Start-up Company

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    Tanya Olson

    I stand corrected. Thanks for pointing that out! I always assumed you had to be licensed to use it….You cannot call yourself a landscape architect, however.
    I talked to the director of my state’s board of technical professions and apparently with the recession there are a lot of ‘turf wars’ between licensed landscape architects and others who use the term but have no license and in some instances, no design training. Not you, I know – just a heads up.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. I am saying that it will be very difficult to change the track that it will take you on once you get on it. You will be on a track that will give you only the experience you can get from the type of work that you can get and you’ll not have an easy time getting work that you don’t have a track record of doing which is likely to be very limiting. Once you start, you’ll invest in equipment and become very invested in what you are doing which will make it so that you’ll have something to lose if you should ever want to pursue an internship not only for licensing, but to bump you up into an experience level (and all the networking that comes with it ) that you are not going to get tossing mulch around and cutting grass.

    I’m just saying that you really need to make sure that you realize that you have invested a lot of time and money pursuing one career and it may be that you are at a crossroad where you can decide to be either a landscape contractor (like you could have before you went to school) or following through on what you went to school to do.

    There is nothing wrong with being a landscape contractor and you could make a lot of money at it. You need to be a natural people manager to do that – you can’t learn it. If you are not that type, it might not be a smart move.

    I’m thinking that someone who has been previously self employed in design/build is not a highly desirable intern either. A job outside of the industry can pay the bills without wrecking your career track.

    Just think it through.



    Again, I agree with the bulk of your concerns. Obviously, anyone who is facing an inconsistent flow of work, either working in a firm or simply trying to find an ‘in’ into the industry, will try to make the best of the situation. However, your last paragraph troubles me because it likens to other discussions I’ve seen here on the Lounge and had with people in the profession.

    Similar to the BLA vs. MLA thread, there appear to be preconceived notions within the industry that only people with certain criteria are meant to succeed. Instead of offering useful life and professional experience, jobs such as maintenance and design/build become blemishes on a resume. If the timeline of your experience doesn’t line up with the progression of “degree, internship, full-time employment in a firm”, does that mean you’re screwed?

    It’s not my intention to throw out a loaded question, but while we all deal with this economic climate perhaps there should be a list of jobs potential landscape architects should avoid like the plague.

    jennifer Bloch

    For what it’s worth – after the MLA – I worked for an architect in Manhattan and then a couple of L.A. design build firms – just for exactly two years – and then I sprang out on my own with my own clientele – for the past 7 years. I could only take residential projects legally – but became involved with public art competitions and such. I am sitting for my license now so that I can branch out and go after my own public contracts.

    While in school, I interned with a landscape architect who si fairly well published named Ron Herman. One day he said to me: “There is more than one way to skin a cat”.

    I say follow your gut and listen to that more than anything else – Best Wishes.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think anything is a guaranteed career killer, but that you can position yourself so that in order to advance, you have to go backwards. If you have a family and are having some success as a landscape contractor, how is an intern position going to work?

    No one is going to pay more for an intern because his needs are greater (family, mortgage, etc, …) when there are plenty of other new graduates who can work for less. Few people are going to throw away something that they are making a living with in order to take a pay cut and invest two more years in what would amount to a career change. That is why so many never go through the internship and stick to contracting once they begin that path.

    I know more people with LA degrees who are not and will never get licensed than those who are licensed for this reason. Most of them don’t seem to have any reason to regret following that path, but who really know if that is the case?

    Follow your gut, but do so with an understanding of what it means to make that decision because it may not be as reversible as we tend to think.

    Jonathan J. Bob

    Why would someone previously self-employed in design/build be less desirable as an intern? Would it be their drive to start their own company in a recession? Would it be their knowledge of how things are actually built and real world experience? I think that if Glenn decides in the future to go the “office” route, his practicle experience will only benefit his chances.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    It is not the knowledge gained from hands on experience that works against you.

    It may not work against you at all. Thatt is going to depend on whomever is doing the hiring. The reason why it can work against you is that people tend not to like the idea of setting up a competitor. A more mature person who is putting his own business on hold in order to become more competitive with the guy that is going to hire him could be more easily passed over for someone who is not so well poised to be a competitor – does that seem logical?

    Someone with a more settled life with a home and family is also more likely not to be looking to intern far from home, so is more likely to be seen as a potential competitor, if not one already by someone in the same or nearby community. When there are other choices without that potential, why would you as an employer go there?

    Jobs come from people. Human nature plays a lot more into hiring than what we are told in professional practice class or what we may want to believe. You may or may not choose to believe that.

