Jacob S. ‘Jake’ Johnson, 29: Jake’s Lawn Care & Landscaping

 

Jacob S. “Jake” Johnson figures he’s cut about 20,000 lawns in his lifetime, most of them during the past 10 years while he’s owned a Watertown lawn care business.

Starting around age 12, the Watertown native knew even then how to accumulate clients. About a half-dozen neighbors on the city’s north side paid him $20 to mow their lawns once a week.

It taught him the importance of having a good work ethic, something he proudly continues to this day.

Today, Jake’s Lawn Care & Landscaping has about 1,000 clients and up to a dozen employees, depending on the season. When the weather changes, some 100 snow-plowing jobs means steady business continues during the dead of winter.

He started the business just shy of his 20th birthday. Even then, he knew he wanted to work for himself. Starting the lawn care business, he remembered, was “really the most economic decision” he could make at the time.

“It fits my personality,” he said, adding that he loves working outdoors.

After a decade, the lawn care jobs continue to grow. Every day, he arrives at his Flower Street office 30 minutes before his crew and plans out the day for them. He also continues to find new ways to do business and how to be creative.

“You have to learn new things for your business to grow because it’s so competitive,” he said. “I’m always trying to stay sharp.”

While he’s a business owner, Mr. Johnson has a strong kinship with the men on his crew, partly because he started working for himself at such a young age. The 2003 Immaculate Heart Central graduate who was voted “Class Clown” admitted that he occasionally wonders what his life would be like if he were a member of the crew and “not the stressed out boss.”

Since the beginning, his good friend and mentor, Kevin P. Lundy, who has worked in the landscaping field for about 30 years, has been the person he goes to when he needs advice on business matters.

“He’s my go-to-guy,” he said.

Mr. Johnson also learned a great deal from both of his parents, David W. and Patricia A. Johnson. They taught him the importance of being himself and to follow his heart, which he’s tried to adhere to during his life.

They also instilled a strong work ethic in him at a young age.

And there’s nothing wrong with looking to as many people you know for advice. Since many clients are friends, many of whom he’s known most of his life, he sometimes turns to them for guidance about his business, family and life in general.

Some of what they have told him is the most important advice he’s ever received, he said.

“I want to be the person I want to be, not the person I don’t want to be,” he said.

Mr. Johnson also credits his grandparents, Steve and Lucy Mylo. His grandfather held a variety of maintenance jobs, and his grandmother was of full Lithuanian descent. Like so many other families on the north side, his grandparents had a constant presence in his life.

Owning a business means you have to make sacrifices. But striking the right balance between knowing your neighbors, maintaining a strong allegiance to your community and juggling family is also important, he explained. His childhood experiences taught him to work hard.

“Everyone was proud of growing up on the north side,” he said.

He’s also learned a lot from his Catholic upbringing, going to local parochial schools from the time he was in kindergarten. His faith remains strong in his life. And he believes it’s played a big role in his success.

He cares about Watertown and what the city has given him. That’s why when it’s time to take vacation, he remains close to home.

“You’d find us at Dry Hill skiing,” he said.

— by Craig Fox

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The Jacob S. ‘Jake’ Johnson File

Hometown: Watertown

Professional position: Owner, Jake’s Lawn Care & Landscaping

Family: Parents, David W. and Patricia A. Johnson; daughter, Lucy, 4; fiancée, Katherine K. Schneeberger

Education: Immaculate Heart Central School, 2003

Community involvement: Donated labor and landscaping material to the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park, Flower Memorial Library, local Catholic schools and the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse

Last book read: “Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and the Middle Class Do Not!” by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter