Scott Fullerton, owner of Fullerton Grounds Maintenance (FGM), headquartered in Kenvil, New Jersey, has been in the industry since he was 12 years old. Similar to others, he started mowing lawns and working on neighbors’ properties before it was a formal business — and also went on to work for others. After more than a decade in the industry, he ultimately started his own business.
“I think that’s probably the dream of most who get involved in this industry — to one day start your own business,” Fullerton shares. “While it’s often easy to start the business, it can be hard to stay the course.”
Even so, Fullerton has been at it successfully for more than 20 years and recently shared some of his thoughts on overcoming challenges and celebrating the proud moments.
What is your proudest moment in business?
My proudest moment in business would probably be when my first employee bought their house. I was really proud I could provide that kind of income to someone. And he has been with me since day two — for 25 years now.
What has been your biggest business challenge?
By far the biggest challenge is labor. We have increased our starting rate for new employees and we have offered employee incentive programs that encourage our team members to do recruiting for us. If our team brings in other team members and they stay 30 days, we give a financial reward. That seems to be working pretty well.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
I am continually motivated by my obligation to the people that work here — to do the right thing. You have 200 people that ultimately depend on you for your livelihood and that’s no small thing. You feel that every day.
Who has been your business mentor or idol?
I would say my dad — he was an attorney and had his own practice. He was a really mellow business owner. He loved what he did and did it every day because he enjoyed it. Growing up seeing that he loved his work inspired me to find something I loved, too.
What is your favorite business book?
My favorite book is How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.
It’s not necessarily even all business-related but is very apropos for business owners. It’s hard to find balance in life. For me, a takeaway was to be more in touch with myself and to get to the root of what’s bothering me when something is wrong. And then you really do need to stop worrying about the things you can’t change. That may be cliché but it’s so true. Honestly, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You usually learn that what you spend time worrying about is 10 times worse than what actually happens. And even when the “worst” does happen, it’s usually not as bad as we imagine it.
What does it mean to you to be a member of the NALP?
One of the things I appreciate most about the NALP is its lobbying efforts. Being a mid-sized business, I do realize how much regulations will impact us and we really need a voice. There are not many of us who are not already working sun up to sun down in this industry. It’s not a 9 to 5 job — we tend to put in longer hours than that. But we don’t always donate a lot of that time for being part of a voice. We really do depend upon NALP for that and are appreciative of their efforts on our behalf.
The NALP Landscape Management Apprenticeship program is also something I’m pretty excited about. It is helping keep us on the forefront of what’s new with the training involved. The industry is always advancing and this program is really great about keeping us all ahead of the curve. The team members who we are putting through the program are absolutely fired up and loving it so far.
What does it mean to be a landscape professional?
What that means to me is that you are above average in the industry. A lot of people can dig a hole and plant a plant or push a mower but at the heart of it — are you really a professional? When you get a weather-related problem or an insect problem, do you make the right call? When you are a true professional, you are protecting a homeowner or a business’ investment and that’s a big deal. There is a lot of knowledge in this industry and it’s often more complex than people realize.
Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?
In five years from now, I foresee beginning to get my son involved in the management of the business. He’s working in it right now, but in five years I hope to have him working on it. I’ll be putting my thoughts into the beginning of retirement at that time. In five years, I’ll be 65 years old and while I don’t see myself retiring, I would like to be able to step back a bit. I would love to be able to take a two-week vacation without worrying about the business. It’s my passion though, so I never see myself completely giving it up. The horticultural side is what I love — walking properties and consulting. I’d love to do more of that in the future.