“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” the late ballplayer Yogi Berra once said.
Aside from being funny, he was also right. Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate and author of the best-seller, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” has done copious research that proves us humans are wildly overconfident in our ability to predict things accurately. We see the outcome, define the cause and then leap to the conclusion that we knew the answer all along. With that in mind, I won’t make any predictions for 2019.
But I do want to bring to the surface several trends that are guaranteed to impact your business over the next few years. Our markets continue to experience brisk economic tailwinds. Consumer and corporate spending is robust, creating a strong demand for professional contractors. At the same time, economists are pointing to gathering clouds on the horizon.
Here are some trends to pay attention to. Finding laborers is tough, but finding strong managers is getting to be impossible. The unprecedented wave of retirements in our industry is accelerating, removing experienced managers from the leadership of top companies. A new group of engaged, energetic leaders is rising through the ranks, but their cadre is too small. Companies can’t find crew leaders, store managers, estimators and other critical roles.
The applicants who are out there have high salary expectations but little experience leading in a rocky environment. Green industry company owners need management development and mentoring programs, pronto.
Relearn how to really sell. After six-plus years of good times, many have forgotten how hard it is to get customers to pull the trigger on pricey projects. A contractor recently told me his main best practice is providing a speedy quote; don’t visit the site and email the estimate to the customer. Really?
Whether we’re headed into a recession economy, a stagflation economy or an economy that is just going to slow down a bit, your sales team needs to get back to meeting clients face to face, building trust so they can really sell them on your firm’s value.
Overcome your fear of new technology. The landscape industry doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to adopting new technology. But adding new software or tools could pay off significantly in improvements to efficiency and customer experience.
Dozens of options in routing and scheduling software, digital timekeeping, GPS vehicle tracking and irrigation monitoring tools are now available. Designate a technology advocate in your company who can break down resistance to change and get your team to see these additions as fun new adventures.
Diversification is your friend. Expand into new services while there’s still a strong economy to propel you through the learning curve. Analyze what new lines of business would make strategic sense for your operation. You know what services your market will buy. Give preference to services that offer recurring revenue, such as landscape maintenance, repair and/ or renewable service agreements.
Watch your financials. Here are two areas to address immediately:
1 Stop being afraid to adjust pricing when you’re facing increasing costs in every area of your business. Price increases will be a key component to growth in 2019. Push through higher prices while customers are willing to absorb them.
2 Become more diligent with how you manage credit. Interest rates are rising quickly and credit is starting to tighten. Is a segment of your clientele credit-sensitive?
Change is coming. To deal with it, focus forward and avoid dwelling on past shortcomings. Dig in to take control of your future.
Jeff Carowitz advises landscape industry firms on marketing and business strategy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.