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John Gulius: L.A. transplant grows landscaping success in South Carolina

If you’ve ever thought about making a career change to a completely different field, John Gulius provides a great case study. His professional U-turn took him from an intense daily commute in L.A. traffic to the fields, lawns, and landscapes of Greenville, South Carolina. John Gulius offers some lessons from his story of making the jump, expounding on the strategies necessary for success as an independent entrepreneur.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into entrepreneurship?

I’m originally from Pennsylvania, I went through school there. I graduated from Delaware Valley University where I studied business administration and management. That was great preparation for thinking about how to properly run a business. After that, I moved out to Los Angeles and pursued opportunities in the corporate world. But I never stopped wanting to create my own business, and I liked the idea of a specialty in the outdoor industry. I started to build up a knowledge base in designing turf management strategies. When I decided that I had the confidence and the knowledge base to break out on my own, I moved back to the East Coast. I just felt like it was time to start working for myself.

What are the top three skills you think are crucial for entrepreneurs today?

Definitely the ability to multitask. Because that's just gonna be part of your everyday life - you're gonna have to wear a lot of hats. So multitasking, and kind of along those lines is organization - especially of your time when you're doing things by yourself. You’ve really got to know where to put your attention from day to day. And three, is just that courage to go for it and break out on your own. To have the courage to stop talking yourself out of things.

How do you think the role of technology has impacted these skills in recent years?

You can organize your day so much more efficiently. It’s a huge help with managing where you’re putting your attention and how you’re accomplishing your goals. You can put stuff on a schedule almost instantly. But also, we now have the ability to research a lot faster. To stay on top of trends. So both our quality and efficiency of care have improved a lot in recent years with new technologies. 

In your opinion, how important is it for entrepreneurs to adapt to changing trends? And what do you see as the biggest trend in 2024?

You definitely want to have that knowledge base, as far as where the industry is heading. When a client starts talking to you about a certain trend, like a turf type or a design idea, you don't want to sound like you're out of touch. So it's very important to stay up. Even if you don't particularly like the trend, you should at least be able to talk about it intelligently, so that you present yourself as somebody who really knows the industry. 

As far as trends right now, at least in my industry, I'm starting to see a lot of designs that are focused on turning your property into a habitat. All of the components that are needed for a habitat – water, supply, and shelter – people are bringing those components into landscape designs. They’re starting to be more aware of birds and pollinators like bees and butterflies, and lost habitat. 

What’s one common mistake you often see new entrepreneurs make, and how can they avoid it?

Not planning for the startup time. It was really a process. I needed to have enough money saved to be set for two or three months. You need to be able to focus on your business full-time. I think people, and I'm not saying people can't do it, you may be able to work on your business part-time. But I would say the biggest mistake is just not being prepared for how much you’re going to have to invest, time-wise. 

How do you keep learning and growing as an entrepreneur?

I just use statistics and data. You want to keep good records of how you're doing, and what things are looking like. So that's one way to stay focused on growth. I always look at my year-end review. Every year, did I do my activity? Do my invoices? I’m looking for trends - looking for downtime, for when I was most successful. I never stop looking at trends and history.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting their entrepreneurial journey in 2024?

I kind of touched on this, but have a plan. Maybe save up enough money for a few months' worth of bills. Give yourself three months to focus on nothing but your business. Have a plan that will allow you to dedicate as much of your time and energy as possible. Because if you're just trying to do it for fun, or on the side, as a little side hustle, you're never gonna get to that level.


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