Many a golf fanatic has thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a putting green in my backyard?” For Michael Lehrer, that thought turned into action—and then into a business. The former CPA took up golf shortly after moving to Armonk in 1993, and found that his weekly tee time at Mohansic Golf Course wasn’t cutting it. “I wanted to improve my short game, so I literally stuck a flag in the ground on my property and turned it into a green,” Lehrer recalls, laughing.
At the time, Lehrer was running his own CPA practice in Larchmont, after having worked for years as an auditor at a mid-sized firm. “It was gratifying; I had great clients and some good folks working for me,” he notes. But the repetitive nature of accounting was stifling his creative side.
Meanwhile, Lehrer’s makeshift putting green caught the attention of his neighbor, who asked him to build one on his property. Lehrer’s own natural-grass putting green proved high maintenance, so he set out to learn about synthetic greens before tackling his neighbor’s project. “I went down south to the carpet mills and took courses on how to put together the turf and learned how to make the turf replicate a regular green,” Lehrer explains. After finishing his neighbor’s installation, a few other referrals came in, and Lehrer realized he had a viable business idea.
He sold his CPA practice, and officially launched Home Green Advantage, Inc. in 1997. Since then, Lehrer has installed more than 500 golf greens (residential, commercial, and promotional) throughout the New York metro area. Installations vary—everything from basic putting greens to mini courses with up to three golf holes, complete with sand traps and tee boxes.
Lehrer considers himself an artist: “Each project is an expression of myself. I look at the land and I have a vision; I can feel how it would look with a golf green,” Lehrer explains.
But it’s not all artistry—Lehrer approaches each project as only a former accountant could, rattling this off: “If a piece of property is 1,000 square feet and I need to change the grade six inches, that makes it 500 cubic feet; with 27 cubic feet to a yard, I’ll need to bring in—and bill my customer for—20 yards of material,” he says. (Um, right.)
It’s clear that this profession, which brings the creative and mathematical sides of Lehrer’s personality together, is a perfect fit. “With accounting, every project is basically the same—it was like that ‘time to make the donuts’ commercial,” he says. “With this, every day is totally different.”
Career 180 Tip
Before taking the plunge, people should ask themselves these questions: ‘Is there a true demand for the product or service I am offering? Will I have an advantage over other people? Can I keep this thing afloat before it can become self-sustaining? If it doesn’t work out, will I still be able to return to a viable vocation?