Get Your Priorities Straight in 2012

As you can see by our cover story, we’ve just announced our annual Pros in Excellence Award winner: the San Francisco area’s Pacific Landscapes. This 11-year-old company is doing three things we and other industry insiders have been saying must be done in order to lay the foundation for continued growth: create highly professional organizations where skilled people will want to work, adopt sustainable landscaping practices, and make landscape maintenance a cornerstone of the company’s revenue strategy.

You’ll also see our annual State of the Landscape Contractor Report in this issue. When you’re done reading that, be sure to head to our website,, to check out the online extra: “Contractors’ Biggest Opportunities in 2012.”

As part of the research for the State of the Landscape Contractor Report, we asked Green Industry PRO readers what they were going to focus on in 2012. Every third response had something to do with improving sales and marketing efforts. That makes sense because the top “challenge” contractors cited in the same survey was ferocious competition. It’s encouraging to see that the majority of contractors who are struggling to compete are taking control of the situation as best they can—focusing on what they can do to overcome this enormous challenge.

I’m also encouraged by the number of responses (26%) that relate to business expansion. Many contractors not only see a legitimate opportunity to expand in 2012, but are being very strategic in how they go about doing so. We’ve been saying for a while that contractors will not have as easy a time growing as they did in the 1990s and 2000s. Intimately understanding the needs of one’s market—and the various service, client and geographic niches that present opportunity—will be critical going forward. Judging by the survey responses, one in four landscape contractors are “getting it” … are you?

Finally, 15% of the survey responses pointed to “improving my workforce.” Comments ranged from better screening of applicants to better incentives to drive performance. I have one beef about this one, though: Only 15% say that improving their workforce is a focus for next year. Does that mean 85% of contractors already have the best workforce they can assemble? If that’s the case, great! But I’d suspect that it isn’t. I suspect that pulling business in the doors has become so critically important that something of equal importance, your workforce, has taken a back seat. That’s dangerous territory.

As you enjoy the holidays and embark on a new year, spending time with loved ones and those most important to you, think about where your employees fit into the mix. Commit to establishing a plan to continue developing your workforce. When you do, the whole sales/marketing and expansion thing gets a whole lot easier.