Today is March 13, 2011, I have gone midway through the spring semester at UNR. Before the semester started, I had promised myself I would continue to add content to this blog.  However, the it has been increasingly difficult to achieve that goal, it seems that time is always fleeting. 

Here’s an update — currently, I am taking two management classes and three economics classes.  Furthermore, I have joined the Management and Human Resources Association and the International Business Student Chapter.  Lastly, I continue to work at least 32 hours per week.  This tax season has been grueling as I have been busy doing most of our bookwork.

Also, although landscaping is a seasonal business, the month of February brought several snow storms which presented the opportunity to hustle and make some money performing snow removal for a few of my customers. So while I would have loved to go snowboarding after the storms, instead I was dripping sweat, shoveling snow.  I believe strongly that hardwork builds character, so I took my 18 and 16 year-old nephews to help me out.

The house pictures above was particularly difficult. Currently, it is for sale and the real estate agent called me after an accumulation of snow of about four feet.  By the time I arrived, there was a two inch layer of ice, a 24 inch layer of compacted week-old snow, and another 14 inches of fresh snow to top it off.  It took us about five hours to dig out with the help of a 10HP snow blower.  Whhooo!

Anyhow, my goal today was to post an update on this blog and get back into the habit of writing.  I want to post here at least once a week.  In the following weeks, I will be applying for jobs and internships as I try to transition from landscaping to a more secure and professional line of work.  Please feel free to give me any advice you may have… I hope you find your way back soon.

In the end of Part 1 we were standing on a V-shaped ridge on snow mobile trail that was climbing uphill.  It was getting dark, we were tired and getting desperate.  For about the last hour, my younger nephew had been nagging me to call 911 and get some help.  I’d been rejecting this idea because, I was sure this track would lead us somewhere.  But we had been on it for an hour, my cell phone was low on battery and signal, and both of my nephews’ cell phones were dead, so I decided to make the call before it got dark and my cell completely died or lost the signal.

I called 911, and explained our situation.  The 911 operator told me to wait and connected me to the Heavenly Ski Patrol.  Eventually, I got connected to someone named Lee, who instead of giving me advice on what to do started lecturing me about going out-of-bounds even though I’d told him that we hadn’t seen the boundary.  Furthermore, the Ski Patrol at Heavenly didn’t seem to know where we were.  I told him about the track we were on, that we could see the highway in the distance, and that there were power lines above us, but it didn’t seem like they had a clue.

After getting disconnected a couple of times and finally getting connected to Lee again, I flatly asked “What should we do?”  He told me that if we could see a highway, our best bet was to go toward the highway.  I responded that the highway was a few miles away, and that we’d have to leave the track we were on, and go into the wilderness, down the ridge and across the valley.  He told me that was our best chance of survival.

We decided to follow his advice, and go down the valley.  Since we were so tired, we decided to snowboard as far as we could in the dim evening light.  It was tough and unpredictable, so after a few hundred feet we decided to start hiking.

After about another hour of treading knee-deep in fresh powder across the ridge. My nephews insisted I call 911 again and demand Search and Rescue.  I had no choice but to comply.  Before my phone completely died, I made the call and told the 911 operator that we’d had enough, we desperately needed Search and Rescue.

She told me that if we wanted Search and Rescue we had to stay put and stop walking.  We made the best attempt to comply, but after about a half hour of sitting in the snow, we began to get really cold as our bodies cooled down.  Furthermore, I could feel the muscles in my legs tightening, so we decided to continue walking along the ridge toward the highway.

After about another hour of walking, we noticed what looked like flashlights streaming in the distance above the trees.  We could see the light originating in the direction where we had seen the highway, but they were pointing 90 degrees away from us.  I decided that we should walk down the ridge and toward the lights.

We had been trying to avoid walking down the ridge because we could hear a creek running at the bottom and the trees and brush were denser toward the bottom.  However, at this stage we had no choice.  The ridge was becoming convex where two creeks intersected and became one.  We had to go across one of the creeks to get to the highway.

The creek I decided we should cross turned out to be about three feet wide by two feet deep.  We used our boards as bridges to get across.  However, once we got to the other side we quickly realized it was a bad idea.  The brush was so thick we had trouble making any progress.  We stopped to drink the last bit of water he had left when we heard the sounds of the rescue team.  We desperately yelled and attempted to turn on our phones to create light.

