk for answering all the questions.)

— He has degrees in business and accounting, which you'd expect in his line of work. But he also minored in microbiology in college, has completed an apprenticeship in heating, ventilation and air conditioning and earned a paralegal certificate. He’d take classes at night, just for fun.

"I love learning," he says.

— He’s teaching his 4-year-old grandson, Chris, construction techniques using wood models.

— He can tell you that the 2007 Will Smith sci-fi movie “I Am Legend” is a remake of the 1971 Charlton Heston movie “The Omega Man,” which is a remake of the 1964 Vincent Price movie, “The Last Man on Earth.” He loved “The Omega Man” as a kid, fascinated by the science of it, and the efforts to find a cure to the zombie invasion.

Sorry, Randy. You're not boring at all.

But his job — comptroller — is one of those job titles that’s sort of a mystery to people.

The first thing Doug Delano says about how he ended up here might surprise you.

“I hated mowing grass,” he says.

Luckily, he grew up surrounded by gardeners, or you might not even be reading this story.

His dad grew fragrant roses and snappy stalks of asparagus. His mom nourished vegetable gardens and both grandmothers loved plunging their fingers into the soil.

It was in his blood. So after considering a career as a pastor, majoring in philosophy, teaching high school math and coaching football, Doug gave in to his calling.

“I wanted to be a landscaper,” he says.

Now he’s co-owner of Level Green Landscaping. But he started at the bottom, as most landscapers do, working as a laborer and truck driver at Ruppert Landscape.

“I went from a job that needed a college degree to one where all you needed was to be robust enough to dig holes all day,” he says.

But not for long. He took classes in horticulture and landscape design, and after a few months moved up to assistant supervisor.

Soon he was a supervisor on the construction side, then a project manager, overseeing several crews. After five years in construction he was promoted to area manager on the maintenance side. Then he worked in sales and was a branch manager.

He loved the journey. But when Ruppert was bought by a large national company, the thrill was gone.

Never pass up a landscaping industry job fair. They’re full of possibility.

But they can be hectic, loud, and packed with people just like you angling for face time and information.

How to make the most it?

Brooks Lee, account manager at Level Green Landscaping, shares some tips.

Lee staffed a Level Green Landscaping booth at a job fair last fall at Virginia Tech and attended several fairs as a student at the University of South Florida.

“Talking to people, getting a sense of the company culture, can really help you figure out where would be a good fit for you,” Lee says.

For the best fair experience, follow these tips.

Lynn Garris has been to every Level Green Landscaping holiday party since the first one, back in 2006.

“There were only about 10 of us back then,” recalls Garris, the company’s office manager. “We didn’t even have chairs or tables. We just stood around in the little shop area.”

She laughs.

“I think we may have had KFC.”

This year, 130 partygoers — supervisors, drivers, corporate staff, branch managers, operations managers — settled in at cloth-covered tables, in an expansive shop festooned with shimmering garlands, twinkling lights and a decorated tree.

The celebratory lunch: savory homemade Mexican food. The Upper Marlboro East branch took on the cooking, with operations manager Hector Diaz in charge of the grill. On the menu: marinated and grilled chicken and beef; tortillas; beans; rice and a salad. 

Bill Hardy swims with sharks and shoots off an astonishingly large display of exploding fireworks every Fourth of July.

So when his friend and former colleague Doug Delano asked if he wanted to go into business together, honestly, it didn’t seem too scary.

Plus, they were at Red Lobster at the time. Those cheddar biscuits have a way of making everything seem just fine.

“I call it the day Doug proposed to me,” Bill recalls cheerfully. “A business partnership is a lot like a marriage. It has to be based on trust. You’re not always going to agree on everything, but you still have to figure out how to solve issues.”

He laughs.

“I accepted his proposal pretty quick.”

Most days, Level Green Landscaping managers, supervisors and crews are hard at work for clients — laying pavers, planning projects, ordering 11,000 liriope plants.

But some days, they take their time and talent out into the community.

They help kids plant an herb garden for a senior center. They teach affordable housing residents how to plant a rain garden. They landscape a student-built house — no charge.

They do good. And feel good.

“We get a great deal of satisfaction from it, especially when we work with kids,” says Bill Hardy, managing partner at Level Green.

Here’s a look at some of the good that happens.

It's time to get a job. Are you ready to meet with a recruiter?

While you might assume getting a job in landscaping is a more casual situation than in other industries, recruiters in landscaping are looking for some of the same qualities that are valuable in any profession.

James Kole, branch manager at Level Green Landscaping, knows his way around the recruiting table. He and his colleagues visit several colleges and universities, collegiate competitions and professional conferences each year, looking for prospective new employees.

What impresses him?

He'll tell you.