Finding her career in the landscape industry was a process of trial and error for Gail Reinhart. She grew up on a 500-acre farm and was an athlete in high school, but after she graduated, she had no idea what she wanted to do next.
She tried college for a semester before going into the workforce at a factory.
“I learned very quickly I did not want to be inside,” Reinhart says. “It was really good because it taught me, ‘Okay, I need to look for something outdoors.’”
She went on to explore the possibility of becoming a park ranger but found she was more passionate about the plants than the wildlife. After a few more stops, she eventually landed a job at a local golf course and found she enjoyed it a lot.
Reinhart ended up attending Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio, and studied landscape and turfgrass management. While attending community college, the various guest speakers in her classes made Reinhart quickly understand how many opportunities there were in the landscape industry.
“I just saw tons of opportunity in the landscape industry compared to if you’re doing a golf course, or even if you’re doing botanical gardens,” Reinhart says.
Reinhart says she gravitated toward the landscape industry because it provided a level of physicality to it and it appealed to her goal-oriented nature.
“I still wanted to have something a little bit more athletic and very competitive,” Reinhart says. “In the landscape industry, you have a short amount of time to do things.”
After graduating in 2000, Reinhart says she threw her resumes in the wind and ended up in Delaware for four years. She says she was able to utilize her education and learn new plants for the different hardiness zone.
“It was really good from a professional standpoint and a personal standpoint,” Reinhart says. “I think it’s good if anyone gets away from your roots, to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. That’s always what’s helped me, doing things that scare me.”
One challenge Reinhart has faced throughout her career is the lack of mentorship.
“Every place I went was a trial by fire,” Reinhart says. “It was ‘go in there and just do it.’ You’d get a little bit of information, but there was no guidance.”
She says over the last 10 years she’s become more involved with NALP because of the opportunity to talk with industry peers and get some feedback.
In her previous job, she made the switch to human resources. Reinhart rose to the challenge and had to teach herself.
“I love helping the team get to where it wants to go,” Reinhart says. “Being in that people part of it, you have a lot of opportunities to help people, so for me, that just ended up being a very easy transition.”
For a time, Reinhart considered leaving the industry but couldn’t find another career that would get her fired up in the morning.
“I still love the fact that we’re the ones taking care of the planet,” Reinhart says. “We don’t market ourselves that way, but to me, that’s what I always felt.”
Last year she ended up joining Five Seasons Landscape Management, based in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, as their people and talent director.
“Here at Five Seasons, the reason why I ended up joining them was that I was really impressed by the fact that they had a lot of long-tenured people here,” Reinhart says. “Not just at the top upper management, it was all the way through the organization, all the way down to the field personnel.”
Since joining, she’s worked to take care of their current team by raising pay and altering the referral bonus program to reward the employees who bring in the new hires.
Now she works to develop the company’s team of employees and is focused on providing culture, training and a positive employee experience. One aspect she focuses on is ensuring new employees find a connection in the first week of work.
“In that first week, if that new person hasn’t connected with someone and it doesn’t seem like they have either that buddy or that person that they’re talking to, it would be cause for concern from my standpoint,” Reinhart says. “It’s very easy for them to just walk away.”
One major element Reinhart is working to change in the industry is making it more welcoming and taking the time to give employees guidance and genuinely care about them.
As for where she sees herself in the next five years, Reinhart wants to give back and help others through their careers.
“I believe now that I’ve hit this point in my career, I want to finish out my career here,” Reinhart says. “It’s really about how can I grow with them and not stop learning.”
She encourages other females considering joining the industry to not be afraid to jump in and ask questions.
“I did a lot of things that I was afraid of, but I would ultimately ask them to teach me,” Reinhart says.
This article was published in the July/August issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.