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Savannah Intern Improves Skills Through Multiple Experiences

It was an early Friday morning in May and the sun had just begun to peer through the pine trees. I was full of anticipation as I prepared to begin my journey from Auburn University to Hardeeville, South Carolina. I was about to embark on a great adventure, traveling to a new, unknown place with only my dog, Beauregard, to keep me company. Most horticulture students interning outside of Auburn over the summer had found apartments, condos, or homes to rent for the next couple of months; some had friends or family that lived in the area where they were working and were staying with them. As for me, I decided to think slightly outside the box. I decided to spend the summer living in my camper at a premier site on beautiful Lake Jasper. Once I arrived at the campground and set up my summer home, I spent the remainder of the weekend relaxing in the tranquility of the area, awaiting the start of my internship with a top green industry company; Austin Outdoor.

As I pulled into the parking lot of the Austin Outdoor Savannah Branch for the first time, I was filled with several emotions; excitement, enthusiasm, nervousness, and a little bit of doubt. I had never had an internship before this summer, nor had I ever worked for a large company like Austin Outdoor. I grew up in a somewhat small town, spending most of my free time helping my father with a residential lawn maintenance business. Although I had an abundance of experience, I was entering unfamiliar territory. When I walked through the front door, I was instantly greeted with a kind smile from the Office Manager, Janelle. She knew exactly who I was, and immediately helped me become acquainted with the office. Whatever doubt I had in the back of my mind quickly disappeared.

My learning experience began the very first day. I met the Business Development Manager and the two of us went out to three different properties to take measurements for maintenance proposals. We returned to the office that afternoon, and he introduced me to the maintenance proposal model used by Austin Outdoor. Using a model like this was completely new to me but he explained it in a way that was very easy to comprehend and walked me through the entire process. I spent the next day with Jeremy, the Estimator and Construction Manager. He taught me how to use the construction-estimating model. Just as the BDM had done the day before, Jeremy walked me through the entire process from the beginning, starting with mapping out a design plan to pricing and ordering plant material to entering it into the model and making the proper adjustments. In just two short days, I had already been exposed to two major components of the business, and I could not wait to see what I would learn next.

Before this summer, most of my experience in the green industry was in residential maintenance. I had completed some small construction and enhancement jobs in the past, but nothing on a large commercial scale and I did not have much field knowledge regarding irrigation systems. Within a few weeks, all of this changed. I spent valuable time with different managers and crews, soaking up every bit of information that I could. I went from hardly knowing a thing about irrigation systems, to installing and programming new clocks, installing and repairing pop-ups and rotors, running new pipe and drip irrigation, and adjusting systems to properly accommodate plant material. I worked with enhancement crews on several projects assisting with everything from tear-out of old material, grading and prepping areas, and installing new plant materials. Although I had a lot of previous maintenance know-how, working with the maintenance crew proved to be a great learning experience. I have worked on some very detail-oriented projects, which have trained my eye to notice small, key details that could determine whether we keep or lose an account.

My experience with Austin Outdoor has been nothing short of extraordinary. I did not necessarily know what to expect when I accepted the internship and moved to South Carolina, but any expectations that I had were completely blown out of the water. My field knowledge has expanded significantly, including maintenance, enhancements, and irrigation systems, and I am confident that I have made tremendous improvements in my managerial skills. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I am certain that the skills I have learned during my time with Austin Outdoor will surely enhance my career.

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Auburn University Singer Takes Apopka Branch by Song!

My experience with the Austin Outdoor internship program has been extremely exciting. I am located at the Apopka Branch and meeting the staff and getting to know them has been one of the most rewarding experiences working with this company. I am very thankful for my Mentor who has pushed me to take charge and attack problems. I am seven weeks into my internship and I have learned so much!

My first week I met the staff, toured the shop and shadowed the Account Managers; observing what they do on a daily basis. We visited their properties and they shared what to look for on a property to make a job look perfect. Shadowing them allowed me to see what happens behind the scenes and the importance of communication between the Property Managers, Owners, and Crews.

I have several passions; horticulture, singing and dancing. At Auburn University I am a member of the AU Singers, a show choir. On any given day the staff will find me singing and dancing around the office or while out in the field. Sometimes I can get our Account Managers and Office Manager to sing with me! I tell them, “The best way to start your day is with a song.”

As the weeks have passed my internship has become more hands on. During my week with the irrigation techs I probably learned more than any other week. Going into this internship I had almost zero knowledge about irrigation systems, their design, and functions. I learned how to preform an inspection and what problems to flag. As the week went on I learned how to install a valve, troubleshoot, and make lateral repairs on my own. This was a lot of fun and a great experience because I learned new things. I also got to know the staff better, which made work even more enjoyable and the number one reason why I had so much fun.

I have learned about fertilizer and chemical programs and I used a Z-sprayer mixing chemicals and applying them to the turf of different properties. I also worked one on one with our branch’s fert/chem expert, Kenny Padgent.

I have also been exposed to the sales side of the business and spent time with the Apopka Business Development Manager. She showed me the ups and downs, and wins and losses which are a part of the job. I enjoyed seeing a different side of the business and how it grows.

Working with the Office Manager I learned the PO system, timesheet inputs, and other back office tasks (and also, how she keeps everyone in line.)

