ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) has provided comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the Renewable fuel standard program: Standards for 2017 and biomass-based diesel volume for 2018. In a letter sent to the EPA, OPEI expresses significant concerns about the expansion of E15 in the marketplace without a solid consumer education program.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The National Hispanic Landscape Alliance (NHLA) is expanding its seminar offerings during GIE+EXPO to better meet the needs of dealers and of contractors. Attendees at GIE+EXPO (Green Industry & Equipment Expo) will have the opportunity to attend Latino Link sessions all three days of the show. GIE+EXPO, scheduled for Oct. 19-21 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, draws more than 18,000 participants to see the latest innovations and attend first-rate education programs.
Paver installation takes a lot of time and effort, and all of that can be for naught if you don’t use curbing or edging to keep the pavers in place.
This piece was originally published in March of 2012.
In 2012 I believe there’s going to be an opportunity for many of us to grow our companies. I’m not an economist but the trends I see so far point to a better business climate for all of us. Let’s hope I’m right. And while I hope I’m right, I’m not using “hope” as a strategy to grow Grunder Landscaping Co.
There are all types of strategies that I see green industry companies employ. Some wander aimlessly from client to client, segment to segment, year to year. Others get focused on some days or weeks, lose that focus and then end up lost. But the most successful ones focus on a segment of the industry, clearly identify the client and then work like heck to own that space. This is the strategy I “hope” you’ll use. Let me explain.
The two most successful landscapers I know are Mike Rorie, who started GroundMasters in Cincinnati, Ohio, and sold it a few years ago. And Frank Mariani, who turned his father’s small mowing business into a multi-million-dollar giant north of Chicago. Both of these brilliant entrepreneurs focused on a certain client in a certain market and then went after it and won.
Rorie started GroundMasters in 1979 outside of Cincinnati like many of us did with a pickup truck and a push mower. Along the way, he found commercial grounds maintenance to be what he understood the best, did the best and made the most money at. (If you ever see Mike on a program at a green industry event, I’d do whatever you have to do to go see him.) He didn’t just get lucky; trust me. His determination is world class and he ran GroundMasters to a point he felt it best to let someone else take it the rest of the way. Today, his company is part of the industry giant Brickman.
Mike grew GroundMasters by saying no to the type of work that wasn’t a fit for what he did best. If he got a call to install a pool in someone’s back yard and landscape it, he said no. If he got a call to landscape a mall in Atlanta in the winter, he said no. If he got a call to do any type of work that wasn’t a “bull’s eye” for the market he had defined, his team said no. This incredible focus enabled him to make replication easier to attain. In every step of his business, he was able to keep things simple because the client was clearly defined. They were able to become a specialist instead of a generalist. So, I ask you now, how clearly defined is your client?
Frank Mariani’s Mariani Landscape in Lake Bluff, Illinois, had a different focus than GroundMasters and it worked, actually still does today, as Frank has not sold out. His focus is high-end landscape design/build and maintenance. And that focus works for him too. If Midway Airport calls Frank and asks him or his team to put in a bid for the snow removal, the answer is no....make that NO!!! If a local shopping mall calls them and says they are taking bids and say their number one issue in picking a contractor is price, Frank and his team politely say, “No, thank you.” Frank’s “laser-like” focus in a market has paid him well through the years. By staying in his “sweet spot,” Frank’s team has become very good at taking care of the client. He knows what they do well and sells that, not something they don’t do well or don’t enjoy doing. I hope you are getting the lesson this month.
It is so hard in business to say no. We’re coming off a few bad years, ladies and gentlemen; it’s been about surviving, I know. But you must know the client that fits you best. Pick the ones you enjoy working with, appreciate you and are profitable with. To do anything else is a mistake. Like a mentor of mine told me 3 years ago when the recession started, “You do in the short term what you would do in the long term and you will be just fine.” Words I have lived by and words that worked. They’ll work for you too; you just have to be focused enough to stick with it.
