Growing up on a large farm of several hundred acres in Brownsville, Tennessee, as the youngest in a family of fourteen children, Beard had many responsibilities that taught him transferable skills and made him appreciate their land. Today, Beard uses the knowledge he gained as the owner of Beard Property Maintenance, Inc., a full-service landscaping, lawn care, and property maintenance company that he founded 38 years ago.
“I have always been excited about beautifying land, and I got my love of nature from my parents. I learned all about plants and soil from them. We grew all kinds of plants and vegetables, such as corn, soybeans, and tomatoes. They taught me you cannot plant anything too deep or too shallow, and that’s definitely the same with trees. I also was trained to use farming equipment, such as tractors and combines. Most people who grow up on a farm know how to do a little bit of everything,” Beard said.
While Beard’s farming background gave him the technical knowledge about plants and working with the land, he says there were other important values that his parents instilled in him, which he incorporates into his business each day, including integrity, work ethic, and community service.
“Integrity is the most important thing, and that’s what my father taught me,” Beard said. “You cannot take shortcuts, and your word is everything. My father used to send me on errands when I was younger, and I could get anything he needed because of his honor. People trusted my father, Montgomery Beard. I tell everyone to have integrity, and the world will give you opportunity.”
Becoming an entrepreneur
For Beard, the opportunity to start a business came early in his career. Growing up, he knew his life would take him in different directions. Beard graduated from Tennessee State University (TSU) where he studied music and psychology. (He played the saxophone and flute!) During his senior year, he found himself working part-time at a convenience store.
“It was 1974, and it was difficult to get a job as a minority in Nashville. A district manager from the Tandy Corporation, the parent company of Radio Shack, observed me at that store, and he agreed to hire me after I graduated. Not a lot of companies would hire Blacks, and we were often overqualified for the jobs we did get. I learned people skills and business management from Mr. Tandy. While working at Radio Shack, I was promoted to a management role and received awards and honors in that capacity, including domestic and international travel for exceeding sales and performance goals. I probably would have stayed there longer – Mr. Tandy was an awesome leader, and the Tandy Corporation was a great company – but when he passed away, it was not the same for me,” Beard said.
Beard says he was wondering what to do next. One day, while helping a friend at his lawn mower shop, an older man came by and said he needed help with his yard.
“I said I could do it, and he paid well for the job. When I went home and started calculating the income I could make, it gave me the idea for my business. I knew what I would do! I had five nephews at TSU who were bored after class, so I decided – we are going to cut some yards, and I hired them. At the time, this was not a common service. Everyone, and I mean everyone, used to cut their own grass and maintain their yards. I knew one man who was cutting yards, so I talked to him about his prices and how he got started. He was almost 80 years old but looked like he was 60. With my farming experience, I knew this was something I could do,” Beard said.
From this humble beginning, Beard Property Maintenance now staffs over 20 employees and provides residential, commercial, and industrial services across Middle Tennessee. As a trailblazer in the field, Beard and his business strive to create and cultivate opportunities for people entering the industry and have successfully opened doors for former employees to start their companies. Through his business, Beard advocates for trees and believes that all cities need a strong tree canopy.
Trees for all
Beard has always loved trees – oak and maple trees are his favorite. As a long-standing member of the Metro Tree Advisory Committee, he is responsible for making decisions that will ensure the longevity of trees planted throughout the Nashville community.
“I not only think about how the trees look now, but I also consider how the trees will look when we are not here anymore – maybe 50 or more years in the future. I’m always conscious about exactly where to plant, and I’ve learned what works and what does not. For example, is the tree too close to a house or a power line? I also think about the climate – you must make sure it will be sustained. You cannot plant a tree without thinking about now and the future,” Beard said.
There are so many reasons to make these considerations, though, and plant more trees!
“We have to continue to plant trees. Our urban trees are getting old, so we need to plant new ones. Trees have many benefits. They protect us from flooding, clean the air, and keep things cool. A tree near a house can reduce electricity usage and costs. They are good for our mental health and well-being. They also help the wildlife, which are an asset to people. For example, I just completed a landscaping job and afterwards my client called and said, ‘Dwight, with those cypress trees you planted, the birds are going crazy!’ It makes me happy when people are happy,” Beard said.
It’s his love of the outdoors that keeps Beard going every day.
“The other day a client started crying after we finished working on her yard. I would not have gotten that kind of response while working at a corporation. The joy in her heart and the tears in her eyes meant the world to me,” Beard said.
Among other projects, Root Nashville is working with Beard Property Maintenance on an upcoming tree planting project at Tennessee State University – where Beard is an alumnus, board member of the TSU Foundation, and three-term, past president of the TSU Alumni Association Nashville Chapter.
Tree Lovers of Nashville is a series to highlight the amazing advocates and supporters of trees in our city. If you would like to suggest someone to be interviewed for this series, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.