How I got started: James Elton, director, Select Gardens

How did you get started in horticulture?

Having tried my hand at a couple of "indoor" jobs, I took a casual job at a nursery during the last recession and the staff there advised me to go to college to further my career.

I studied for my National Diploma at Brinsbury College in Pulborough, West Sussex. I went on to work for landscape designer Stephen Woodham in London, the National Trust at Polesden Lacey and as a gardener in the Channel Islands. I set up my gardens maintenance business, Select Gardens, in 2001.

What does your typical day involve?

I start the day by making a cup of tea and checking my emails - I'm at my desk by 5.30am. Then I make the 20-minute trip to Brighton to meet my staff at our base for 7am sharp. I like the variety of my job - I could be meeting clients or working on contracts ranging from hotels to prestigious communal gardens and from sheltered housing schemes to private estates.

What is the best part of your job?

A combination of great-looking gardens, satisfied clients, happy staff and a healthy bank balance.

And the worst?

Chasing late payments, the bugbear of every small business owner.

Which piece of kit can't you do without?

It changes on a day-to-day basis. One day it could be secateurs, but today it's my vehicle-tracking GPS software which allows me to provide a real-time log of our services and lets me keep track of where my staff are working without disturbing them.

How do you wind down after a day's work?

Playtime with my four-month-old son followed by a hot bath.

What does the future hold?

As well as continuing to provide an excellent service to clients in the Brighton and Sussex area, I would eventually like to expand my business by setting up a landscaping division.

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