As a college graduate of Arizona State University, Charlie Ferer thought he would be living the American Dream through a 9-5 job in Corporate America. Although successfully earning well over six figures a year, it was not without long hours that hurt his lack of freedom. With an entrepreneurial childhood, Charlie found his calling and left his comfortable job to start his own businesses doing what he loves. Secret sat down with Charlie to discuss his secret to success and his Lamborghini obsession.
Thanks for taking time out of your schedule. Tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Charlie Ferer, President and CEO of Paradise Greens and Turf Company, INC based in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’m an alumni from Arizona State University and stayed in Arizona after I graduated. I have a very competitive nature and love to compete in triathlons, go kart and super bike racing, and of course the usual toys men love: firearms and exotic cars!
Where do you get your entrepreneurial background from?
My greatest achievement is starting a business at a young age. When I was 11 years of age I delivered newspapers by bicycle. This made me comfortable at an early age to manage my time, collect money, and learn how to understand my customers of all ages and personalities. At this time in my life I wanted a dirt bike and my parents informed me that there was no way they were buying one for me and if I wanted one I would have to buy it. One year later I was able to buy a 1982 Kawasaki KX80. My parents still did not want me to have the dirt bike.
While in high school I worked on a horse breeding farm and then started my own lawn service company. I remember my father having a Sears riding lawnmower that needed replacing and I convinced him to get a commercial walk behind mower, backpack blower, and weed whacker so our yard would look as good or better than our neighbors that were having their yards maintained professionally. My Father agreed and I started doing our yard. I then went to my neighbors asking them for their business and offering a better price monthly for service. Before I knew it I was doing a couple lawns a day after school and making an average of $50 a lawn. That is an average of $100 a day for just 3 hrs of work a day! From this business I was able to buy my first car which was a Chevy pick up truck for my business. I also then purchased a 280 ZX for $4,800.
Love the hustle and ambition at an early age. After college you joined Corporate America, how was it?
When I graduated from ASU in 1993, I went into the corporate world thinking I would have this 9-5 job and living the dream. I also thought I would be married at 24 with children. Another dream of mine being raised with two older sisters and a younger brother. After working in the corporate world successfully for 7 years, working an average 60 hr work week, I was making an average of $150k a year. I knew I wanted to work for myself again instead of just making 15% of the money I was making for the corporation. I then decided to start my own business.
A lot of our readers question the impact of a college degree. Looking back, was college worth it?
If I did not have a degree I would not have even gotten the opportunity to interview for the job I got out of college. A degree shows a potential employer that there is a certain level of intellectual ability and perseverance.
Do not get me wrong, I have worked with some of the brightest people with just a high school education. But, our society is superficial when it comes to education – you either have a degree or you do not. It sometimes doesn’t even matter what you have your degree in, as long as you have one. College does broaden you, teaches you how to present/speak in public, etc.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you do not have a degree their will be job opportunities that you will not be considered for. Not having a degree can hamper your employability. I strongly recommend college. A BS will definitely help you get a job over someone that does not have one. Having a degree in my eyes will bring you one step closer to “living the dream.”
Leaving a $150k job must not have been easy. What lead you to the artificial grass industry?
Looking to start a new business, many factors led to starting Paradise Greens and Turf Company. I knew I enjoyed golf and the outdoors and Arizona was having issues of water restrictions. I was sponsored when racing bikes by an artificial grass & putting green installation company. The owner was enthusiastic about motorcycles and we built a great rapport. In 2004 I informed him that this was a business I wanted to get into and asked if he would help me get the business started. He then assisted me in getting my foot in the door and assisted me with training, etc. Two years ago I purchased his company phone number and website when they were struggling for marketing leads.
Tell us a little more specifically about Paradise Greens and Turf Company.
Paradise Greens has a 6,000 square foot showroom and warehouse in Scottsdale, AZ. We have made great lengths in keeping our doors open by assisting the landscape companies, homebuilders, and commercial companies to bring small and large sales in the doors for all of us. The residential business has also been a huge success. With these economic times we have been doing everything we can to stay ahead of our competitors with exclusive product lines of synthetic turf to keep us on the bleeding edge of technology and environmentally friendly products.
We are going to be in business for a long time. I will own this business until I retire. At that time I would love to have a family member take over the business instead of selling it.
You seem very passionate about your business. What sets you and your company apart from competitors?
