Michael Davie has always enjoyed landscaping, growing up working in the yard with his mother, but it wasn’t until after he worked at Men’s Wearhouse for 20 years that he decided he needed to change careers.
Davie wanted to be involved in something he could be passionate about, so he went back to school and earned his associate degree in landscape design management from Columbus State Community College.
“Having over 20 years of management and customer service experience by this point, along with a love of creating fine art, I figured I would be able to combine these skillsets to make a successful career,” Davie says.
He says his mentors in the industry were his professors at Columbus State – Dick Ansley, Steve O’Neal and Deb Knapke. He says their passion and knowledge of the industry is infectious.
He has been in the landscape industry for 13 years now. He operated his own landscape maintenance company for three years, was a project manager with HRH Landscapes, Ltd. for five years and is now starting his fifth year at M.J. Design Associates, Inc., based in Plain City, Ohio, as an account manager.
Davie’s company was something he started to supplement his income while he worked full-time at Men’s Wearhouse to support his growing family. While he enjoyed it, he felt it was becoming cost and time prohibitive to acquire everything he needed to have a successful business.
“I also realized that there were a lot of things I still needed to learn about both the business and horticulture aspects of the business,” he says. “I decided I needed to go work at a company to gain real-world/hands-on experience and training.”
Davie says in his current position, every day is a little bit different. He’ll check to make sure the maintenance crews understand the daily work orders and he coordinates the weekly safety and training classes for the staff.
“As an account manager, I am responsible for enhancement sales, client satisfaction/retention, sales appointments and some design work,” he says. “Some days I am out working with the crews in the field to help and to train while on site. I am a member of several industry associations and share information with staff on what’s going on in the industry and how it affects us as a company.”
He says his favorite part of working for M.J. Design Associates is the passion, integrity and creativity that is at the heart of the company’s culture.
“Though we are running a business and want to be successful, the bottom line is not the driving force in who we are as a company,” he says.
The biggest challenge Davie has faced in the industry is not seeing the representation of many African-American-owned companies or workers.
“There is a large space for Caucasian, Hispanic and now the larger push for women workers in the industry,” he says. “I would like to see the industry push for more African American members of this community. Representation matters to me and especially to the younger generation. If they were to see other people like them doing this type of work, they would be more apt to take an interest in the work we are doing and become a part of the next wave of landscape professionals.”
As for where he sees himself in the next five years, he sees himself still advocating for this industry as a viable and respectful career path.
“I would like to change the stigma that landscapers are just ‘hole diggers’ and ‘grass cutters,’” Davie says. “With so many different career paths in this industry, we need to find a way to let people know what is available to them. In most cases, I have found it is more important to let students’ parents know what opportunities are available to and for their child.”
He plans to stay involved in landscape associations and looks to sit on several boards. He says he’s also interested in becoming a part owner of M.J. Design Associates and continuing their track record of quality work and excellent customer service.
“One thing I would like to change about the industry are companies who don’t do the right thing by their customer and are only concerned about the dollars,” Davie says. “Bad planting practices, bad planting designs, price gouging, faulty craftsmanship. These practices don’t do any good for the industry as a whole and put a bad stigma on the companies who consistently do the right thing by their clients and employees.”
Davie says the most important thing he has learned on his career path is if you don’t love what you’re doing, find something else that you’re passionate about. He says he would tell his younger self to explore more options, from careers to financial opportunities.
“Don’t settle and always follow your dreams no matter how crazy they may seem,” Davie says. “This is what the meaning of life means to me now.”
He says his favorite thing about the landscape industry is the people, as he has built lasting relationships that allow him to learn from others.
“The awesome thing about this industry is the willingness to share information and help each other when and wherever possible,” Davie says. “We aren’t just an industry; we are a community.”