Sept. 8 2021 10:25 AM

Celebrating the contractors who grew their businesses in the past year.

It doesn’t happen all the time, but there are instances where I’m glad to be proven wrong. I like to think that I have a decent gut instinct for how things are going to turn out, but I’m always ready to follow evidence as it develops.

That’s true for my outlook on how landscaping industry demand would hold up going into this season compared to last year. Based on what I’d seen in previous years and knowing that this industry tends to lag behind the general economy by a bit, I was more willing to hedge my bets on this season. What I heard directly from contractors tended to back that up. Last year seemed to be a time of extremes. As a contractor, you either had one of the busiest years you’d ever seen or you struggled to keep the lights on. I was undoubtedly bearish on how that divide could expand.

I still think that this level of demand can only hold out for so long; all of the jobs kicked up by the pandemic have to run out eventually. But this season has done its best to prove my initial instincts were off-base.

That’s why I was so excited to see the contractor response to our Watch Us Grow: 2021 Industry Standouts. Whether you were grabbing every job that came up or fighting to keep your team intact, last season was a trial. We received a wide range of stories, everything from brand-new startups that had to grow up quickly to experienced contractors having to find the right ways to leverage crews to handle the demand. But contractors persevered, and it paid off.

With this program, we set out to tell the stories of contractors who might not be the biggest or have the most resources but who had a sense of how to turn a tough situation into an opportunity. One of the qualities I like best about covering the irrigation and landscaping industry is that nearly every professional is a problem-solver at heart. Our first class of Watch Us Grow professionals is no different. Whether trying to bring in new customers or work with limited hiring, they showed the kind of creativity in the face of last year’s challenges that any green industry expert would be proud of.

A quick thank-you to Heritage Landscape Supply Group for sponsoring this year’s program and to our Editorial Committee for guiding its development. But the biggest thank-you goes to all of you who applied to this year’s program. You’ve earned those bragging rights and proven that yes, occasionally, I’m glad to be wrong about something.