A series of unfortunate events

Departments - Editor's Insight

May 1, 2013
Chuck Bowen
Chuck Bowen

Here are some things that could ruin you this year: You get sued for a million bucks because a retaining wall collapses. Your top salesman steals half your clientele for his own company. INS deports your entire production staff in April. The EPA shuts down your facility due to a report (maybe bogus) of improper storage of chemicals. A crew member gets injured or killed on the job. Hurricanes. See also: fires, floods, tornados, earthquakes. All your managers quit in the off season.

I know. I’m a regular ray of sunshine this month. It’s the curse of a journalist to be drawn to stories of pain and sadness. Just keep reading.

We’ve written about all those things in Lawn & Landscape before, and how contractors responded to tragic and catastrophic events. Our message with all those stories has been that while these events stand out, they aren’t that rare.

I never made it to the Boy Scouts. I can’t start a fire with just twigs or build a canoe out of duct tape and neckerchiefs, but I’ve always liked their motto: Be prepared.

Now, some might say that you can’t really prepare for a list like mine. A lawsuit can (and often does) drop right out of the sky to ruin your day.

And while you can’t make someone not sue you, you can have a good lawyer, a great insurance policy and a solid foundation of cash reserves. You can’t make your favorite ops guy not quit, but you can build a pipeline of talented managers who can step in and step up when you need them to. You can’t guarantee that your H2B workers will come through again this year, or that the health care law won’t change.

All those disasters are things you can’t control. All you can do is prepare for them, and hope they don’t happen.

In our latest State of the Industry Report, we asked what the top concern for contractors was and for the first time in many years, stress was in the top five.

After successfully leaning out their organizations and taking on more work for themselves, owners have started to crack under all the pressure of trying to do more work themselves and continue to grow.

And while running a landscape business is inherently stressful, undue stress is something to watch for. Stress is a real thing – as real as a heart attack. It’s easy, especially if you have as active an imagination as I do, to think about those tragic and terrible things in my list.

So, and I say this a lot here in my column, but I’ll say it again: Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Plan and prepare for the things you can. 


– Chuck Bowen