You are not alone

Chuck Bowen

Ever feel trapped? Like you’re stuck in the only industry you know, in the only job you’re any good at? Like you owe so much to the bank that you can’t get out from under it? Like you might not make payroll if it doesn’t stop raining?

Every year in our State of the Industry Report, we ask what contractors are most worried about. And every year, the top concerns are things like fuel costs, low-ball competitors and eroding margins. But last year, stress entered the top five.

Here’s what I think is happening: When the world ended five years ago, companies thinned out and cut the fat. Subsequently, owners took on more responsibility. As business has returned to some sense of normalcy and markets have improved, those owners – who went from doing their job, plus a little, to doing their job plus three others – have started to feel the effects. They’re cracking under the pressure.

This month, Phil Sarros has a great piece on burnout. We’ve written before about how to keep crews motivated through the heat of the summer, but this is different. Phil’s is a candid essay on what it’s like to run a landscape contracting business when you don’t want to do it anymore, but can’t stand the thought of leaving.

It’s a powerful piece that I think a lot of other contractors have written in their minds already.

You’re more than halfway through the year. From what I’ve been hearing, it’s been a good year in most markets. You want to take advantage of it, but remember that you’re not a machine. You need to recharge, refuel and relax. That might mean a vacation, that might mean hiring some people or it might just mean you take an afternoon off and go to the zoo with your kids. Whatever it is, you need a break.

Last month I was driving to a meeting with Alan White, who owns Turf Systems in Ontario, and we got to talking about the industry. He said the main thing that’s helped him improve and grow is networking with other business owners – inside the green industry and out. He’s realized that a lot of the problems he’s going through aren’t much different from other owners’ problems.

“You’re not on an island,” he told me. “When you isolate, you get in trouble.”

We’re running Phil’s piece to give a signal boost to the idea that no matter what you’re doing or going through, you’re not on an island. You are not alone.

– Chuck Bowen

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August 2013
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