Now, who is your ideal client? What’s your sweet spot? Focus on that type of clients and prospects and I promise you success will be easier to attain. Talk to you next month.
This piece was originally published in October of 2004.
“No” is not a word most salespeople like nor is it a word that is used as often as it should be by entrepreneurs. I truly believe one of the biggest signs that an entrepreneur is starting to figure out what their business is all about is their ability to use the word no. However, many of us are way too insecure to do that.
For years I could not say no when selling. I’ve always had a gift for selling but, in my early years as a salesperson, my limited use of the word no cost me thousands. How? By saying yes to countless jobs I should have walked away from, I lost money, wasted time, got annoyed, and overall did very little to help my business. Recently, I saw how beneficial my use of the word no is to me today.
I had a chance to get a job that was over $250,000. It seems liked something I could not say no to. I mean, after all, how many people spend $250,000 on landscaping around their house? Surely I could have figured out a way to make money on a job like that, right? Wrong! In the preliminary meetings with the client, I quickly realized that I would not be able to use my expertise and knowledge to make this a nice project. The client felt they knew more about landscaping than I did. All my ideas were brushed aside and little, if any, of my comments were taken into consideration by the prospective clients. I was very frustrated by the prospect and I had not even put one plant in the ground yet! While the salesperson in me wanted the job, and the thought of having a job like this was enticing, the business owner in me said no. I could see that if I were to do this job, it would mean many months of frustration and making a profit on it was going to be difficult based on the comments made by the prospect. I said no thank you to the job and walked away and was able to spend my time on better prospects.
Unfortunately, many salespeople and entrepreneurs are scared to say no. They think when they say no, they are somehow letting someone down, making the prospect mad, and, most of all, they don’t say no because they don’t see the downside to bad jobs, only the good side. Often that dollar sign is hard to resist. A couple of things for you to consider the next time your gut tells you to say no but the salesperson in you says yes:
First of all, you are in control. You don’t have to say yes; your prospect must play by your rules if they want to do business with you. If they are saying things you don’t agree with, decide if you can deal with the parameters that are being placed on the project. If you can’t, move on. The biggest reason I tell prospective clients no is because I don’t like the approach the prospect is taking and frequently this revolves around price. After all, my company and yours should have some standards. I only want my name on jobs I can be proud of. Each job I am doing is selling the next one and it is critical that I do something that I am proud of and something that the neighbors are going to be impressed by. If a prospect wants me to do something that compromises my high standards, I say no. Be confident; convince yourself the client needs you more than you need them. Remember, you are in control.
Secondly, the object of being in business is to make money. If the job does not look like one you can make money from, don’t take it! Whatever could go wrong, just might and you have to improve your chances of winning by eliminating any potential disasters. Losing money on a job is a horrible thing you need to avoid. While getting big jobs can be fun and profitable, getting a big job does not automatically mean you’ll make a profit on it. (I realize this may seem obvious, but it is the only explanation I can give for contractors taking big jobs that they know are going to be tough to do profitably.) To know if you can make money on a job, you need to know your costs of doing business. Not the costs of your competition, the costs of a contractor in another state, and not the costs of some big successful contractor you are researching. Every company’s costs are different and until you know them, you cannot confidently say yes or no to any job. Hint: Spending time trying to find out what other contractors are charging is a waste of time and money until you know what your own costs are.
Finally, learn how to bow out gracefully. Not every job is for you, only the ones where you can do what you know how to do best, have fun (remember that?), and make money. If it seems like any of those three things are not going to be easy to experience on a job, strongly consider saying no and moving on to a job where your talents are respected, you can have fun and make money. Tell the prospect why you don’t want to work with them, in a nice way, and send them a thank you note for their time and then move on. Remember, sometimes the best answer is no. By the way, I drove by the job I said no to and it looks terrible and all I could do was smile a little and say to myself, “Good job, Marty.”