    I work in a civil engineering office and beat out actual civil engineers and EIT’s because it was known that I could not open a civil engineering office even if I wanted to (and I had the right experience for the job as did the others). I know this because when thoughts of possible hiring s have come up this exact concern is discussed as it was at a previous firm that I worked for. This is not an opinion of mine, but something that I have direct experience with on both sides of the issue.

    Still, the bigger reason that it tends to kill the licensure path is that you have too much to give up for too long in order to intern later. You simply get to the point where you can’t absorb the income loss and choose not to do it.

    James Sipes

    This made me just shake my head. I 100% disagree with your comments.

    There are many roads to success … and many definitions of success.

    I chose the path where I moved around a lot, worked on cool projects world-wide, worked with top firms, and won more awards than anyone should ever win.

    My son just graduated, and he made the decision to work with a small, local firm doing what I consider to be mundane work. And he is happy. Good for him.

    I won’t judge others based upon my definition of success.

    Glenn Sovie

    I do agree with Andrew on many of these points. If I was to get too large too quick, I would have to invest more and more time into this business; most likely, years would pass by and I would say damn, I wonder how life would be different if I found that great internship/entry level job.

    Yet no one can say what is the “better” decision, and I don’t think anyone here is trying to either. I could get “that” job and end up being a CAD junkie and get “stuck” in some office lifestyle.

    I have been doing landscape construction for 4 years now, I am not going into the design/build thing blind. Over the years I have worked at three different companies now, met some great people, learned many many things that I believe and have always believed would BENEFIT my Landscape Architectural career, not hinder it in any way. I always felt most architects had never even picked up a shovel or built anything with their own hands, so how could they understand the gravity of that pen stroke they just made? (not trying to insult anyone) I figured potential employers would like to see that, but now I feel I have learned all I need to about the physical side of our profession, and would like to start designing again, or at least using the skills I paid so much money to learn in college. I love what I do now, busting my hump everyday, staying in shape and working outside. Yet I know I do not want to be doing this forever, and would like to get into “the office” and that is my main goal. This business venture in just for now, unless it takes off and I get my own “office” and hire one of you 🙂

    The only thing I could see as a hindrance is like Andrew says, getting “stuck” in a way in this sort of life. How many years can pass before potential firms start to look at you and say, well he might know know how to build these things and have practical hands on experience. But when was the last time he actually designed anything in CAD? Does he even remember how to use the required programs he lists on his resume?

    Does that make sense? that was my only fear; about not having had the internship or any office (cad monkey) experience yet. Do they look at you differently? as Andrew puts it.

    It is also true, that most of it is luck, and making your potential employer “like” you as a person, as well as knowing people who know people. But that is why we build our network, which I have slowly been doing.

    There is a lot of negativity on these boards, and everywhere really, but I am not about that. That won’t get you anywhere, and neither will worrying about things that are out of your hands. So I am just going to keep on trucking, have my business in the interim of the search for my next job, and enjoy life, taking it day by day.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    I’m either not communicating well, or you are not reading what I wrote. All I’m saying is that IF you want to stay on the licensure track, starting a design/build right out of school is going to make that very, very, difficult. I’m not saying anything about whether or not it is a better road to follow.

    You completely get it. It sounds like you already got it. I just wanted to make sure that you had thought it through because so many people expect things to be a certain way without really looking at how things are.

    jennifer Bloch

    am i incorrect? is it not possible to sit for lare with the education credentials and with years of practice as a licensed landscape contractor? …

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    It depends on the state. In Massachusetts you need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited LA program and two years of full time work as an employee under the direct supervision of a Registered Landscape Architect, or a Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture, or six years of full time work as an employee under the direct supervision of a Registered Landscape Architect with no degree. Glenn and I are both in Massachusetts.

    al fathi

    hi glenn, set urself a timetable. how long u want to do what u’re doing right now until u move to another level (beyond solitary pickup & part time assistant). move slowly but surely. always protect urself with a piece of written aggrement however short it maybe as it’d go a long way to cover ur A#@. worry not too much about the dough. learn to do things ‘right’ first, along the way get some profit to stay afloat and for ur future reserve. when u’re ready, join a firm (full consultancy, design/build) to expand ur outlook. u will know the time when u’re ready to start ur LLC/Inc. the stage is yours.

    Jeff Waters

    What state are you in? Most licensing boards require some amount of time working under the supervision of a Licensed Landscape Architect, not a contractor.

    jennifer Bloch

    Thanks – I’m in CA and i just checked the LATC site – and I’m not 100% but pretty sure that work under a licensed person , while the traditional path, is not required. Someone can get up to 4 years of credit toward the LA license by having been a licensed landscape contractor along with the required education. Seems the most profitable path. If someone is into getting laborious…

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