April 16 2013 12:37 AM

When his school day was finished and on Saturdays, young Glenn Jacobsen would work with his father. Jacobsen senior worked at an electric company and in a tree care business on a part-time basis.

“As a young lad, I grew up climbing trees and later cutting down trees,” said Jacobsen. “It’s a tough business, and I get my work ethic from my dad, who is a hard worker.” In addition to going to high school and helping his father, Jacobsen was mowing lawns in the neighborhood. He was 15 years old.

Glenn Jacobsen was born in Bergen County, New Jersey, where he still lives and operates his business. Even at the age of 15, he began to think of how he could grow his mowing route. He started to expand by increasing the distance he would travel. He was also still working with his father on the tree care side.

When he graduated high school, Jacobsen enrolled in a community college. By then, he was running a landscape and tree service business. He continued to do tree care all through his 20s; however, it wasn’t a big part of his business. As landscaping evolved, Jacobsen changed the name of his company from Jacobsen Landscape & Tree Service to Jacobsen Landscape Design and Construction.

When Jacobsen’s father retired from the electric company, after working there for 40 years, he was just 61 years old. Jacobsen asked his father what he was going to do now that he was retiring. His father said, “I’m going to come and help you.”

“He’s done more than that,” said Jacobsen. “My dad is still involved in the company. He is close to 80 years old now, but he still helps me. He drives the trucks, he moves material around, he works in our yard. I am very fortunate.”

From 1975 to 1995, Jacobsen was building his company. He learned by trial and error, and took horticultural courses at Rutgers University.

He was involved with the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association and tried to learn as much as he could.

He had heard of the national trade association ALCA (Associated Landscape Contractors of America) and in 1995, he decided to go to Ft. Worth, Texas, to the ALCA Trade Show and Conference. Jacobsen was captivated by what he saw and heard. He didn’t realize how many professionals were there from around the country. He marveled at their knowledge, especially from the business end of the business. He went to as many seminars as time allowed and absorbed as much as he could.

By the end of the week, Jacobsen was hooked. He was impressed with the speakers who led the seminars, and he began to learn about various financial systems and software programs tailored to the landscape industry. Then the wow! factor hit him. Here was an opportunity to develop his professional and business skills. He joined ALCA.

“I learned a lot,” said Jacobsen. “You know the technical side of the business by working it; you learn the formulas and the hands-on stuff. But you learn the business side of the business when you get involved with the association. And you learn the financial side, the marketing end, the public relations, and the human resources.”

“When you run your own company you’re kind of in a bubble; you don’t have a lot of people to see if what you’re doing is right or wrong. You have to learn from somebody,” he continued.

Since 1995, Jacobsen has gotten more involved with ALCA. He served on many committees, and polished his skills. As he gained more business knowledge, his company also grew. Jacobsen Landscape and Design has a mix of business, both commercial and residential. They are a full-service company offering design/build, irrigation, and maintenance.

Jacobsen was on the board of directors of ALCA when it merged with PLAACA and became PLANET (Professional Landcare Network). For 12 years, he served on the board of directors, going through a multiple of chairs. He assumes the presidency of PLANET in May.

When asked why he has put so much time into the organization, he replied, “There are a couple of reasons why I’d really like to give back to the organization. It’s been good to me, and I’m the kind of person who likes to give back—whether it’s PLANET or the community or my church. I’m wired to be a give-back person.”

“The other reason is that I feel I can make an impact at this level. I realize that I only have one year, but there are some initiatives and programs out there that I feel will likely make a difference in the industry. All the people at PLANET who I have worked closely with have taught me a whole different level of leadership. In my term as president, I’d like to challenge myself and see what I can add to this great group. That’s how I grow.”

I asked, “How can you run your business and still put in the amount of time it takes to perform the tasks required of your office as president?” Jacobsen replied, “Over the years, I have been focusing on building a good team. We’ve hired and trained a lot of people who brought their careers through here. We have a good team of people. I always love it when I go away and come back and things are better than when I left. I’m proud of my people.”

Glenn Jacobsen has built a successful business; he also realizes that without a trade association like PLANET—where he learned his business and professional skills—it would have taken so much more time to reach these goals.

He cites his personal and professional success to his partnership with his wife of 30 years, Melissa, who is CFO of the company. She applies her acute financial knowledge and sensibilities to her work with the controller and office staff, and is responsible for the long-standing financial health of the company.

Jacobsen is driven to devoting his term as PLANET president to make this industry even better than it is. He wants to pay it forward, for the next generation.