59- Interview with John Perry (Bio Green, Greene County Fertilizer, Lawncology)

Today, Ete sits down with John Perry, founder of Bio Green, author of the Lawncology blog and YouTube channel, and founder of Greene County Fertilizer Company.

John Perry is a rockstar of the lawn care industry. If you have anything to do with lawns professionally, you know who John is and you know that he is one of lawn care's top influencers. Considering the fact that lawn care is a $100 billion a year industry and employs over a million people in the US, that's a pretty big deal. Ete, as you may or may not know, owns a lawn care company, so this was a double whammy of excitement for him--a super successful business owner and another person to geek out on lawns with.

When John was 12 years old, his family moved from Houston to Park City. This was when Park City was not yet Park City, back when there were two stop lights in town. John was homeschooled which suited his need for a self-driven, self-paced education. 

Apart from his studies, he was also schooled in the practical, real life details of entrepreneurship. John's mom was a serious entrepreneur, and he grew up with a front row seat to what business ownership looks like. His mother started and ran several businesses, from property management, to cell phone dealerships, to owning a car rental company. One of her first business ventures was running a landscaping business. She would bring her kids along to her various jobs, so that even from the beginning, horticulture was a part of John's life.

Very early on, John knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He recognized that "I want to build something that's my own. And I want to make it bigger than the small pond." He learned about different aspects of business from his first jobs onward. He remembers working at ski shops from the time he was 13. There he witnessed first-hand the expansion process of a small business, from one shop, to multiple shops. He also got some experience in managing customers.

He started his first business–a polymer injection company–at 22, and eventually recognized that not having residuals was a big problem. Instead of constantly seeking out new clients, he wanted to sell to an established client base. In 2005 he started Bio Green, a lawn spraying company, which would eventually boast 86 locations around the country. Here he established licensing agreements, and minimum purchase agreements for the fertilizers he was making and selling. In 2014, he started Greene County Fertilizer Company, a large fertilizer manufacturing business which allowed him to white label products and sell them to other companies.

John's success owed just as much to his knowledge of soil and plant science as to his business acumen. Over the years, he had accumulated a vast amount of information about how to grow healthy plants which he wanted to share, so he decided to write a book. He started the blog, Lawncology, as a way to process his thoughts and find inspiration for the book. After a lot of coaxing from his team, he then started a YouTube channel of the same name. Both have been incredibly successful and have vaulted John to a position as one of the top lawn experts and influencers in the country, not only with industry folks, but also with the public at large, anyone with an interest in growing things.

In this episode, John offers some fantastic business advice. He has plenty to say about the difficulties of entrepreneurship. He also discusses the pitfalls that the "two different kinds of people who start businesses" often fall into, how to find a great salesperson, the importance of transparency, and the idea of separating your identity from the business's identity. 

Hear some great stories and learn from John Perry in this episode of The Company Next Door.

Today's episode was inspired by a walk Ete took around his neighborhood. After a recent lawn mowing, a neighbor's lawn service had blown grass clippings into the street. So what? Well, after a little digging, Ete found that this fairly common practice can actually have some pretty big consequences. What damage could grass clippings in the street possibly cause? Find out in this episode of Eco Lawn Science.

There are so many things to consider when hiring a lawn service. You may receive quotes from different companies that are surprisingly wide-ranging. But price is just the beginning. What are the hidden costs and hidden benefits of going with each company? As with many things, when it comes to hiring the right lawn company, the adage is true, you often get what you pay for. 

Have you ever picked up a handful of garden soil and wondered what microorganisms are living in it? 

1 Teaspoon of good soil contains:

  • 10,000 to 100,000 cells of algae
  • 100 million to 1 billion bacteria
  • several yards of fungal hyphae
  • About 40 Nematodes: 20 bacteria eating nematodes+ 20 fungal feeding nematodes

1 Acre of good soil contains:

  • 2-3 million earthworms
  • 133 pounds of protozoa
  • 900 pounds of earthworms
  • 900 pounds of arthropods
  • 900 pounds of algae
  • 2000 pounds of bacteria
  • 2400 lbs of fungi

The amazing thing is that all these microorganisms and insects are all part of the soil food web and each play a unique role in the soil’s ecosystem. If things get out of balance you start having serious problems. Using inorganic fertilizers and herbicides can quickly offset that balance. Inorganic fertilizers have a very high salt content. The salt irritates the worms and can damage and kill off beneficial microbes. Once these guys are forced out of your lawn the soil becomes sterile.  The beneficial fungi and protozoa that eat the harmful fungi are not around and you start seeing fungus problems in the lawn. The beneficial bacterial slime that helps soil particles retain moisture and hold nutrients are gone. You start using more water and more fertilizers to make up for what is missing.

It’s fall, and that means it’s time for the all-important Fall Fertilization Application. Many experts go as far as to say that if you were to only fertilize your lawn once a year, fall would be THE time to do it. Why? Well, during this time of year, the changing weather and environmental conditions allow your grass to take the food you give it and turn into carbohydrates which the plant can store and use throughout the coming months. Your lawn’s summer had been about survival and top growth. Your lawn’s fall, though, is THE time to bulk-up, get healthy, get stronger roots, get ready for winter and early spring. Stronger, healthier roots mean a stronger and healthier grass plant overall. Healthier grass plants create a lawn better at handling attack from disease, weeds, cold, heat, and drought. When done right, a good fall fertilization can have positive effects on your yard all year long!

We’re excited to share this video that we received from @charitywater a few weeks ago. Last year, EcoLawn donated $20 to charity: water for every new person who signed up with us during our opening-season campaign. The results? Together, we were able to donate enough money to provide a clean water drinking well for 42 people in Ethiopia! Amazing! Let’s shoot for an even bigger contribution this year. Say, double last year’s contribution. Let’s make this happen!

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