The rescue team consisted of three of the nicest people I have ever encountered; an older gentleman perhaps in his early 50’s, a young attractive woman, and a well-built man, both of whom could not have been a day over 30.  They gave us granola and power bars, but most importantly they gave us water.  After resting for what seemed like 30 minutes, we began the trek to the highway, which took us a whole ‘nother 15 minutes.

This experience has been one of the most traumatic experience in my life.  I had never felt such feelings of anxiety, fear, and desperation.  Decisions become difficult to make and I know I made some bad ones, but I also made good decisions.  I believe those decisions combined with always keeping a positive attitude are the reasons we survived.

Many people are not so lucky.  Two days after our ordeal a 25 year-old woman named Shawnte Willis got lost snowboarding off the backside of Alpine Meadows.  On December 30, 2010 she was found dead after being lost for almost two days. Search and Rescue efforts had been hampered by snow storms since she got lost.  I can not begin to imagine what she went through.  My prayers go out to her family and friends, and hope that she rests in a better place.


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According to Neroli Makim the author of “Your Inner Knowing: Unlocking The Secrets To Creative Success,” creativity is an elusive commodity that businesses are actively seeking as a characteristic in prospective employees.  Furthermore, as prospective future employees, we should realize that we have potential for being creative and unlock that potential to succeed in business.

In my line of work, creativity is not only sought after, it is a necessity.  Everyday we encounter obstacles and challenges that require ingenuity, imagination, and inventiveness.  During the course of my job, for example, I have to come up with solutions that fulfill the needs and desires of a customer by designing an adequate landscaping plan.  In addition, my job requires that I bid the job within a limited budget.  To do so, sometimes requires creative solutions such as negotiating material prices, etc.

Our landscape managers and employees have to use creativity on a daily basis to solve problems that arise on the job site.  For example, a simple task such as moving a boulder requires a great deal of creativity when machinery is not available.  A more complicated task such as drawing water from a creek or pond to irrigate requires a team of creative minds to find a great solution.

While I agree that all of us possess creativity, I’ve also witnessed that some people have greater access to it, while others have greater access to other quality traits.  Just as we all have the capacity to learn calculus or create beautiful paintings.  Therefore, it is our job as managers to find the best characteristics and traits in our employees and use our creativity to match our employees to the jobs that best match their traits.

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Today I read an article on the January 3rd, 2011 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek regarding Virgin America, the product of billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.  In November, the airline announced a profit of $7.5 million for the second quarter.  Although it is the first quarterly profit since it’s founding in 2004, the airline shows much promise.  Since its inception it has been plagued by an antiquated US law preventing majority ownership of foreign investors of US airlines and aggressive and oftencollusionary practices against the airline by its competitors.

However, even with the opposition Virgin Airlines shows promise because it has a clear vision.  This vision is stated by its “Don’t Fly Like Cattle” tagline.  That is, they have a different vision of what flying should be.  They believe flying should be a good experience, and flyers should be treated like customers instead of nuisances.

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard about this airline.  Gary Zabranski, a producer of The Tasting Room with Tom Leykis, hailed the airline after flying Virgin American from LA to NY and American Airlines on the way back.  “Virgin America knows how it’s done,” Gary said as he explained that Virgin provides a television screen on every seat that includes a menu of items from which to order in addition to fast courteous service.  “I only saw the flight attendants once, when they gave me peanuts, on American Airlines,” he complained.

Customer service in flights?  What a novel concept.  I’m being sarcastic, but in today’s travel environment isn’t it refreshing that someone wants to make it a pleasant experience?  Virgin America has been awarded Condé Nast Traveler and Zagat awards the last three years for their excellent customer service. Their Airbus A319 and A320 planes are newer and more comfortable, they have upgraded lighting, they offer free Wi-Fi, and have glass walls between seating classes to make the planes feel less claustrophobic.

This airline is the vision of Sir Richard Branson.  He saw a need and decided that he could make a profit by fulfilling it.  That is the kind of leader I want to be.  I want to be able to inspire others with a vibrant vision and a passion for customer service.  Tell me, what kind of leader do you want to be?

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Many times in life we have faulty communication strategies.  We just can’t wait for a moment when we can start bombarding people with our thoughts and ideas.  In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey states that in order to have meaningful communication and truly understand what a person is saying we must develop “empathetic listening.”  That is, we must be able to almost feel what a person is communicating.

