LB: You’re a young guy to be owning a business. How and when did you get started in all of this?
Bill: When I was 15, I wanted a job and one of our friends needed their lawn mowed. So we borrowed a trailer from a neighbor to put the mower on and my Dad drove me to the friend’s home to mow the lawn. Then I got a referral for another job and another job. Pretty soon my Dad was driving all around that summer while I mowed lawns. When I turned 16, I bought my first pickup truck and the trailer from the neighbor and I was in business. I called it Billy’s Neighborhood Lawn Services.
LB: A lot of kids have summer lawn mowing jobs and drop it when they graduated. What prompted you to continue into a full landscaping business?
Bill: The summer after graduation, one of my customers asked me to tear out some shrubs and trees for them…that was in New Brighton. I did that and even painted their deck for them. It was very satisfying to see the transformation. In the Fall I started college in River Falls to get a business degree. During the Major Fair, a conference of sorts to help students determine their desired fields of interest, I was talking with a counselor about my lawn service business and how I wanted to continue growing that. He suggested I look into a Horticulture degree. That would give me the knowledge of trees, shrubs and plants to move a lawn mowing job to the next level.
LB: How did you know that was the right move from a business degree?
Bill: I attended River Falls for 2 ½ years and during that time, I was fortunate enough to get an internship with Bailey’s Nursery for 7 months. This was an outstanding hands-on experience learning about plant breeding, trees diseases, cultivation and the like. It also gave me the opportunity to make great connections with some of the best for future questions and reference. I was prompted through Bailey’s to continue with my schooling at Dakota County Tech where they have a program and degree for Associates in Horticulture and Landscape Construction. I will be completing the degree this summer.
LB: So are you still Billy’s Neighborhood Lawn Service?
Bill: Yes and No….The name of the business changed to Stout Outdoor Services, LLC a few years ago when I added new services like hardscape designs, paver patios and winter snow plowing and officially made it a business. But I still continue to mow and care for the lawns of my customers…some of them for 8-9 years now. I upgraded to a zero turn mower about 7 years ago and have invested in a new truck for the snow plowing and trailers to haul equipment.
LB: Are you a one person business or do you have help?
Bill: From day one, my Dad has been with me and he works full time with me now helping with the financials, keeping things organized and a considerable amount of job work, too. For additional help when I need it, I call on kids from the Boy Scout Troop to work part time. They work hard and are eager to learn. In addition, I have some wonderful college friends that are also in landscaping fields and we help each other when we can. As I continue to grow, I see the business as having several regular full time employees.
LB: Why do you think your customers of 8 years continue to call you? What about your service brings them back?
Bill: I think a lot of it is my positive attitude and connecting with them on a personal level. I always have a smile on my face and make sure they know how much they mean to me. They are not just a paycheck. I work at developing a relationship where they can be honest about my work and let me know if they are unhappy with anything. I believe they understand how much I care that they are totally satisfied with the job. I try to go the extra mile and am very invested in my clients. That’s one of the main attributes I want to be a cornerstone of my business in the future.
LB: How do you see that attribute contributing to your company’s philosophy? What defines your future mission for Stout Outdoor Services?
Bill: Two things come to mind. The first is that we recognize that every job should be as unique to that individual as they are. Every design should mimic the personality of the customer and what fits them artistically. It should take into consideration their time available for future maintenance. Listening and being invested in their lifestyle will make that happen.
The second thing is that the job must be done right. I want to leave every home like I would want it done if it was mine. I see my name on every project and I don’t want to be associated with something not done the best it can be. I want to be as proud of it…and I want my customer to be proud of it, too.
LB: Have you set any immediate goals for the future?
Bill: Right now I’m very excited to get my Arbor Certification. There are wonderful continuing ed classes offered through the Green Expo and I’m looking forward to using that knowledge to help my clients with the health of their plants, shrubs and trees.
I thoroughly enjoying using CAD to build excellent visuals of the landscape designs I’m working on for clients. We are doing a number of paver patios and outdoor living spaces and I’m loving it. We are working towards a major increase in that area of business.
We’ve been certified for backflow testing and have added that service for customers.
There’s so much we can continue to do to enhance the outdoor experience for our clients and we are looking forward to it all. And, we are always grateful to be helping our loyal customers keep healthy green lawns!