My favorite project was performing a lateral repair for irrigation on my own. I was able to troubleshoot the area and figure out what needed to be done. The repair wasn’t difficult but using the knowledge I had been taught and putting it to use was rewarding. I was able to replace the broken pipes and reroute the water.

My Austin Outdoor Internship has been a rewarding experience so far. I have learned landscape maintenance practices, how to manage people and most importantly not everything goes exactly by plan! By working with different staff members one on one I have been able to get to know them on a more personal level which is extremely rewarding. Working in the different areas of the company has opened my eyes to the landscape business. It makes me excited for the future of our green industry and the future of my career.

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Jennifer's Experience at Our Central Houston Branch

Interning at BIO Landscape has been an incredible experience so far! I am assigned to the Houston Central Branch and have learned a lot. My mentor and the other Account Managers and employees are very knowledgeable and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from them. This internship has provided me with many skill sets, from management to field work, which will be helpful in my future landscape career.

I have spent the majority of my internship at the Cross Creek Ranch property. My Mentor manages this account and I help him with work there. We work closely with the Developers and Property Managers of Cross Creek to maintain a pristine, sustainably landscaped community. If there is a problem or resident complaint, we look at the area and come up with a prompt solution. Communication between BIO Landscape and Cross Creek Ranch is essential to maintain the community and the company’s reputation as a top landscaper.

During a typical week I shadow my mentor by going on client calls and crew checks with him. This helps me, through observation, see how he handles his business relationships and learn effective management styles in different situations. Each week I also work on projects around the community. I use the enhancement model to create job proposals which are sent to the customer. As part of creating a proposal, I choose the kind of materials and the amount needed and then price the job. Sometimes I will create an exhibit to graphically portray what we plan to do on the job. Once approved I order materials by working with our purchaser or if it’s a small order, directly calling the supplier. Once we have the materials then it’s time for installation! Usually I help oversee this process and make sure everything goes in correctly.

In addition to my management experience, I have gained hands on learning. I have worked with irrigation, maintenance, and the enhancement crews and hope to work with the fert/chem crew soon. With irrigation I have learned basic installation of pipes and watering heads and understanding the different parts which works best for each job site. From this experience I plan to gain an irrigation technician license so that I can learn even more about this area of the landscape industry. The highlight of working with maintenance has been learning how to operate the new John Deere tractor. I spent time mowing a large, grassy pipeline area and it was a lot of fun to drive! With enhancements, I have done several jobs including laying sod, planting Asian Jasmine vine (in heavy clay soil, not the easiest job) and replacing annuals. I designed the annuals job and enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing my ideas become a reality!

My internship with BIO Landscape is passing quickly, I have been learning so much and having a good time working here. In this upcoming month I plan to spend time with the Landscape Designer or the Construction Department as part of my in house rotation to gain knowledge from other areas of the company. I know by the end of my time here I will have gained an immense amount of experience that will only help me in a future management position.

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West Palm Beach Intern Jumps In

 

After being accepted as an intern for the West Palm Beach branch I was excited, yet nervous, not knowing what was to come. My first week was mind blowing as I shadowed my Mentor, learning that there is more to landscaping than designing a beautiful greenspace for personal enjoyment. I dove right in with my Mentor doing site safety, helping her finish a berm project, completing work orders, taking plant inventory and importing information into a model to create a proposal. I also jumped in with the mow crew experiencing the different equipment. I quickly realized how important and busy the job of an Account Manager can be and by the end of my first week I came to appreciate the crews for the hard work they do!


So far, during my time at Austin Outdoor, I have been a part of the team, making phone calls to get prices on equipment, filling out requisitions, learning the importance of coding accounts, going over scheduling with crews and prepping the Crew Leader to move quickly and safely.


One of my favorite experiences was spending time with the West Palm Business Development Manager learning the sales side of the landscape business. It was a great experience as we worked on the enhancement model for an upcoming meeting, placing information into the estimator system and creating an AM report to be sent to the Branch Manager for approval.


With time I have shadowed multiple Account Managers and observed their different styles of working with and operating their crews. I am learning how to communicate professionally with HOA members and what residents want in their landscapes. After weeks of site inspections I have come to realize just how much a landscape can change in a week as I observed plants dying in an area that was fine the week before. I learned scale was the culprit and how to treat the infestation. I found this very interesting since I never experienced scale on plants before.


All in all my internship experience has shown me the importance of thinking about the amount of labor and time it will take to maintain a landscape. When considering a landscape design, it is more than just creating something that looks amazing, it must also be sustainable and survive the environment. I must think long term, that’s the key! Most importantly, my Mentor has taught me how important community and relationships are between you and the customer.

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Presenting the 2015 Intern Class

 

These young men and women, located throughout Austin Outdoor, are proving to be energetic, bright and talented.

Check back soon for updates from our Intern Class about their experiences with us this summer.

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A Brief History of the American Lawn

As we approach the Fourth of July, well all take some time to reflect on the great things we love about our country.

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The Scoop on Mowing Height and 3 Common Turf Diseases

Our most recent edition of The Scoop offers tips from our Landscape Professionals.

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Two Traits of Top Commercial Landscape Clients

When we take a look at our top commercial landscape clients, we see that there are two really simple traits that they all share.

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Yellowstone Landscape Expands in Georgia

Yellowstone Landscape expands in Georgia with Perimeter Landscape Management acquisition

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Does your landscape company's size matter?

This week one of our industrys major publications, Lawn and Landscape, released their annual Top 100 listing...

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