Reflections on 30 Years in Business: What I Learned From Our founder

I really can’t actually reflect on the full 30 years, but I can reflect on 25+. Only a few employees came before me, but no too many. Only our founder Syd Stephan goes back to the beginning. In those early days Syd was a one man show, doing basic landscaping services and consulting from the back of his Oldsmobile station wagon. (Click here to learn more about those early years).

I first met Syd when I interviewed for a job with him in spring of 1995 during my senior year of college. I told Syd that I grew up on a farm and had a lot of experience working with my hands and equipment, and he knew I had the potential as his employee. Even at that time when he had only a handful of employees, Syd knew what he needed: hard working people that were teachable. He’d say something like, “find the right people, teach them the skills they need to know and you’ll be fine.”


Founder Syd Stephan conducts a company meeting in Spring of 2007 | Photo Horticulture Services


Founder Syd Stephan conducts trimming crew training in Spring of 2011 | Photo Horticulture Services

I went on to finish up my final weeks of college and began my summer landscaping job while anticipating the beginning a teaching career. Little did I know that 25 years later I’d be sitting in my office in the offices of Horticulture Services reflecting on the last 25 years, never having instructed in a classroom.  As it turned out I really liked working outdoors, I really liked using equipment, and I really liked planting and growing things. Probably not surprising for as a kid who grew up on an Iowa farm.

It wasn’t just the work that kept me, it was what Syd brought as a boss and even a mentor (although mentor wasn’t the word we used). As a young guy just out of college with a teaching degree I didn’t know much about business or landscaping, but Syd committed himself to teaching all of his employees as much as he could. At that time Syd was still learning the technical aspects of running a business, yet he had a complete grasp of the value of treating customers well and treating your his employees even better. Syd instilled those values in me well before he chose me as his successor to manage the company. Syd lead me by example, teaching me that if you treat your employees really well, they’ll love their job, they’ll work for you for a long time, and they’ll treat the customers in a way that reflects how they have been treated.

I’m grateful today for all the hours I was able to work alongside Syd.

Jeff Wilson | General Manager
Posted 09/05/2019