Seth Kehne, Lawn Butler
Seth Kehne's first job was at a grocery store. It didn't last long. He ditched it for a job mowing lawns—and hasn't looked back since.
"My friend's dad had a mowing company," Kehne recalls. "I worked there a while and thought, 'I could do this myself.' So I did. I was always good at saving money. I had $2,000 and bought a used mower. I started lining up my own customers. Soon I was working two days a week for my friend's dad and three days a week on my own."
Kehne's lawn business started out as a means to help pay for college. He was about to enroll at the University of Tennessee to study finance. Once on campus, the business continued to grow. "I had a crew of college guys working with me," Kehne says. "We had clients all around campus, including a lot of upper-scale homes. These customers liked us because they could trust us."
As Kehne's college days began winding down, he got married and earned his degree in finance. "The company was still going strong, though, and I still really enjoyed it," Kehne says. "I didn't want to let it go, so I didn't."
Kehne continues to make a living in landscaping, although his motivation for doing so has changed.
"Now it's about creating a destination company where people want to come and build a career," Kehne says. "There is an opportunity for the landscaping industry to help improve the lives of a lot of people in what you might call the 'manual labor' market. A lot of industries and companies don't really value their people. You can make a big impact when you treat people with respect, invest in them and give them opportunity to grow."
Lawn Butler in Knoxville, Tennessee, employs roughly 75 people. Kehne looks to the NALP for help in bringing out the best in both his employees and himself.
"I've been a member for many years, but have become much more involved since around 2012," Kehne says. "There is so much benefit in networking. I've also joined a peer group. There isn't a week, if not day, that goes by where I'm not communicating with other business owners in the peer group."
Kehne has also become a faithful user of NALP's Safe Company Program. "If you want to be professional, safety is the first step," Kehne says. "I encourage any member to get involved in the safety program." Kehne has also become more involved in NALP's certification program, another important step in becoming a true industry professional.
"Take advantage of all the great online tools such as webinars and forums," Kehne adds. "And don't forget about the legislative side. This is very important and often taken for granted. The industry needs a strong voice when it comes to legislation. I attended the NALP's annual Legislative Day on the Hill in Washington, D.C. for the first time last summer. It was a great experience that I was proud to be a part of."