A Man of Many Hats

It occurred to me the other day that as landscape architects, we wear many different hats.

How much easier would our jobs be if we didn’t have to deal with the accountant wanting last month’s bank statements, or the city plan reviewer who is holding up our job while we wait for approval, or the pushy or rude clients who don’t understand why that plan is taking so long to get approved?

Everyone who owns or has owned his own business knows the struggle and juggle of the daily working life.

When I think about the number of different hats I must wear over the course of any given day, I am truly amazed at how I actually find time to finish any design work at all.

During a normal day, it is not uncommon to wear the designer, construction administrator or crew supervisor hat. Everyone knows that most days spent in the field are perfect for breaking up the monotony of sitting behind a computer or a drafting table.

Other days we wear the consultant, business owner, accountant and human resource manager hats, just to name a few. Those days are not nearly as fun or exciting as the field days, but they are a necessary component of the small business owner’s life.

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, eventually you find yourself wearing really unusual and strangely labeled hats. Some days, it is enough to make you shake your head and wonder why you get out of bed and how much easier your life would be if you just had an ordinary day job and worked for someone else.

When I stop and think about it, though, it’s the freedom to make my own path in life that keeps me doing what I do and, because of that, I would like to share with you a few of the unusual hats I have had to wear over the years.

Landscape Architect:

I know this may not sound unusual at first, but bear with me. Maybe I should have labeled this “International Man of Mystery, Sought by All”.

Have you ever found yourself in a social situation where you are meeting people for the first time? I don’t mean a professional situation, but perhaps you attend a dinner party, or a charity event. Once introductions are made, the inevitable question quickly arises; something along the lines of, “So, Boyd, what do you do for a living?”

The moment you tell someone that you’re a landscape architect you can almost see that little flash of light go off in their eyes when they realize you hold the key that unlocks the secret of the universe -- the key that will make their home more beautiful and perfect. Then they ask you for a card and if you can come take a look at their yard.

Am I right?


Have you ever been asked in the dead of winter what variety or species of deciduous tree that is? And, of course, they just had their lawn man there that morning to clean up all the leaves and debris so you have no hope of identifying said tree correctly.

That’s about the time you secretly want to say, “Call me next spring after the tree leafs out.”


Have you ever had to patch a broken water main because you or a crew member hit a water main? Of course it would happen the day you wore your new button-down shirt. Talk about a mess.


How many times have you painted that accent wall in your own back yard looking for the perfect color to accentuate a specimen plant or piece of art? How many shades of sunset orange are there, anyway?


This is probably the most frustrating hat I’ve ever worn. Remember that time you left the shop yard and once you arrived at the job site you realized you were missing that one tool you needed to finish your job?

Or how about the time you left Home Depot with a bag full of irrigation fittings only to get back to the job site and find that you still didn’t have the part you needed? Yes, that has happened more times than I care to admit.

I hope that today I’ve made you smile or at least nod your head in empathy because you can relate to one of the above situations. Perhaps you have had a similar experience yourself?

What is the strangest hat you have ever had to wear as small business owner? Feel free to leave a comment, send me a tweet or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on Twitter at @CDGLA or email: bcoleman001@gmail.com.