Green industry survey finds labor shortage hasn’t eased

By edited by Kyle Brown

HindSite’s eighth annual Green Industry Benchmark report shows businesses continue to be profitable.

Lawn care, landscaping and irrigation businesses are still struggling to find employees, according to the eighth annual Green Industry Benchmark Report from HindSite Software, St. Paul, Minnesota.

A total of 88% of respondents said they found it somewhat or extremely difficult to find good applicants for the business. That number is down 4% from last year’s report, but still relatively high.

Revenue growth was robust in 2019, with 37% of respondents indicating their revenue had grown by more than 10%, while 70% saw revenue increase. Profit margins remained mostly unchanged from a year ago, with the typical green industry business reporting profit margins between 11-20%, while 24% of respondents saw margins in excess of 20%.

The Green Industry Benchmark Report details the results of a two-month-long surveying effort that reflects the opinions of more than 350 green industry business owners and managers who provide services including landscaping, irrigation service, mowing, fertilizing and snow removal.

“The Green Industry Benchmark Report is a must-read for any green industry business. Because they interact with their peers so infrequently, they don’t know how they compare to their high growth peers,” says Chad Reinholz, HindSite’s sales and marketing manager. The report includes more than 60 pages of results and analysis and about 70 graphs.

Among the key findings:

  • Training matters. Among businesses that grew, 15% offered no recurring training for their employees. Those that saw their revenue decrease were nearly twice as likely to say they didn’t offer recurring training.
  • Though this survey occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic, most (70%) green industry businesses were expecting to grow their staff in 2020.
  • The typical green industry business spends 39% of their revenue on wages.
  • Service specialization is on the decline, with 7% of businesses saying they offer only 1 of the 9 most common green industry services. That’s down 5% from a year ago.
  • Aside from referrals, websites and truck signage continue to be sources of new customers for the typical green industry business. Social media grew slightly, from 14% to 16%. The biggest mover was online advertising, which was up to 9%, compared to 5% a year ago.
  • The typical green industry business services about 15% of the total households in its market.

This year’s Benchmark Report also included interviews with two green industry business owners.

“There’s a lot of data in the report,” says Reinholz. “We try to balance that data with stories from real businesses so you can hear how they’ve gotten to where they are and what makes them unique.”

A webinar, Lessons from the 2020 Green Industry Benchmark Report, is planned for April 8 at 1 p.m. Central.