Updated: Oct 12, 2018
When I was 14 I dug a conifer tree out of the garden with a spoon. This wasn't just an unusual act of teenage rebellion, my mum did actually want the tree removed. I started out with a more traditional spade but a few hours in I got tired and wanted to continue the task seated so I switched to a shovel but this gave me blisters on my thumb so I completed the job with a spoon. When I had finished, I congratulated myself not only on the successful removal of the conifer but also my innovative techniques and creative reimagining of garden tools, the sort of skills I imagined would be welcomed at any reputable landscape gardening company in the country.
Two years later my school put on a 'Careers Guidance Day'. This primarily consisted of completing a questionnaire on the computer which would then analyse our answers and match us with our most suitable profession. My result? Gardener (obviously), although I do think this had less to do with my skill set and more to do with the fact that I had answered 'yes' to the question 'do you like to go outside?' A dazzling piece of software it was. I wonder how many of my peers became chefs because they answered 'yes' to 'do you often eat food?'
Despite these clear signals from the universe, I did not pursue a career in gardening and my Spoon Spade never made it onto the commercial market. Several years later, however, the universe called again. Says Jack, "Instead of paying an expert thousands of pounds to renovate our garden, shall we do it ourselves?" Says I, "Well certainly I have experience and expertise in this field, so yes Jack, I accept this challenge." And off we went.
Jack devoted the next week to research. He Googled and Youtubed for hours on end until he knew everything the internet had to offer on building a deck. When he surfaced he informed me that we'd need to dig 36 holes. I headed straight for the cutlery drawer.
We stepped out into the garden and were shocked at what we found. It was an unkempt wilderness full of dangers. A sneering squirrel leaning against the fence smoking a cigarette and tossing acorn shells into a pile of weeds, a fat slug sliming across the patio singing sea shanties and a badger family running some sort of illegal operation out of the shed. This was no garden. This was a jungle slum.
For the next two weeks we laboured and toiled until our palms calloused and our limbs stiffened. I filled the wheelbarrow, Jack emptied it. I measured the wood, Jack sawed it. I realised the wood wasn't level, Jack smashed it into place with a sledgehammer. A perfect partnership at every step.
We demolished the jungle slum and in its place we installed a decking area with a table and chairs at one end for coffee and a sofa at the other end for wine. We built four raised beds for flowers and vegetables and an archway to house climbing roses and jasmine. We painted the fences and evicted the beasts (although I'm pretty sure the drunken slug is still lurking in a flowerpot somewhere). A year on and our new garden is in full bloom, and it's awesome. It's awesome because we built it. We know where the holes were dug, we know where the plastic spacers are hidden to level out some of the boards and we know why the sledgehammer is broken.
We built our garden much the same as we're building our business. Together. We learn together, we make our mistakes together and we repair together. You often hear people talking about one member of a partnership 'wearing the trousers'. When the trousers were handed out in our relationship, we took a leg each. We make every decision as a team. If Jack likes something and I don't, it's wrong. If I like something and Jack doesn't, it's wrong. If we're pulling in different directions whilst wearing the same pair of trousers, we're going to fall over. That's why we always know that the correct course is the one we both agree on.
If I had to pick my favourite thing about running a business, it's being a part of this team. When we succeed, we both take the credit and when we fail we both take the responsibility because every aspect of Lanther Black is exactly half a Dominique and half a Jack.