When Nikos Phelps first got into the green industry he was only 13 years old and had to have his parents drive him and a friend back and forth to and from his clients’ properties. That wasn’t always easy to orchestrate in the “pre-cellphone era,” Phelps says with a laugh. Despite the challenges, the business grew. While attending Penn State University, Phelps would drive home to the Harrisburg area two or three days a week to keep things going. Since graduating in 2007, he has turned his full attention to Utopian Landscapes LLC, which has grown tremendously since those days. Today, Phelps works alongside his wife, Terra (“the handler”), who Phelps says helps “balance him out on a number of different things.” While a husband/ wife business partnership can be tricky, both say they love it, and it’s made the business stronger. When Phelps isn’t working, you can often find him training as he’s recently begun competing in triathlons … and winning. Turf caught up with Phelps to tell us more about his passions.
About three years ago I started training for a triathlon on a complete whim. I had been a runner and a swimmer in high school, but ever since getting caught up in the business, I had let fitness go by the wayside. One day I just knew I needed some sort of outlet, and I told Terra, “I’m going to train for a triathlon.” It came out of nowhere and surprised me as much as it did her, but after my first competition I did surprisingly well and have since become more serious about it. I now have a coach (Vassilis Krommidas, a Greek national champion who competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games) and am training much more seriously.
Since I’ve started training, I’ve become a better person. It has helped with my stress levels and made me a better manager. I think my friends, family and coworkers would say they notice a difference — probably that I seem happier and more focused. It’s been a positive change for me and great for the company, so I don’t mind putting the time in.
Traveling is important to Terra and I as it helps us unwind and take a break from the business. In 2015, we went to New Zealand, and in 2016 it was Iceland and Greece. This year, it will be the Netherlands and Europe. We really enjoy experiencing new places and are always up for trying something different. Travel is both our hobby and our escape.
My motto is “Work hard, play hard.” When I’m working, it gets my full attention and I’m completely dedicated. But we’ll also take those longer vacations to refresh. And because we work a four-day work week, when it’s Friday we’re done, and we absolutely take some time to unwind. It makes us that much better and more refreshed when we come back on Monday.
My best advice to others is that if you have a goal, you should write it down. It just makes it feel that much more official. My current goal is to win Greek Nationals in 2017, but after that we’ll see.