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Keep learning and have a damn good time!

That’s the advice landscaper Ollie Newman has for anyone entering the landscaping industry – and it’s also a mantra he applies to his own business

Ollie Newman, co-founder of Christchurch company Onlandscapes, was certain right after his first taste that landscaping was what he wanted to do for a career.

“There’s a lot of pressure when you’re 16 or 17 to know what you want to do. I knew I wanted to do something connected to property, but that was about it – so I started a valuation and property management degree,” said Ollie.

Over the uni holidays, I took a job with my now wife’s uncle and aunty in their landscaping business. It was just meant to earn some money for my return to uni, but the few months I spent working there was enough for me to know landscaping was what I wanted to do. So, I told my parents I was quitting uni and I’ve been learning about something I’m passionate about and having a damn good time doing it ever since.”

Discovering creativity

Asked what convinced him that landscaping was his calling, Ollie has no hesitation – it’s the opportunities to express creativity. He also believes that clients share this creativity.

“Landscape projects are like a jigsaw with creative options. You look at ways the pieces fit together, then you find the best way. Landscaping opened up my creative side, which is a big part of why I connected with it so strongly. Some people

don’t realise they have this side to them, but in my experience with customers, we all do. Once they realise what can be done, they get excited to be part of the process. It’s rewarding for us to guide our customers towards what they want to create.”

Ollie believes landscaping is a great trade, which doesn’t tie you down to a particular place. After about a year of landscaping in Christchurch, Ollie and his wife and business partner, Juliet, moved to England for four years, which is where Ollie honed his trade.

Back to the Garden City

“Juliet and I loved our time in England and I learned a lot there. The funny thing is, Christchurch has a similar climate to many parts of England. In fact, it’s more similar to England

than it is to the north of New Zealand, which is partly why the same plants grow so well and why Christchurch gardens have a reputation for looking very ‘English’. So, in a sense, while landscaping is a very transportable skill – and I think it’s one that can be taken anywhere – it was especially fitting to return here.”

After ten years in the industry working for others, Ollie felt it was time to start his own business – the timing provided a symbolic opportunity.

“I’m 43 in October, and Onlandscapes will be 11, because I founded the company on my birthday.”

Starting small and growing steadily, Onlandscapes now has 15 staff including owners Ollie and Juliet, and Ollie says a key focus for him is to ensure he and his team are continuing to learn new skills.

“We’ve got a great bunch of guys, who are all smart and hungry to learn. Constant learning is something I believe is key to being a great landscaper – I try to encourage all of our guys to get on board with apprenticeship programmes. There are four working on their apprenticeships now. Beyond that, I think we should all be constantly learning and improving.

Industry improvement

Ollie’s belief in continued improvement isn’t limited to his own business – he’s keen to see his competitors improve, too.

“We’ve got some really talented people in landscaping. I think my company is part of that and lots of my competitors are too. I think it’s good for our company to have the whole industry at a high level. Who doesn’t want to be part of a talented and successful industry?”

Improving the professionalism of the whole industry is where Ollie sees Registered Master Landscapers playing a big part.

“For a start, being part of Registered Master Landscapers gives customers assurance they are dealing with knowledgeable staff and can expect quality workmanship. From a staff perspective, the guys love being part of it. While we are in direct competition with other landscapers, I like being under one umbrella, and to have good relationships with them.

“From another perspective, some of our competitors wouldn’t qualify as a Registered Master Landscaper. This makes being part of the association a great sales tool. When potential customers are comparing quotes, I can remind them to compare apples with apples.

Asked what is constant in his business, Ollie explains that communications has always been central to his business.

“Our core value is clear and honest communication – between staff and with clients. A close second is our commitment to constant learning and having a good time – I know how lucky I am to be in an industry where all of this is rewarded.”


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