“We’ve gone back and forth between subcontracting our hardscape installations to doing them in house,” Bowers continues. “Right now we’re focusing on the latter, which generates more margin and revenue per man hour. The fact that we’re offering this service with our own people also allows us to develop a highly skilled and effective labor force.”
In other parts of the country, the sluggish economic climate has created a challenging design/build environment. In the Cincinnati market, Thornton Landscape’s new landscape maintenance division is expected to pick up some of the slack this year. In the New Orleans area, Standley mentions that increased expectations among high-end homeowner customers have forced his company to switch over to commercial maintenance.
Business owners need not face new challenges by themselves. Among other noteworthy changes over the last decade or two, industry participants seem more willing than ever to form strategic partnerships.
“We have solidified all vendor relationships and tend to give most of our business to folks who are accommodating and appreciative,” Bowers relates. “They also have to have good service, the right products and fair pricing. We’ve made it a win-win situation by being reasonable and paying them on time, all the time.”
Strategic relationships are equally effective when formed between contractors, as they try to take advantage of each other’s strengths. Peer groups are also gaining in popularity, giving business owners the opportunity to share ideas and ways to deal with the demands of a new world.
The changes in this industry are nothing less than dramatic, and they have set a new course for contractors to follow. Doing business the old way may not be totally out of vogue, but company owners who are not taking advantage of technology, changing recruiting habits, developing strategic relationships and driving out costs will likely find themselves fighting an uphill battle.