Sometimes, you’re given an opportunity to do something you don’t think you can do. You really want to do it – for pride, for money or just to prove you can – but it seems impossible. You don’t know how to do it. You’re too busy. You don’t have the time or the energy.
– Chuck Bowen
Craig RuppertWhat have you been up to since you won your award in 2008?
|At the start of the year, I made five predictions. So, how am I doing?
1. Homeowners will spend money on backyard projects that enable them to spend more time with their families.
The early returns at Grunder Landscaping Co., and at the countless landscaping companies I work with, demonstrate that I am correct with the fact homeowners are spending money on their backyards so they can spend time with their families. The majority of landscapers I have talked with have a healthy backlog and their clients realize they can’t sell their homes right now and want to fix it up and enjoy it. I think this will continue for the next two years, so work on your offerings here and market them often and well.
2. Someone will come forward with software that enables the landscaper to run all parts of their business efficiently and profitably.
In the first six months, I have not seen any progress on a piece of software that will help us landscapers from stem to stern. Hopefully, my dream will become reality this year. I am looking for a piece of software that handles everything. So, I might be in trouble with this prediction.
3. People who want to work in the green industry will continue to be very tough to find.
Well, sadly, I am dead on with this one. We are finding people, but finding experienced people, who are passionate about landscaping, is becoming very, very tough. They’re not there, or at least we aren’t finding enough of them. We’ve tried Craigslist, the paper, our website, networking, finder’s fees and the like, and are still struggling. I hate to sound like a grumpy, old man, but I’m not sure young people today like to get dirty and work outside. This is going to continue to be a challenge for all of us. We all need to work on having companies that people want to work at, and we need to brainstorm with companies in all industries to come up with some new ideas.
4. Those companies who listen to their customers will continue to win and be paid a fair price to have the work done.
I hear all the time from landscapers about the company that came in and low balled them and “took” the job. Is there some truth to this? Sure there is. But you also cannot convince me that there aren’t also a lot of clients and potential clients who won’t pay to have the job done right. When you lose a job to another company, it can be because the winning company has a better relationship than you did. Just don’t assume it’s always because of price. And when you lose a job, stick with it, don’t give up. Thank them for the opportunity and make it easy for them to call you the next time. Listen to your clients; if you do, your business will do just fine. I am right on this prediction and I will always be right on it.
5. Every leader at every green industry company in America will do better if they think positively.
A positive attitude improves your chances for success. If you don’t have one, you’d better get one and get one quickly. People want to do business with positive, can-do people. People at your company want to work with positive, can-do people too.
Overall, I think we have a lot to be excited about. For now, I think we can say things are better, and we need to continue to work on all the things we can control. I believe this year will be the best we’ve seen in two years. Time will tell.
Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author; he owns Grunder Landscaping Co. See www.martygrunder.com; mail
|Business is personal. My mid-year prediction is exactly the same as my annual prediction – that it will soon be essential to personalize your business if you expect to be relevant with your customers. To succeed today, you have to remove traditional barriers and work with your customers on a personal level – more as an understanding friend than a business.
We all have to be investing more in our relationships with customers. This takes time – either by getting out of the office for a personal visit, picking up the phone or reaching out through the social networks. Of course, the most effective approach is to use all three.
Technology for acquiring and tracking customer data is now incredibly powerful – and within the reach of every single small business. The social customer relationship management tool I use costs just $10 a month. In addition to effectively managing customer contact information, my favorite feature is how it automatically serves up what my customers are sharing on the social networks.
Social search is personal. I’m not the only one eavesdropping on my customers’ online conversations. Google is aggressively indexing as much of that personal data as possible to prepare for the inevitable face-off with Facebook. Facebook has not yet launched its social search engine, but when they do, it will surely present us with some breathtaking search capabilities.
The timely and contextual information that is being shared among your customers helps Google and Facebook to sell advertising to companies that want to target the demographic they represent. You should be using that information to take actions that keep your business relevant. And keep in mind, your competitors have access to this information too.
Google recently introduced a new feature known as +1 that is going to make this even more interesting. The +1 button is similar to the Facebook Like button. You will begin seeing it in search results when your friends use it to recommend a piece of content on the Web that they found helpful, such as an article or video.
Presumably, some of your friends are your customers. Knowing that customers are always searching for personalized solutions, leading companies in every industry are creating educational (not promotional) videos, blog articles and other content with the hopes that it will be freely shared – and ultimately earn a vote of recommendation with the push of the +1 button.
What matters most is personal. Life in general is a search for what matters most. Google has made billions of dollars helping people find what they are looking for. What matters most to your customers? It’s not your business – it’s what you can do to make their life more enjoyable.
Stop marketing your business and start personalizing it. I’m quick to admit that much of the marketing methods I learned to earn my MBA are irrelevant today. What matters for businesses now is discovering how to be personal and trusted sources of relevant solutions for the communities they serve.
If you can make that shift, I predict you and your customers will be pleased with the results.
|The second half of 2011 will see further acceleration of a fundamental change in priorities by customers. Until recently, residential and commercial consumers simply wanted their property developed and maintained in a way that satisfied them for the lowest cost possible. These two factors remain in place; however, a demand and requirement for change are being driven by environmental mandates at the federal, state and local levels. It is water availability and water quality that are the core issues.
A much greater emphasis on water quality and water availability are driving emerging technologies, principles and practices that better manage stormwater, capture stormwater for use in the landscape (and elsewhere) and seek to reuse water from building cooling systems in the landscape. Greywater and other tertiary water sources are being considered for use in the landscape.
The energy and cost that is required to move water is now finally being understood for what it is. Communities are learning the cost of moving water is not cheap – that we in the United States have benefited from those costs being subsidized for a long time. SMART meters are being installed in many areas to measure electricity. These meters will enable dynamic pricing of energy, and thereby enable utilities to suppress peak load demands through a pricing mechanism. Landscape design for large sites will now have to factor in the energy cost to move water as one of the design criteria.
The technologies that are being developed and will come to market in the second half of 2011 are a two-edge sword for an industry that is slow to change. Site and building systems that are striving for a “net zero water” approach will use systems that are ever more complex to install and manage. Contractors will have to learn new skills and be able to effectively partner with consultants and other professionals to build and manage these complex, resource-efficient landscapes. Different aspects of a landscape will have metrics of one sort or another attached to them in ways that never existed before.
With these changes will come opportunities for the contractor and suppliers that demonstrate they have the expertise and practices to manage and complete projects in a timely way. The opportunities exist in a price-sensitive economic environment that is barely gaining momentum and, as yet, does not inspire a sense of confidence.
Every industry has periods of upheaval and accelerated change. The green industry is in one of those periods now.
The answer going forward is the same answer that always works – greater knowledge of the relevant science and principles that are at work.
A higher level of understanding developed through education and certification will ensure we remain in position to deliver the real “green.” The real “green” is a healthy thriving landscape that provides environmental benefits and enhances property value.