Growing a business and growing yourself

Dan Hillenbrand, Spring-Green Lawn Care

People talk about the entrepreneurial spirit and what drives business owner’s, their work ethic, and their ability to push through obstacles. While I can say I have those qualities, there is more to growing a business than just trying hard.

I have been a business owner my whole life. But I’ve also been learning hard lessons my whole life. I’ve had a variety of experiences that helped me learn lessons, including selling bubblegum to other kids in school, joining the Army, and going into overwhelming debt.

As painful as some of that was, learning lessons from the experiences allowed me to grow the OKC branch of Spring-Green Lawn Care at an incredible rate.

The importance of money management

With the help of a lawn maintenance mentor and several friends, I was able to start Poor Boys Lawn Care while I was in college. The business started with a $100 lawn mower and a few friends willing to work weekends.

After five years, the business had grown to a couple trucks and trailers, a very expensive riding mower, and 5-6 push mowers. All of this equipment was very expensive. Only the top of the line for my crew! But we were making our payments each month. That meant everything was great, right?

Surely the recipe for success is a poor newlywed college student spending every single cent he makes!

About that time my wife and I decided to move. We purchased a home in Colorado Springs that was about $100,000 over our budget. But since the bank approve the two loans we needed, everything was still great, right?


Changing the business and myself

I finally saw what was happening and started to learn about running a business and—more importantly—how to handle business expenses.

After some serious mental rewiring and the wisdom of Dave Ramsey, my wife and I sold our lawn equipment, rented out our Colorado home, and moved back to Oklahoma.

Since I had so much experience in the lawn care industry, I found a job with a lawn care company in OKC. While my financial decisions had not been wise, I had years of a serious work ethic I’d picked up from my parents, the military, and running my own business. As a result, I was able to reach the position of General Manager.

In that position, I was finally able to learn the details of running a successful business. I found out where the money comes from, how to save, how to spend, how to make a profit, how to plan for the year, the next five years, and so on.

Had I been in that position years earlier, I probably would not have learned nearly as much. But because I had already started making a change, being in that position led to a lot of personal and professional growth.

Because I was ready to learn, it’s amazing how much I was able to pick up while I was the General Manager. It was the experience of a lifetime! And those lessons are what eventually led me to move over to Spring-Green Lawn Care and grow it faster than any other branch in the United States.

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