Kent entrepreneur returns to his roots to build successful landscape business

Kent, Wash. – If a serial entrepreneur is someone who hops from business to business, what do you call someone who lands on an idea while still in middle school, keeps it going through high school and college, and then puts his degree to work building it into a profitable business that provides for him and his family and nearly two dozen employees besides?

Taryn Hornby, a business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Green River College in Auburn, has two words to describe her client, Tim Buiten, of Tim’s Complete Landscape Management: Ambitious and hardworking.

Buiten said he started doing yard work when a middle school teacher hired him to mow her lawn and his client list just kept growing. The economy was still sluggish when he graduated from college in 2010, he said, so rather than take an entry-level position he wasn’t excited about, he decided to grow his own business.

“I love business,” Buiten said. “I love working with numbers, and I always wanted to own my own business.”

While there are obvious advantages to being your own boss from an early age, there are disadvantages as well.

Buiten said he’s had to intentionally seek out mentors whom he can learn from. He first contacted the SBDC at Green River College in early 2017 with questions about how to create a strong foundation for business growth and sustainability.

In just the past year and a half, his staff has grown from 10 to 20, and on most days he has crews working six or seven different jobs, both residential and commercial. One division focuses on on-going maintenance accounts and the other focuses on special projects.

Earning a business degree was extremely helpful, Buiten said, but ongoing assistance from the SBDC has helped him figure out how to apply best practices to his own specific situations.

“I’m always trying to learn about things ahead of time,” Buiten said.

Buiten credits Hornby with helping him better understand his financial statements. When they first started working together, he said, they focused on income statements and gross profits so that he could figure out more precisely how his business varied by season and which jobs made money for the company and which jobs actually hurt his profitability.

Within the next few years he’d like to purchase property, he said, and he’s working to make sure his financial records are where they need to be for a favorable loan.

“She helped me understand what bankers are looking for,” he said, and the importance of the debt to income ratio. “You’re not going to change that number quickly,” he said. “That’s the big thing we are working toward.”

Buiten’s tips for success are to ask lots of questions, network constantly, find mentors wherever you can and then do the work.

“Taryn is a great resource, but it’s up to me to do the work,” he said. “It’s on me, it isn’t on her.”

Buiten said he often recommends the SBDC to other small business owners who want assistance, or just another set of eyes on what they are doing.

“The resources are out there,” he said. “You just need to use them.”

For more information about Tim’s Complete Landscape Management go to https://timscomplete.com/

For more information about the Washington SBDC, go to www.wsbdc.org