I tend to think of myself as a good listener.  However, this year I had been having some trouble closing deals.  For example, this summer I gave a landscaping bid to a customer only to find out a week later that she had given the bid to someone else.  When she explained that she had given her job to a different outfit, she said she had given the bid to them based on a different design.  I felt betrayed.  I wasn’t given a chance to give opinions or to offer a different design.

Moreover, when I initially surveyed the job, the customer seemed to know what she wanted, so took measurements and later gave her the bid.  I thought to myself how could she take a bid for a different design? She wasn’t fair. She didn’t compare apples to apples.  I wasn’t given the opportunity to offer a different design.

Then, I realized that maybe the other contractor had created the opportunity himself.  Maybe if I had probed, if I had asked the right questions, I had been given the job.  I wasn’t listening empathically.  I wasn’t seeking to understand.  I should have been seeking the purpose for her chosen design and challenged it, perhaps offered my own design.  I wasn’t listening empathetically.  As a result, I learned a valuable lesson in sales and customer service.

From that moment forward, I was looking for purpose, I seeking to understand, to listen empathetically.  This resulted in getting four out of six bids I gave this fall, which any landscaper will tell you is way above average.

There are many challenges in the landscaping industry.  The economy has ravaged our industry, good help is extremely hard to find, competition is teaming with unlicensed contractors and unemployed construction workers, and many people don’t see the value of making changes to their yards because these changes will not translate to a higher home price in the short run.

The latter challenge is the most difficult to accept.  Yes, making upgrades to homes will not create the same increase in price as they did four years ago. However, if view your yard as an outdoor living space and realize that making simple changes can drastically increase the value of your life, you will realize the value investing in your landscape can create.

The reason why I love landscaping is that it can provide so much value to your life.  Each of us has a different lifestyle and idea of what a living space should, but it is extremely important to change the perception of what a yard is and realize that it is viable living space.  Even a simple change, such as adding a fire pit will add a focal point and warmth to your yard.

Whether you like to entertain friends, grow food, play with your kids, or reconnect with nature, we need to start seeing our landscapes as outdoor rooms and  living spaces.  Once you begin to think about it this way, you begin to realize that making changes to your yard not only increase the value of your home, but more so, they increase the value of your life.  So next time you look at your yard, think about this and visualize what it can be.

 

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$199 for Existing Customers

$99 for New Customers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever been in the market for a new product or service, and found that your current provider offers a much better deal if you’re a new customer than an existing customer?  I recently bought a new smart phone from Sprint, my current provider, and was discouraged to find out that I’d be paying $100 more simply for being an existing customer.  The lowest price I found for my phone was about $200 at Radio Shack, while Amazon sells it for $100, with the condition that you must open a new line of service.

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I truly believe that retaining customers is much more important than getting new customers.  When potential customers decide to make their purchase with a different vendor, the cause may be attributed to a number of factors: marketing, pricing, quality, value, differentiation of products or services, etc.  When customers decide they no longer want to be your customer, it’s usually because they don’t feel valued as a customer.

That is to say, most customers will continue to purchase from you if they believe you offer better customer service and value them as customers.  Most customers will even pay a premium for your product or service if they find value in the relationship you’ve established.  More importantly, they will recommend you to their friends and family, which is likely to result in more sales to more loyal customers.

As far as my Sprint dilemma is concerned, I decided to stick with them for two more years, but only because my plan is $20 per month less than their competitors.  Therefore, switching services would be much more costly in the long-run. However, their “better pricing to new customers strategy” does not make me feel valued as a customer.  They have yet to gain my loyalty.

 

Last week I got a call from one of my customers.  He’s got two separate irrigation systems on his property; the first waters the shrubs and trees around his house, and the second waters a vegetable garden and is connected to a spigot so he can water trees and plants by hand.  He asked me if I could turn on a spigot, so he could water some trees along the street.

In the winter, this is very important.  Contrary to popular belief, while plants and trees don’t need as much water as they do in the summer, they still need water to survive.  Although they don’t consume it, or lose it through transpiration, as quickly in the winter, they can be weakened by a prolonged lack of water during the winter.

However, in the last month, Reno has received three snow storms, spread about a week and a half apart, each bring two to three inches of snow.  And while it hasn’t been a wet winter, it also hasn’t been dry.  As a rule of thumb, if it doesn’t rain or snow in about 15-20 days, I get concerned about the lack of water.

