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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Hernando landscaper keeps busy during slow months

by kim dame
Hernando Today correspondent


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November isn't the busiest time in Florida for landscaping companies. Yet Justin Arnold of Justin Arnold Landscaping & Exterior Cleaning stays busy. He is either preparing his client's lawns for the winter, seeding and fertilizing, or even doing odd jobs around their properties or inside their homes to keep his business thriving.

To say that Arnold is a goal minded entrepreneur with creative ambition is to underplay his focus. At 25, Arnold has been building his business for six years. That equates to embracing the concepts of a young entrepreneur at just 19, when most young adults are only beginning to map their futures.

"I was working for a stucco company," Arnold said. Like many in the construction industry, Arnold's employer was hit hard and work became spotty at best. "When there wasn't any work, I went looking for it," he said.

He started mowing lawns, edging and sculpting.

"I handed out fliers and knocked on doors to get my name out there," he said. One customer led to two and three as positive referrals started shaping his client base.

Six years later, Justin Arnold packs his truck and flatbed most days to go out on jobs. He is busy during the summer months, landscaping for as many as 20 steady clients about two to four times a month.

But lawn service is seasonal, he said, and business is beginning to taper off as fall sets in. But Arnold is a multi-achiever, developing skills that take him beyond general landscaping to lawn sculpting and exterior cleaning, simple home repair and cosmetic work.

He still maintains a handful of properties during the slow time, weeding and feeding, to protect lawns from dying during the dryer, harsher months. And he fills in the gaps with odd jobs whenever possible.

Arnold has built such a strong rapport with regular clients that a few keep him busy during the quieter months to keep his business afloat.

Like Jim Bravico, a client who has remained with Arnold for six years. Bravico found Arnold online, he said, and gave him a call.

"The guy's like family," Bravico said. "Not only is he reliable but his work ethic is incredible. He goes above and beyond."

Arnold is eager to tackle any job his clients need as long as he has the skill to tackle it. If not, he is more than willing to learn.

Bravico's manicured lawn shows off some of Arnold's creative skill in separate islands he helped craft and mulched.

"I've built fences, painted, pressure-washed, etc.," Arnold said.

Bravico welcomed Arnold in immediately after his first meeting and they have become friends.

When the season slows down and the need for Arnold's services decreases, Bravico finds other things to keep him working.

"I help him when I can and he comes through for me," Bravico said.

Originally from Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn and Long Island, Bravico has high standards for those he employs and trusts with the condition of his lawn.

"Justin is trustworthy," Bravico said. "I give him the keys to my house."

Arnold appears modest about his ambition. Growing up under strong role models helped mold him into a responsible committed worker, he said. He learned the stucco business from his stepfather and, when the market sagged, branched out on his own to provide for his future.

He now has a young family to provide for including his girlfriend, Krissi Thiel, who does all the administrative work for the business while taking care of the couple's 3-month-old daughter, Siara.

Arnold will go outside of Hernando County but typically stays close, maintaining a comfortable work flow most days of the year. And when jobs slow down, he looks for other ways to meet his bottom line.

"I like what I do," Arnold said. "I get enjoyment out of it so I keep doing it."

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