Death of a Salesman

“I definitely want to expand to a point where I can do less physical work, and get people out there making money for me every day.”

This is what Bob Schaut, owner of Pigeon Creek Landscaping in West Olive, MI had to say about the future of his business.

Schaut, 49, has owned Pigeon Creek Landscaping for almost 5 years, but it hasn’t been easy for the landscaping entrepreneur. Before creating his business, Schaut worked for TMI Compressors where he drove a service van fixing air compressors across West Michigan. The job took a toll on him, but it wasn’t long before he moved up in the company.

“The job was getting very tedious, long hours, hard work and I had an opportunity to get into sales,” said Schaut.

Not having any sales experience, Schaut took an internet test and beat everyone out including those already in the field. He was in awe that he beat salesmen that were trying to get the same job. TMI took a chance on Schaut and gave him a sales territory, a salary and a gas card. The job came with many perks, but soon problems.

“The problem was I got the worst territory out of all the salesmen,” Schaut said. “It was the territory that had been through salesmen after salesmen after salesmen.”

He spent much of his time cold calling and made just enough sales to cover his salary, but it wasn’t enough. The economy was failing and after three years as a salesman, Schaut was let go.

That wasn’t Schaut’s first life altering event when it came to his career. Before working for TMI, Schaut was employed by office furniture manufacturer Haworth, for 18 years. Due to business cuts, he was laid off along with 3,000 other employees

After the layoff from TMI, Schaut spoke with his friend Greg, who operated his own landscaping business. Schaut recalled the conversation.

“I remember him telling me, “There’s so much work out here, but there’s not enough landscapers. So if you were thinking about starting a landscaping company I could probably help you out.””

It was a cheap and easy way for him to get into the business. He already owned a mower and just needed to a trailer.

Since then, Pigeon Creek Landscaping has developed tremendously in the last few years. The job has provided Schaut the flexibility to work around his family’s needs. Although there are many positive aspects with owning a business, there are many obstacles Schaut still faces.

Bob Schaut, Owner of Pigeon Creek Landscaping

Now that Bob’s getting older, the physical challenges are an everyday occurrence for him.

“I’m no spring chicken”, he said jokingly.

He plans to fix this issue by one day hiring employees. He has helpers when working large jobs, but they’re off the book employees that are paid hourly. They have full-time jobs, so he plans around their schedule.

“Someday I hope to be big enough to steal them away from where they’re working now, and have them work for me”, Bob said.

Not only would having employees expand the business, but it would give him the opportunity to focus on finding more work.

When asking what advice Bob had for aspiring business owners he said, “It’s important to do something you want to get up and do every day. What drives you? What are you excited about?”

Schaut admitted he wasn’t excited about starting a lawn care business, but mentally it was the right avenue.

His household even noticed a big difference in Bob when he started the business.

His wife Sonya noticed a big change in his attitude especially. “He has a more positive outlook on life,” she said. “He’s become more involved with the family and you can tell he’s passionate about his work. You have to be very brave to start something on your own and make progress like he has.”