It also important to recognize your microclimates and soil composition.  Microclimates vary significantly in a city as geographically diverse as Reno, and even in areas around your home.  In many ways, soil composition is more important in this matter.  For example, trees in Southwest Reno can last all winter without water because the clay soil found there retains water.  On the other hand, trees in Spanish Springs frequently will not because the sandy soil drains water easily.

So pay attention to the forecast, and if we go through a two or three week period without any rain or snow, get out the hose or turn on the drip system for a few hours and really soak your plants and trees.  Just don’t forget to drain your irrigation system before nightfall.  This is one of the best ways to prevent dead plants and trees in the spring.

In my customer’s case, I told him it wasn’t necessary to turn on the spigot because we had gotten enough precipitation to keep his trees and plants healthy.  The next day we got about another inch and half of snow, and about another inch during the weekend.

General area where we were lost.

Recently, I had a life changing and dramatic experience.  I had gone snowboarding with my two nephews, ages 16 and 18, to Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, California.  It was a windy day after a mild storm and we arrived about mid-day.  Upon reaching the top of the gondola, we were informed that one of the major express lifts was closed due to windy conditions atop the mountain.  Heavenly is split between the Nevada and California border, and we decided to ride on the Nevada side of the mountain to ride down with the westward blowing wind.

We continued to snowboard, through the trees and freshest powder, but as the day wore on, more lifts were being closed because the wind was too harsh toward the top of the summit.  Soon, we found ourselves on the edge of the mountain using one of the last remaining open lifts, the Stagecoach.  At about 2:30, my nephews and I decided that this our last run, and that we’d be heading home.  This run was just not worth it, there were too many people and the snow was so compacted, it resembled ice more so than snow.

During our lift to the top, my nephews and I got in an argument about who was fastest, so we decided to race through the trees to the lift.  When we got to the top, we headed right into ‘Scorpion Woods,’ heading straight into the trees and the forest.  Eventually, we got to a bit of a clearing where we started running into fresh powder.  At first, we thought we were lucky and found a ‘hidden gem,’ but it was too large of an area and I began to think we had gone out-of-bounds.

At the time, I was leading the pack so I stopped to consult with my nephews and make a decision.  I asked if they had seen a rope or the boundary, they said they hadn’t.  We decided to snowboard downward, and left, where’d we had last seen a trail, but the snow was deep and we had to board down the slope to gain traction.  Soon, we ran into another snowboarders tracks and we decided to follow them down going down a chute.  We couldn’t ride to our left toward the ski runs, so we decided to ride the chute as long as we could.  Finally, we ended up in at the bottom of a canyon facing some snow-covered tracks.  It looked like the other snowboarder un-strapped here and started hiking so we decided to follow his tracks, maybe they led back to the ski village.

After following his tracks for about an hour and a half in deep snow, we noticed a chimney atop a hill across a clearing from a ridge we were standing on.  We crossed the clearing as quietly as we could fearing an avalanche.  When we got across the clearing, we started climbing the hill, but it turned out to be much steeper than we’d realized, so we decided to board down the hill and try to find the snowboarder’s tracks again.

When we finally found his tracks, they led us to a two snowmobile wide track.  We were immediately relieved, the track looked like it had been used recently, and was fairly flat.  We followed this track for about another hour until it started going uphill.  We were standing on a ridge where the track turned into a V-shape.  There were two canyons flanking us on each side, and across the horizon we could see a highway far to right and then to the left through the trees.

Hello and welcome to my blog.  My name is Daniel Anguiano,  I am a highly motivated individual and entrepreneur.  Currently, I am a professional landscape contractor and small business owner.  Additionally, I study Management and Economics at the University of Nevada, Reno. 

Along with my two brothers, I started Anguiano Bros. Landscaping in 2006 after working in the industry for about five years.  In 2005, I formed a corporation, filed for all kinds of licenses, and proved my worth to the Nevada Contractors’ Board.  We had an incredible run the first couple of years, at the peak, we managed two landscape maintenance crews and one landscaping crew, and a total of eight crew members.  In early 2008, our business began to decline severely and has continued to stagnate, but we continue to be resilient.

In the fall of 2008, I decided to return to school to finish my education.  I look forward to graduating with a dual bachelor’s degree in Economics and Management in December, 2011.  I am open to change upon graduation and relish new exciting opportunities.

Thank you for visiting my blog!  I hope you will find your way back on a regular basis.

Daniel Anguiano

Entrepreneur, Professional Landscape Contractor, and Economics and Management Student

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