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Founding Partner Of Advanced Turf Solutions Dan Dunham Retires After 42 Yea

March 7, 2017 | Categories:
September 22, 2014 at 3:00 am

“Retirement reminds me of when I went off to college,” Dan says. “I was looking forward to it, the freedom and moving on, but leaving my family was hard.” Dan thinks of his friends in the turf industry as part of his family, so naturally he will miss seeing them every day.

Dan shares his story with me, starting at the beginning. He studied history in college, but his love for golf and the outdoors attracted him to the turf industry. Dan was 25 years old when he returned home from Vietnam where he served in the US Navy. He got his start in the turf industry at Engledow, a landscaping and property management company in Central Indiana. Nearly 45 years later, Engledow is now one of Dan’s favorite customers.

Dan was also a branch manager at ChemLawn for 17 years. “We set records that would never be broken,” Dan speaks fondly of his time there. “I opened a branch in Salt Lake City, and in a year and a half we got to a million dollars in sales. No one ever got to a million dollars in sales faster than we did.”

I ask Dan what advice he would give to turf enthusiasts who are just getting into the business. Dan says, “Learn as much as you can. You will make mistakes; that’s how you learn.”  He also stresses the importance of family, and he says that his biggest regret was being a workaholic and not spending enough time at home. Dan’s most heart-felt advice is, “The best gift you can give your kids is your time.”

Dan says that the biggest challenge of his career was uprooting his family and moving for work. “In the early years if you wanted to get ahead, you had to move,” Dan says, “and my wife never complained. Sue and I have been married 48 years, and in the first 25 years of our marriage we moved 17 times.”

Even with the sacrifices he has made, Dan has a lot to be proud of. “I’m proud of the record I had with ChemLawn,” says Dan, “and I’m proud of the people I have hired in the past that have done well in the Industry. Without a doubt, the success of Advanced Turf Solutions is what I consider my proudest moment, with my small part in its success.”

Dan acknowledges that he did not get to where he is today on his own. “Alex Cannon has certainly made me a better salesman,” Dan says as he reflects back on the mentors and friends who have influenced his career over the years. Chuck Voyles, his first branch manager at ChemLawn, also impacted Dan in a big way. “I feel like I owe a lot to them because they made me look for opportunities to improve myself.”

Dan met Alex at the Purdue Field Day in 1991 when a mutual friend, Jeff Lefton, introduced them. Dan was working for a competitor at the time, but a few short months later he would be working for Alex at Cannon Turf Supply.

In October of 2001 they founded Advanced Turf Solutions. “We started it in my house, in a spare room,” Dan remembers. The business grew quickly, and within a few months they moved into what is now the headquarters in Fishers, Indiana. “I am very proud of the fact that Advanced Turf has grown so big in such a short time,” he says.

“I’ve been fortunate,” Dan says, referring to the personal and professional goals he has achieved. “I’ve had a pretty good bucket list.” Dan goes on to share several highlights from his list that he has already crossed off: achieving success as a business owner, landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier while serving in the military, attending the very first Super Bowl, seeing a football game at Lambeau Field, watching the Masters Tournament in Augusta, and playing golf at Pebble Beach and the Old Course in Scotland.

So what is next for Dan? “I am going to start a small consulting company, helping small lawn care companies,” he says. While he does not want to work full-time during his retirement, Dan hopes to spend a day or two each week doing what he loves.

One of his biggest goals for retirement is to get healthy, and he hopes to lose weight. Dan also plans to travel more. A Canadian train trip is first on the list, followed by traveling to Italy. He also hopes to cross off a few more lines on his bucket list. “This fall I’m going on a hot air balloon, and if I am successful losing weight, I might try sky diving.”

Although he seems excited about his plans for retirement, Dan says, “I’m not seriously counting down the days. I really like my job. As a matter of fact, this has really snuck up on me. This year has really gone so fast, and now it’s almost here.” Dan would like to thank all ATS employees and his customers for their help in making his job fun and successful.