Plan your post-pandemic 2021

By Gary Horton

It’s time to get excited again, to lay your tracks to the future.

New Year’s resolutions are best known for the ones most quickly broken. You ate that second doughnut. You didn’t go on your scheduled jog this morning. New Year’s resolutions are worthy efforts, and I’m not selling them short here. Often, they revolve around our health and well-being. We have all just gone through what is likely one of the most stressful years of our lives. Your first priority above all others should be a resolution to mind your health and emotional well-being. Your health is job one, before we even start talking about your green industry business that likely all-encompasses your life.

Perhaps you’re exhaling a deep sigh when thinking about 2021 business planning. For most, 2020 plans were a washout. The year consisted of fits and starts, masks, slowed or canceled jobs, and cutbacks in many maintenance contracts. If you held your own, you did well. If you slid, you’re excused. If you hit goals, congratulations, you’re an outlier and a motivation to us all. But most struggled, and some may be weary of planning, facing what is sure to be a variable year ahead.

No matter. Plan you must. The key is to look beyond 2021. Next year will bring ups and downs, new tax policies, maybe stimulus — maybe not, and possibly even worse COVID-19. But now at least we’ve learned to cope with it in our businesses, so let’s plan further out, knowing one way or another we’ll work past 2021.

Where do you want to be in 2023, 2025? Who do you want to be and what do you want to earn? Pull out paper and a pen and imagine your company three to five years from now. What is reasonable and achievable? How hard do you want to push? Are you a growth company or happy with your cash cow? Can the cash cow be made more efficient over this time frame?

There are some basic steps you can take now to help you with your quest. Better than just New Year’s resolutions, you can create a roadmap with monthly, quarterly and annual milestones to check and measure your progress.

Start by identifying the space between where you are now and your future goals. More trucks? More employees? More locations? Better margins?

Where’s the new location? Do the demographic work. Is there market opportunity? What is the best way to penetrate the new area? Do you have leads? Introductions? Common clients? Build your expansion plan listing critical path steps and your resources to achieve them.

How about future staffing? Immigration is largely a no-go, so chances are you’ll have to grow staff from in-house referrals and internal employment development. How do you achieve employee recruitment and retention? Others will be clamoring for workers too. You’ll need to be defensive and protect your staff from other firms’ advances.

Margin concerns? Good companies net 10% and above. If you’re short, it’s time for a thorough checkup of processes from field to office. Check your jobs and test for inefficiencies. Go on-site with a critical look to discover focus areas for improvement. List key improvement goals and watch and measure on a steady schedule. Every day you allow inefficiencies to linger is money slipping through your fingers, forever gone.

Ultimately, plan your three- or five-year vision and work backward to today, creating monthly, quarterly and annual goals, breaking down what needs to get done to achieve your vision into defined, measurable steps. Be sure all the interrelated steps and building blocks are in place to take you where you want to go. There’s much to manage, from safety to finance to sales and quality control.

Test your plan, forward and backward. Is it reasonable? Achievable? You may need refinement. Maybe even a professional planning advisor or business coach. Professional advisors can keep you real and focused on the steps to achieve your vision.

Yes, 2020 was an exasperating year. We’ve almost made it through. America should now enjoy a recovery during 2021 and beyond. It’s time to get excited again, to lay your tracks to the future. Have fun visioning and making the most of your green industry dreams for 2021 and far beyond!

Gary Horton, MBA, is CEO of Landscape Development Inc., a green industry leader for over 35 years with offices throughout California and Nevada. He can be reached at