Flunking Out of School? You Might End Up Owning Your Own Business

“If you pursue any endeavor with the entrepreneurial mindset, you will find success. There’s no question about it.” – Dr. Donald F. Kuratko

The crowd of students, alumni, faculty, and family erupted in applause at the 33rd-anniversary banquet of the Ball State Entrepreneurship Center when its founder, Dr. K, finished his speech. A young man named Bobby turned to his father-in-law and said, “I could just listen to him talk all day.”

To which Troy Harshman, owner of Clean Cut Lawn & Landscape responded with a grin, “We did!”

Back in 1983 Troy was an unmotivated student flunking out of college. He barely wanted to be there in the first place and probably wouldn’t have gone to Ball State if his father hadn’t told him he would be “stupid” not to take advantage of grant money and scholarships and do more than just mow lawns.

Unsure whether he would make it past his freshman year, Troy enrolled in a business elective on the off chance he might get far enough to earn a degree in business. Management 241 sounded like it was going to be just another boring class.

It was one of the most life-changing experiences Troy would ever have.

Dr. K wasn’t much older than he was. An energetic instructor fresh out of college, his passion for the subject of entrepreneurship hooked Troy right away.

“He lit a spark in me,” Troy said.

That spark was enough to convince Troy to roll the dice on a risky venture. Dr. K convinced him to stake his degree on a brand new, pass/fail program that was one of the first of its kind in the country. The Entrepreneurship Center was born and Troy was willing to be one of its guinea pigs.

Four years later, Troy wrote a business plan around what he already knew. He’d been making a decent living in lawn care for years, but the vision of Clean Cut Lawn & Landscape was bigger than he had ever dreamed up before. It would require a serious investment in equipment, marketing, and manpower.

But would it work? He had to convince a panel of business people that it would.

“If these three or four business people don’t accept your business plan, you flunk,” Troy said. “40% failed. If your business plan wasn’t approved, you had to wait a year to try again.”

Troy passed. He proudly walked across the stage to receive his undergraduate degree in business in 1987. Armed with a plan, with his wife Mary by his side, he was ready to tackle the world. But that’s not all he credits to his success.

“I had a passion that Dr. K helped me find. For that, I will be forever grateful.”

Success doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. For Troy, it doesn’t mean a sprawling business empire that makes him and all his employees rich. Instead, one of his most important goals is leading by example to empower his staff and strengthen his family.

Morning at Clean Cut is a good example of leadership training in action. It may look like a blur of activity to an outsider, but Troy describes a precise, clockwork-like process honed over the last 30 years.

“7:15, there’s no one there. You can hear birds. Then all of a sudden, the first car comes in, trucks move out, blades are being grinded, mowers are getting propped up … by 8:15 there shouldn’t be anybody there but the mechanic.”

Troy makes rounds like the coach of a baseball team, moving employees around to different positions depending on the day’s need like players on the field.

“I’ve had guys leave Clean Cut and come back and say, ‘Man, I’m just glad to be back here.’ It’s the structure. They know that we create a plan and try to execute the plan,” Troy said. “They feel like we have an idea what we’re doing.”

When it was Troy’s turn to speak at the senior banquet, he spoke of the ways his endeavor has inspired his children, who were there looking on from the Harshman family table. His youngest, Adam, has a degree in international business and a minor in entrepreneurship; Amanda’s degree is in Elementary Education and Lindzi graduated from the same program that launched Troy and Mary’s business venture three decades ago.

“For us, entrepreneurship has been simply a means to create quality of life and lasting values for our family, our employees and our community,” he said. “Those are things I learned from this program at Ball State.”

Clean Cut is always looking for people with Troy’s entrepreneurial spirit who may or may not have gotten the best grades, but who take ownership in quality work and appreciate a good challenge. Ready to learn more? Apply here.

Who knows? You might end up owning your own business one day.

Contact us today to find out how our business can help you have a better lawn AND a better life.

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