LANDSCAPE PROS - Paul Griffin: commitment to a quality job18 Nov 2021
When it comes to dedicated service and an unrelenting passion for the job, Paul Griffin from Paul’s Garden Services in West Yorkshire is a shining example. Here Paul gives us an insight to his work ethic, his passion for machines and why his Kawasaki engines never miss a beat.
About Paul’s Garden Services and Handyman
Tell us a bit about you and your job
I’ve always been a hands-on kind of guy.
I trained as a plumber when I left school before moving into the automotive industry. I like to understand how things work mechanically, as well as problem-solving and carrying out servicing projects - I enjoy it so much.
After going through a life-changing experience at the age of 25, I found myself at a crossroads. I decided to explore a career working for myself as a landscaper and handyman. Working outdoors, being active and helping people to fix problems brought me joy and played to my skills.
30 years on I’m as passionate as ever and I offer a wide range of services to my customers including landscaping, fencing, jet-washing, clearing guttering, painting and garden maintenance.
What’s an average day like?
There’s no such thing! My work is so varied and I thrive on that diversity. That said, I try to organise my weeks so I spend one week working on maintenance and upkeep projects and the next week on larger landscaping jobs – it ensures that variety. Whatever work I’m doing, it’s all about the detail and doing the very best job I can.
How is business at the moment, seasonally and post-pandemic?
Business has always been steady with no real seasonal peaks and troughs. If you’re a professional landscaper working only on outdoor jobs, your work is more dictated by the weather, but, because my work spans domestic and commercial work both indoors and outdoors, I work all year round.
However, the pandemic has taken things up a level. Not only are people spending more time at home - so they want their homes and gardens to look lovely - but the pandemic has made them realise the importance of quality of life. Having me take care of their domestic projects frees up their time to do other things.
As a result, I’m working seven days a week and I’m busier than ever, which suits me as my job keeps me physically and mentally active. Also, I’m the sort of person who can’t sit down!
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Seeing a client’s happy face when you’ve done a good job is easily the best part of the job. You can take an overgrown mess and turn it into an environment where clients can enjoy their lives, that’s pretty special.
The worst part is when I can’t fix something! It doesn’t happen very often, but I hate it if I can’t find a solution. I don’t give up until I find one.
You and Kawasaki Engines
What’s your relationship with Kawasaki Engines?
I’ve long been a fan of Kawasaki Engines. Most of my engines are Kawasaki and I’ve used them throughout my career. Kawasaki-powered products are the best in the business!
I started posting pictures of my jobs on social media and it caught the attention of the Kawasaki Engines team. I did a demo day for them filming videos and taking part in photoshoots and it’s continued from there. The Kawasaki Engines team understand my passion for machines.
What are your opinions of the Kawasaki-powered pieces of kit you use?
When I think of Kawasaki, I think power and reliability.
If you buy a Kawasaki-powered machine it will last. I’ve had between 20 and 30 Kawasaki machines and I’ve never had a problem with any of them. They’re good quality and always start first time, even if they’ve been ‘retired’ for a season. They never let me down.
I’m of the view that a product has got to do what it’s meant to do for the rest of its life, so knowing that a machine is going to perform when you need it to is one less thing to worry about.
But it’s not just about the products. The aftercare and relationship I have with Kawasaki is second to none.
That’s the sort of relationship we have.
What machines do you have?
Eight of my mowers have Kawasaki engines, including one ride-on. I also have a number of Kawasaki-powered power tools including – possibly my favourite – the Kawasaki TJ53E brush cutter. There’s no job it won’t do. It’ll go through 10ft grass – it’s an absolute beast and it sounds like a proper machine. It’s a joy to work with.
Some of my Kawasaki-powered machines are 20 years old and they’ve never missed a beat. That tells you how good they are.
How do Kawasaki-powered machines differ from others?
It’s simple. They’re more powerful, more reliable and they won’t let you down. For a professional in this industry that’s invaluable.
All in the aftercare
How do you make sure you get the best from your machines?
I’m a firm believer that you can’t do a proper job unless you’ve got the right tools.
I’ve never cut corners with my machines and even when I was starting out and couldn’t afford to buy a top-notch model outright, I would save up until I could. I will never hire; my kit is all my own and I look after it.
That’s the secret really. I do 95% of all the servicing and I take real care in making sure my machines are kept in optimum condition.
What’s your maintenance/service routine?
All my mowers are serviced each week, so I keep on top of routine maintenance such as checking oil and sharpening blades. Depending on how much they’re used I’ll change the oil and replace filters every 3-4 months.
When you work for yourself, you have to be responsible for your own kit. If there’s a problem or something breaks down, you either learn to fix it yourself or you lose a day’s work. I have the skill and ability to do it myself and, with my passion for mechanical operations, I have no problem stripping an engine to solve an issue. I keep all the right tools in the van to enable me to do that.
Do you use genuine parts or after-market parts?
Always genuine - as long as I can get hold of them. The pandemic has made this more difficult, but 99% of the parts I use are genuine.
You may pay more for genuine parts but it’s negligible when you consider the benefits. Plus, it’s the actual part that a particular machine is intended to have so why cut corners?
Operating in the current climate
How have new technologies affected landscaping?
I have looked at new technologies but, to be honest, they don’t improve my work. Because I’m such a hands-on, traditional landscaper, I do a really thorough job and no technology competes with that, so why change it?
What are the biggest challenges facing professional landscapers today?
There will always be people who want to undercut the serious professionals. So many times have I been called in to rectify a job that someone has done badly - and for cheap - and it gives the industry a bad name.
It’s a constant frustration. These operators are just about making a quick buck and, sadly, ripping people off.
For me, I’ve got the longevity. I’ve been working in the industry for 30 years and I’ve got customers that I’ve retained for nearly the same amount of time. My clients range from elderly ladies living in council houses to multi-millionaires and professional sportspeople. I treat them all the same. My secret is to be trustworthy, honest and work hard. People will respect that and see your value.
What piece of professional advice do you wish you’d been given when you started?
Learning to say ‘no’ was an important lesson. There’s strength in realising your own limitations. The only times I’ve ever put undue pressure on myself is when I’ve taken on too much, so it’s important to be realistic. You can’t deliver top quality service or take the time to really listen to people if you’re rushing about.
I learned some good lessons from my grandfather and he instilled in me my dedication, work ethic and the importance of looking after people. He told me to be reliable and always do what you say you’re going to do.
85% of my work is from recommendations and people understand that I will do a good job for them. I feel honoured that people trust me with their homes and gardens and I get great pleasure out of delivering something beautiful which they can enjoy.