Going the extra mile

The Now & Zen Team

Shannon Decker was a young school leaver at 14 who didnʼt quite fit in with schooling life, so he embarked on a four-year apprenticeship, which became a springboard for his hugely successful and local landscaping business, Now & Zen.

And itʼs all thanks to his dad.

“A mate of his had a landscape company, I was out of school on Friday and started on Monday,” Shannon said. “I was sort of pushed into it and had to ride my push bike long distances just to get there – it wasnʼt an easy apprenticeship.”

Back then public transport was limited in the hills district, where he grew up, to his work location of Kenthurst – so he had to ride his BMX bike 20km daily each way in an hour-and twenty-minute-long commute.

“I distinctly remember falling asleep on my dinner when I got home,” Shannon said. “My father kept me going, his perseverance, heʼd assist me and make my lunch every night, and drive me half way depending on my behaviour.”

Shannon says there is a marked difference to the training he did, compared to the tuition his own landscaping apprentices get these days.

“I was exhausted, so many times I would say to my dad, ʻIʼve had enough, I want outʼ, and it is thanks to my parents that they kept me chipping along – ʻget your trade, son, get your trade,” he said. “We mentor young apprentices daily, and they are different today, than what they were back then.”

For Shannon, his apprenticeship was a difficult and physically demanding job for a young boy, on top of cycling back and forth every day.

“You didnʼt wear bike helmets back then, they werenʼt available … some of the obstacles were climbing those hills, but what you go up you must come down,” he said. “And then knowing once you got to that destination, then you had to go and dig and push a wheelbarrow for the next eight hours.”

And all this without much help tradies normally get these days using excavator machinery or front-end loaders, more commonly known as Bobcats – he had his hands full with manual labour.

Once Shannon finished his training, he started up his landscaping business servicing the Blue Mountains and some surrounding areas in 1999, where he had huge success in the first year. So, the business grew quickly, where he was able to buy machines, add staff and train up juniors.

The joys of the job for Shannon include having daily satisfaction and that one day is not the same as the next.

“Our work has a huge variety, never a boring, dull moment – monotony isnʼt a thing,” he said. “Landscapers are multi-competent in many areas of trades … we do plumbing, tiling, stonemasonry, concreting, carpentry, irrigation, draining, you name it.”

More than anything the company is all about being environmentally responsible, while doing a top job for their clients.

“When you have serviced the landscape industry for 20 years you know everyone, everywhere you go you recognise a client,” he said. “So, itʼs building relationships with clients and within the community, which is what is super enjoyable for me.”

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