Building a stronger business

Departments - Editor's Insight

Working with teams and heeding outsiders' advice helps to build a strong foundation.

September 17, 2010

Chuck Bowen

Let’s start with a story: An engineering student was in college, and he was assigned a project to design a concrete structure three stories high. His classmates set to work, grouping themselves into teams and discussing various approaches. This student thought he could do a better job of the project working alone instead.

A few weeks went by, and he worked tirelessly on his design. In the end, he thought it was pretty good, and expected accolades – and a good grade. So, he turned it in and waited for the professor’s response.

The next week, he gets his design back. On it, the professor had written: “Building falls down. Many people die. You flunk.”

Turns out, the student had neglected to include some crucial weight-bearing supports in the structure, and, had it actually been built as designed, it would have collapsed. 

Now, most green industry professionals aren’t technically engineers. You aren’t out there building bridges and skyscrapers and hospitals – things that fall down in a big way. But you do build, and, most importantly, you work with teams.

In this month’s cover story, “An outsider’s perspective," we spoke with contractors who heeded their advice and came out ahead – saving $140,000 in labor costs, for instance, or quadrupling the revenue of their maintenance operation. Click here for a PDF with contact information, rates and areas of specialization for a host of green industry consultants, so you can find the best fit for your operation’s needs.

Maybe it’s a cost saving measure, maybe it's pride, but the contractors in this story are in the minority. According to our 2009 State of the Industry Report, only 15 percent of companies will hire a consultant this year. That’s a tiny fraction of the overall industry. And in a more recent straw poll of Lawn & Landscape readers, a vast majority – 88 percent – said they spend nothing on consultants. 

Now, I believe that an owner knows what’s best for his company. But I also know that a fresh set of eyes and some tough questions can make almost any idea, project or organization better. Bruce T. Moore Sr., president of Eastern Land Management, in Stamford, Conn., doesn’t look at hiring a consultant as someone come to meddle with his business. He’s sees it as hiring an ad hoc adviser.

“In many cases they can also act as a board of directors and provide an outside perspective of the business status for increased growth and profitability,” Moore says of bringing in consultants.

The idea is that, by involving other people and other perspectives in your enterprise, you build a stronger organization and eliminate some of the risk of your company collapsing. In the end, the building stays up, many people are happy and you pass.