I would recommend doing something that you love. My business and the customers we work with are dynamic and the industry itself excites me. I have always loved being outdoors and enjoyed servicing customers and underselling and over-delivering and hope to continue doing that for this business and any other venture I get involved in. One of the nicest feelings of my line of work is seeing the end product installed and hearing from our customers that it is nicer than they even imagined! That is when you know you and your employees are doing a great job!
I demand a lot out of myself and my employees and push them to make sure they are the best they can be. Customer service is the biggest component of this. We treat every customer like we personally would want to be treated. Any of our customers may talk to me directly or any of my staff 24/7. We are also successful because of our exclusive product line and our experienced office personnel, sales staff, and installation team. We are quality over quantity.
What advice do you have for people ready to make the leap towards entrepreneurship?
Being able to bite the bullet and risk it all in starting your own business. This is the biggest step anyone can make. It will take you more hours and more money than you think. Start with a thorough business plan. Be sure you have enough money in the bank to run the business, proper marketing, internet advertising budget, etc, and a minimum of 9 months of money to live off of. Big risk but like they say big reward!
What have you learned through your experiences as a business owner that you can share?
I have been extremely fortunate in my life. BUT, I worked extremely hard for what I have and made many sacrifices in my life for my business. What I have I learned – Nothing falls on your lap, nothing is for free. Success comes from working smart, making the right business decisions, making your customers #1, having the ability to work with a variety of people, and some luck.
I would recommend getting a pen and paper and writing down these questions and answering them:
What are you passionate about? What are you good at? What do your friends and family think you like/enjoy doing? What can I do that will make a difference? Once you have answers to these questions then ask yourself how you can blend this to start a business that people need, a product or service that you can make money from. Remember, this is going to be your life so be sure to start something that will make you money but will also enrich your life. Be sure to write down all of your thoughts. Once you have the idea then start on a business plan. You need to have a purpose and you need to make a difference in this economy in order to survive.
Now the good stuff… You rewarded yourself a Ferrari for your first exotic. Which model and why?
I chose the Ferrari 348 Spyder as my first exotic because the price point for the car ($84k for a car with 3k miles on it) and less maintenance than other exotics at that time. I had owned a Porsche and a Saleen Mustang before the Ferrari but do not consider those an exotic car.
Since then, you’ve had three Lamborghini’s. What made you convert to the dark side?
I find that the Lamborghini owner is a totally different type of person than a Ferrari owner. I fall more into the Lamborghini owner category. I also feel the Lamborghini is a more exotic & powerful car. The torque of a 12 cylinder is not comparable to that of a 8 cylinder.
Which model Lamborghini’s did you own? Which one is your favorite?
1998 Lamborghini Diablo SV Titanium/Black – one of my favorite cars I have owned and wished I never sold.
2004 Lamborghini Gallardo Roso Metis/Ivory – The Gallardo is a great car and definitely can be driven like a daily driver if you wanted an exotic driver.
2003 Lamborghini Murcielago – Gregio Anteres/Black – A fantastic, reliable exotic. I would not recommend this car as a daily driver but for a weekend car this is THE CAR to have!
The Diablo I owned was the rare SV. I believe only 25 SV’s were imported in 1998. It was a lighter two wheel drive Diablo. I miss the way the car drives and the lines of the car. It has also been holding it’s value well.
Is it fair to say we predict you’ll be picking up the next flagship Lamborghini?
My next exotic will definitely be the new Lamborghini Aventador! It is the next generation flagship Murcielago.
How did ownership of your first exotic make you feel? Do you still feel the same today?
I promised myself I would purchase an exotic as my own reward once I hit a certain annual income figure. I do this as a self motivator to work hard… I have to earn it to purchase certain things in my life. I did this as well when I bought my first Rolex Submariner – If I hit a certain number in one month I could buy myself a watch as a bonus… again a way to motivate me. For me, the ownership was a sense of accomplishment.
Exotics for me are like art. The lines of these cars are just incredible. I greatly appreciate the designers and their craftsmanship. A nice plus is you can drive the art, not just look at them. These cars get every sense – look, feel, smell, and are just an adrenaline to drive. It is hard to drive one of these exotics and get out of the car without a big grin on your face.
Where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?
I will have several Paradise Greens franchises, a home in La Jolla, and possibly married with children.
Lastly, what is your favorite quote?
The quality of an individual is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.
We want to thank Charlie for sharing his secret to success story. To learn more about Paradise Greens and their services, please visit them at:
Website: Paradise Greens