Stephen Wood: Open Range
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter
MENLO PARK — Following college graduation, Stephen Wood had found himself in an occupational cul de sac, working as the assistant manager of a coffee shop. Thanks to a long-time acquaintance, however, he was given an opportunity that opened the door to a lifelong career. “In high school, I dated a young lady and got to be pretty good friends with her father, who was one of the first commercial landscape contractors in the Bay Area,” he recalls. “He and I had stayed in touch over the years, and one day he made me an offer to come work for him, which was by far a better opportunity than anything else I had going.”
Stephen spent the next twelve years gaining experience as a landscaping professional, before striking out on his own in 1989. Today, as owner of EW Landscape, he says his favorite part of his job is devising ways to make his customers’ landscapes more water-wise. “From the mechanics of moving water to modern innovations in devices and techniques, I find irrigation fascinating. Plus, as we head into the fourth year of the current drought in California, it’s become a major environmental concern, so I get a lot of satisfaction from improving irrigation efficiency on my customers’ properties.”
A resident of Menlo Park (where he lives with his wife, Lois), Stephen considers the Bay Area an ideal place to be in the landscaping business. “In the Bay Area, you might say landscaping is a ‘24/7’ job, because you can plant nearly any time of the year,” he says. “For us, business is ongoing, whereas, in other parts of the country, landscapers are out of work three or four months out of the year due to winter conditions.”
Outside of work, Steve likes to spend the bulk of his time outdoors, exploring the natural beauty of Northern California. “I really enjoy the outdoors, and California is one of those places where you can access a lot of amazing areas within a relatively short distance,” he says. “I’m into hiking and camping, as well as water rafting and ocean kayaking. One thing that’s still on my bucket list is to go rafting through the Grand Canyon.” Stephen also likes to spend time with his grown son, Tyler, who works in the tech industry.
In regard to his professional career, Stephen believes it’s important to go above and beyond to ensure accuracy. “When it comes to estimates, I’ve seen what a lot of my competitors do, which consists largely of guesswork. In contrast, my estimates are usually six to seven pages long, detailing each and every line item for each category of work we’re doing. In addition to ensuring accurate pricing, I think this adds to our customers’ confidence in us.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Stephen says he’d migrate to a new setting. “There are places outside of California where it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg just to make the bills, which would be nice for a change. I’d love to live somewhere like New Mexico or Montana, and do what I’ve dreamed about since I was five years old: be a cowboy.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Do you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person?
A: Dog person.
Q: What is your favorite season of the year and why?
A: Fall, for the colors.
Q: If you could travel to any country in the world, where would you go and why?
A: I’d like to go back to England. My family lived in London for about a year when I was young, and the English struck me as a people with a very rich, detailed history.
Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: A rope.
Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
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A: Thanksgiving—none of the gift giving, but all of the family.