The hedge in front of our flat is the responsibility of the people who live downstairs from us. We have the roof to look after, they have the hedge. However over the last year, the common privet has been left to grow entirely unchecked and reached over 3 meters. Something needed to be done.

Recently, as I was thinking about taking the matter of the hedge into my own hands, I bumped into a friend who owns a gardening business. We were catching up after months of not seeing one another whilst his colleague finished clearing up from the job they had been doing. As the colleague threw the broom in the back of the van and shouldered his rucksack, he said that he’d like to borrow the hedge trimmer. My friend said that wouldn’t be a problem.

The privet was suddenly front of mind and, being mindful of wanting to do as much as possible in the garden myself, I asked if I could borrow the hedge trimmer as well. The answer was pretty direct:


I must admit that I was momentarily taken aback and at the same time immediately understood. The tool is not the issue – it is the skill, experience and training of the person using it that is important. My friend is a tree surgeon and landscape gardener, not a tool-hire business (or worse a tool-lending charity).

The same goes for what we do. The tools that we have at our disposal are not unique. Like a hedge trimmer they are accessible to everyone. Some are prohibitively expensive and it is cheaper to pay someone to do the job that only needs doing once in a while rather than buying your own. Other tools are relatively cheap. But the value is not in having the tool: it is knowing how to use it. Or having the time to use it.  Or having enough people to use it.

We are sometimes asked to do work for free or for next to nothing. The person asking is not trying to offend. They just think that the tool we are using – whether that is software, or time or contacts – is free. What they don’t think about is how long it has taken us to learn how to use the tool as well as it can be used or how long it took us to acquire the tool. That has value.

The reality is that if I decide not to pay a professional to come and deal with the hedge, then I can decide to do something about it myself. Let me tell you, after my battle with the privet, I can see the value of paying an expert.


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