Nov. 16 2011 07:26 AM

I just finished another onsite consultation with a $2m landscape management company. Not the worst situation I’ve seen, but still, a lot of improvement was needed in most areas. Taking up a lot of space in the yard were two huge tractors that could do anything you wanted to—including milking a cow if you desired! They were fairly new and pretty shiny, but just sitting there, not being used. After a review of the company’s balance sheet and overhead expenses, I had to ask why the tractors were there and not earning their keep. The monthly payment on these tractors was heavy and taking away substantial profits.

It seems that the owner was talking to a great new commercial prospect one day, trying to negotiate a big landscaping deal. The situation was budget versus the expense of this job, but the numbers were close. So, Mr. Great Commercial Prospect says to the landscape contractor, “Meet my numbers on this job and I’ll give you a ton of business in the future, as we are growing and need a dependable and professional landscaper.” So, the contractor agrees to the prospect’s numbers and away they go. The first job was a pretty good size and heavy equipment was needed, so Mr. Landscape Contractor goes and buys these two huge tractors for this job and the “ton of business” that was to come.

If you’ve ever played poker, especially All in Texas Hold ’em, you know where I’m going now. He was betting “on the come.” In this instance, not a good gamble, as the guy never gave him another job and he had no big jobs in the pipeline. Now the tractors just sit and rust, and monthly payments don’t stop! Sad.

In my thirty years in this profession, there have been a lot of “great prospective customers” that offered me this same deal. In each case, I had to decline. I thought, in the final analysis, they would end up getting the best of me and I’d get no reward for compromising to meet their goals. They really didn’t consider my goals. So, my comment was, “Okay, I’m willing to compromise, but let’s do it as you provide me with new business and we’ll go deal by deal.” Typically, silence was their response.

Possibly, starting your business was the biggest “gamble” you’ve ever made. But keep in mind, in business, you gotta know when to hold ’em and especially, know when to fold ’em! That way, no one will regard you as a turkey! Call me. I can help.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Phagan is president of Green Industry Consulting, Inc., and can be reached at 813.310.1108 or e-mail to or his website at