July 18 2009 12:00 AM

...the Tough get Smart...Resourceful Smart

These are tough times we’re going through, especially in the pond and waterscape industry. Many of us have never gone through a period like this before. I hear many contractors talking about recession, depression, economic downturn, stalled economy and, quite frankly, it can be depressing if you let it get to you. But there is also opportunity. These are the times that Americans have traditionally excelled in. Turning adversity into creative prosperity and profitability— that’s the American tradition, or at least it has been in times past.

Have we lost our creativity? Has the prosperity gone on for so long that we’ve lost our ability to be creative, innovative and thrive on the challenges rather than bemoan the end of the gravy train? Has our national motto become, “I spend eight hours a day here; you want me to work, too?” (Or should I use the word ‘think’ in lieu of work?)15_1.jpg

The one inevitable fact of life is change. Not promulgated as a political campaign slogan which isn’t real, change is the real fact of life. You have to adapt and overcome or get run over and left to wither on the vine.

There are opportunities; however, they’re not going to come to you. You’re going to have to learn how to market yourself and your company and get out and show your clients opportunities for them to save energy and money.

But before we get to that, we need to do some self-examination. How many of you have added creative marketing to your portfolio? Have you developed better job knowledge and work skills in the last year? The last five years? The last decade? How many of you have taken courses, attended seminars and/or workshops about any new development(s) in our market, or even better yet, one closely related? Have you attended any “Resource Smart” contractor-oriented seminars?

When was the last time you looked around to see if that “hot” product you started using in 1999 (and are still using) isn’t now considered substandard by the rest of the industry in the here and now? Asking yourself these questions periodically will make you stay up to speed. There is an old saying, “Nothing stands still.

If you don’t progress, you will regress.” Keeping up with the latest developments will afford you the opportunity to do a better job marketing. In these times, we need to stay afloat. There are a number of ways to do that, including diversifying into other areas like low-voltage lighting, or just adding additional services. If you were a hair stylist, wouldn’t adding manicures and pedicures to your business model be a no-brainer?

I have stated many times over the course of my career as a general contractor that the need to diversify my business very strongly resembles that of a gold mine. We start off following a valuable and producing vein of gold. As we dug deeper and time passed, we would occasionally run across a divergent vein and we would h ave to decide whether to follow the new producing vein until it ran out or thinned down, or continue to follow the original . We always know that those other veins (thoughts, skills and diversity) are laying there, waiting for us to go back to and follow if this one died out or no longer produced enough to be worth pursuing.

How many o f those “diversity veins” have you banked away for a rainy day? Perhaps many of you in the pond and waterscape industry have diversity and options you haven’t considered. With today’s society falling in love with ‘green,’ promoting environmentally responsible behavior is good for business. These opportunities have never been greater. Quit watching and listening to the doom and gloom mongers selling fear on the airwaves, and engage that good old American brain that God gave you. When was the last time you sent out a newsletter to your customer base explaining to them about new and fantastic improvements in the industry’s equipment? When was the last time you tried selling upgrades and retrofits?

16.jpgYour totally justifiable reasons for promoting and suggesting these upgrades and retro-fits will be: improved efficiency, lower power bills, better water quality and resource stewardship responsibility. Less consumption of valuable resources is just “resource smart.”

You can also explain to your clients that you can install shut-off valves on auto-fills so that they only turn the auto-fill on when a top-off is needed. This will be a great way to spot any leaks that would otherwise very possibly go unnoticed. In addition, it is just plain responsible stewardship of our finite water resources.

Have you considered or thought about discussing with your customers the idea of converting highvolume, not so efficient submersible pumps with more energyefficient mag drive or external pumps? Many times, the power consumption savings can be amortized out in as little as eight to ten months and justify a very large equipment upgrade. We did $35,000 worth of nothing but this style of upgrade in ’08 alone and we were in a level IV drought on top of a socalled “slow” economy in the Atlanta market.

How about upgrading to and replacing current conventional halogen low-voltage lighting with LED lighting? The power consumption reduction is staggering.

How many of your customers have a traditional Koi pond and do 10 to 15 percent weekly water change to lower the nitrate level in their pond to keep it sub-toxic? Wouldn’t an upgrade to a properly designed Bog filter (see www.Bogfiltration .com) or adding an additional dedicated plant pond to their system make economic sense?

You would use these nutrients up onsite and stop the waste of water. One of the biggest no-brainers out there is joining a buying group to save on equipment purchases. When times are good and the contracts are stacking up, it’s too easy to get complacent. It’s amazing how after the belt has cinched up a couple of notches that this practice now starts to make more sense.17.jpg

I know for a fact (because my company offers member discounts to IPPCA members, along with several other members’ companies as well, on a broad range of pond-related products. I know of a number of participating contractor members who have already saved more than $38,000 in the first half of 2009. One member saved over $4,400 on just one job!

How much sense does it make to you to add another 10 percent or so to your bottom line? And these are name-brand products you’re already buying anyway. No-brainer, right? Are you doing it?

There is no time like the present to get out of a good times-created rut and explore new and exciting options to business and profit. Yes, you may actually have to think about it some, but you may be able to release that death grip on your checkbook and start to smile again, very likely quicker than you may have thought possible.

For those of you who made it all the way through to the end of this article, did you notice the unusual amount of questions? They were put there for a reason: Do you have personally acceptable answers to all of them? If not, maybe it’s time the tough got smart.