Being self-employed was just part of the make-up of Phil Fred’s developing persona growing up on a dairy farm in Fulton County, Ind. It wasn’t a stretch to believe that he graduated from Purdue with a degree in agriculture. But after graduating he didn’t go back to the self-employed life on a farm. He took a job working for an agricultural fertilizer and chemical company and moved to Ohio. Initially he was assistant plant manager and later transitioned into sales. But he missed Indiana and watched for an opportunity to move back home.
That chance came in 1978. After building a home in the rural outskirts of Mooresville, he and his wife of one year, Barb, settled into life in Morgan County. He liked the area because, he said, “In five minutes you can be in deep country.” He also saw an opportunity and when he befriended a competitive sales representative, they created a partnership and started a lawncare business in Mooresville. “That was good,” Phil said. “I learned a lot about agronomics and business operations.” The partnership lasted about five years and then the pair went their separate ways. Phil went back to sales for another company until too much time on the road began to chafe. “I was travelling and had a one-year-old son at home,” Phil said, “I decided that if I didn’t try to start a business then, I probably would never have another chance.”
Starting from scratch
Barb came from a family of self-employed people, so she was on board and jumped in to manage the administrative and customer service side of the new lawncare business while Phil was providing services to a growing clientele. “There was a favorable business climate in Mooresville,” Phil said. “Most of the lawncare businesses wanted to go to the northside of Indy which meant there wasn’t a lot of competition here.” After the decision, the inevitable doubt bubbled up and he says he wondered what he was thinking leaving a good job and attempting to start a business from scratch. But through word of mouth and a small direct mailing, the business gained momentum.
At the time, the computer industry was dawning. Starting with a Commodore 64, a data base, and a rolodex, Barb combined her skills for organization and administration with her ability to master DOS and integrate technology into the business. She was as knowledgeable about the lawncare industry and the services the company provided and used that to talk with new clients and provide professional customer service to existing customers. With her in the office and Phil in the field with many employees, the business grew.
Their family grew, too. The couple had two sons, Alex and Chris, who grew up in Mooresville, attending Plainfield schools.
After several years, in 2003, Phil and Barb had the opportunity to sell the business, which they did. At that point, Phil had contractual restrictions preventing him from starting another lawncare service in the area, but he was not ready to stop working. “I kept the business going in different areas from Greencastle to Terre Haute,” Phil said. “The second version of the company, now known as Outdoor Solutions, Inc. offers fewer, more specialized services and has expanded into pond care. We went from zero customers to more than one thousand.
“I saw pond services as a way to continue the business,” Phil said. “I thought it would be fun and let me try something new in a related field. I would be able to do that without competing and it would give me an opportunity to not deplete my savings.”
In 2009, just as the economy was struggling, they began ramping up and both sons, Alex and Chris, joined the business. Alex had been working in construction as a trim carpenter and when building slowed, his job was in jeopardy. “I saw this as an opportunity to work side-by-side with my dad and learn the business.”
On the lawncare side, Outdoor Solutions,Inc provides lawn fertilization, weed and insect control through a variety of packages and services. Lawncare services include a five treatment package for the year as well as analysis and a customized plan for specific lawn problems. Insect control is offered as well through services such as foundation sprays, surface insect control, and perimeter treatments that act as a barrier to repel exterior nuisance insects. Ponds from backyard ponds to larger ponds in rural settings are treated to control algae, submerged weeds, and both invasive exotic and natives that can take over. Ponds are treated dependent on the style of pond and the owner’s vision.Read the Full August 2019 Edition Here