Faces of the Industry: Julie Hayes - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Faces of the Industry: Julie Hayes

Julie Hayes didn’t plan on working in the landscape industry. In fact, she worked as a community association manager for over 20 years before making a career change. She mentioned her boredom with her current career to Joel Sullivan, vice president of Sullivan’s Landscaping & Maintenance, based in Milford, Delaware, while waiting for a community landscape walk to start.

“I always joked with him that I would leave my job one day to come to work for him in the Garden Center until I reached my retirement years,” she says. “Within two months, I was an employee of Sullivan’s.”

Hayes was welcomed into the company by the entire team and she says she was eager and willing to learn. While making connections with customers and solving problems came naturally to her, Hayes says her biggest challenge has been growing her knowledge base of the green industry.

She says Jason Van Weele, one of Sullivan’s management team members, has been an endless source of knowledge. He also has been beyond generous with his time and genuinely happy to help her become more successful.

“My true mentor is Joel Sullivan,” Hayes says. “As the VP of the company, he was still, until recently, running day-to-day operations while pushing the company to the next level. And yet, he dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy into my training and coaching to help me become a powerhouse leader for the company. My gratitude to Joel is without words.”

Because Sullivan’s specializes in commercial and HOA landscaping services, Hayes says she has an advantage coming from the HOA management world as she knows all the ins and outs of contracts, budgets, and processes of the executive boards. She knows what customers expect and how to deliver on those expectations.

In her three years with Sullivan’s, Hayes has worn many hats. She started as an account manager, which was a role she loved.

“But I needed more, so I inserted myself in everything I could to learn more about the business,” Hayes says. “When the opportunity presented itself to open a new branch, the first branch outside of our main branch, I went full speed ahead to assume the role of the Selbyville branch manager. I seem to be on this endless journey within the company, which is just super cool.”

As a branch manager, her day starts when she opens the gates to their facility.

“This is my happy moment for the day and no matter what else happens, I had the pleasure of opening those gates to a new day of opportunities,” Hayes says. “I spend the rest of every day as a leader to my team, whether in one-on-one training sessions, coaching through difficult situations or just being there for support. I am there to guide the team and processes along for a successful day.”

Hayes says her favorite part of working in the industry is creating a company culture where their crew members feel safe, valued and as honored as she does to be a part of Sullivan’s.

“I wish that I could change the perception from customers that the people working on the front lines to maintain their communities and homes are people, just like them,” she says. “People with families and children, moms and dads, just trying to put food on their tables and create a better life for themselves and their loved ones, just like they do.”

In five years, Hayes expects she’ll land somewhere at the top as an executive with the company.

“I’ve learned to never say never, expect the unexpected and never let a good challenge chase me away,” she says.

Hayes says she’d like to see more women in the industry and on executive teams as well.

“What I want the girls growing up today and women in the current workforce to know is that behind every great woman is a team of great women leading the charge with every ounce of gusto we have to dominate the landscape industry,” Hayes says.

She also encourages others to never stop pursuing knowledge and always chase greatness.

This article was published in the November/December issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.