By Ed Weirauch
David McCann’s success may have its roots in a pizzeria, or on a neighbor’s lawn, but his foundation really lies in his natural sense of responsibility.
Now a senior studying Horticulture at Williamson College of the Trades, as a high school student David took pizza orders before moving up to actually making pies. Hired to mow neighbors’ lawns, within a few weeks was fertilizing and landscaping. And despite his busy work schedule, he volunteered to provided rides for a neighbor affected by cancer.
“From when I was very young, I always had this strong sense of responsibility and I think that drives me still today,” David says. In fact, his bosses and clients would probably adjust the familiar adage, ‘give a busy person something to do and he’ll do it well’ to describe David. Instead of waiting to be ‘given’ responsibility, David takes on tasks without being asked.
When a co-worker at that pizzeria in his Warminster, PA hometown mentioned that she needed her lawn cut… David cut it. Just like that, his landscape business was born. By the end of that summer, he now estimates that he was spending 35-40 hours a week on lawns. That fall, he returned to high school, kept mowing lawns and moved from making pizzas to baking bagels at a wholesale kitchen. And he began taking courses at Bucks County Community College in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management.
After graduating from William Tennant High School, David’s landscaping business continued to thrive. He added night college courses that had him driving 45 minutes each way after working all day. On those drives, he thought a lot about the costs he was incurring for college. He contemplated the future of his landscaping business, and even considered enlisting in the US Army.
“I knew I didn’t want to spend any more money on college learning about running a business when really, I was already doing that. I wasn’t seeing the value of a lot of classroom learning.”
David was living with his older brother who provided support while David was in college. “I told my brother that college wasn’t for me, and I was going to quit. That’s when he told me about this college that a couple of guys he worked with attended and spoke very highly of… that’s how I first heard about Williamson.”
After an aunt and uncle who live in Delaware County chimed in with their endorsement, David applied quickly to meet Williamson’s time and age requirements. His thinking: “I’d be stupid to not apply.”
Weeks later, David’s brother’s girlfriend was waiting at home for him with an envelope. “She acted like the suspense was killing her. As I opened the envelope and read my acceptance letter, I realized she had slipped the envelope open and then re-sealed it. She was as excited as I was to see that I’d be going to Williamson.”
As a student in the Horticulture program, David found just the right college for him. “I’m interested in learning the science of horticulture, rather than just theories. Before I got to Williamson, I had taken down a big hemlock tree, so I knew how to do that; but now I know what not to do, how to accomplish such a job better and with less risk. At Williamson, we learn from doing, developing better techniques, striving for higher quality. I realize the customer expects us to know everything, so the more skills and knowledge I have, the better.”
David says his internship last summer with Shreiner Tree Company changed the way he looked at tree care and solidified his career choice. “There’s nothing like hands-on reality, including knowing how to handle a 10,000-pound log the right way.”
When asked what stands out about David, his Shreiner Foreman Joshua Peregrim immediately cites David’s sense of “responsibility. He takes ownership and pride in his work. He was an Eagle Scout. David is really what you hope for in the next generation.”
Will Joshua hire David after graduation in May 2022? Actually, he’s not waiting: “I’m counting on him over winter break for a big logging job,” Joshua answers.
Back at Williamson, David and his classmates have been working on their capstone project, a learning effort that encompasses all aspects of their education. In the Horticulture program, those projects are often visible improvements or enhancements to the Williamson campus. David and his team are developing a patio with a beautiful southeastern view of rolling hills.
“I’ve been really focused on the project itself, but it is a neat feeling to know that everyone after us will benefit by our work and that we’re able to leave our mark on the college.” In conversation, David often brings up one phrase that captures his Williamson experience. “We’re ready on the job, ready to contribute on day one, ready to take on any responsibility.”
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