It's nice to be talking about growth again. That's right, more green industry pros are reporting sales growth this year—maintenance contractors, installation contractors, lawn care operators, equipment dealers, and don't even get me started on snow pros. For many of our Snowbelt readers, the massive piles of snow they'd amassed on commercial parking lots this winter were only slightly bigger than the piles of cash they'd earned while plowing that snow.
Sometimes the weather works in a green industry pro's favor. More often than not, though, it doesn't. The only thing you can be certain of is that you cannot predict how the weather is going to impact your business from season to season. All you can do is roll with the punches.
The big news this issue is how some leading equipment manufacturers are rolling with their own sets of punches in order to remain on a healthy growth trajectory. Three announcements—Jacobsen acquiring Dixie Chopper mowers, Kubota and Echo forming a dealer alliance, and Hustler mowers selling through Home Depot and Lowe's—serve as reminders that this industry is a mature one.
I'd written a few years ago that many indicators suggest that our industry is in its "maturity" stage. I'd also said that mature industries still grow, they just have to do so in more creative ways. These thoughts are reinforced when I hear about major equipment companies forming alliances to better secure product distribution, and well-known brands getting gobbled up by bigger ones.
But then I also talk to people like contractor Mike Lenard. He started a lawn maintenance business just a few years ago. My cohort, Lisa Danes, talked to Dudley Gunter who came from another industry to become an equipment dealer. Both of these guys have been doing quite well and are now looking to expand.
What creative ways have these guys come up with in order to grow? They've focused on quality and customer service, and the use of technology to both market and manage their businesses. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it?
The interesting thing about this mature industry is that it still has some growing up to do—especially where equipment dealers and landscape contractors are concerned. The variance between a "good" dealer or contractor and a "bad" one is vast, which is why many of you are growing by simply taking market share from your competitors. This is also why guys like Mike and Dudley can waltz into business, roll up their sleeves, service the heck out of their customers, and make a good run.
The customer ultimately decides what the definition of good or bad is. It is then up to you to meet that expectation. If you can't—but want to grow—it's time to start getting a little creative.