What David, Rocky and Dealers Can Teach Contractors

Back in late April, news broke that two of the industry's biggest landscaping companies, ValleyCrest and Brickman, could be on the verge of becoming one. About a month later it was announced that the merger would indeed go through. The mere thought of a single landscape company generating over $2 billion in annual sales and claiming 2-3% market share had some of the Green Industry's most scholarly of mental giants salivating like Pavlov's dogs at an Outback Steakhouse.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fascinating story. One massive company acquiring or merging with another is always headline material, especially in this super-fragmented industry. Let me remind you that the biggest 100 or so companies only have about 10% market share. Let me also remind you that around 95% of landscape companies have fewer than 20 employees. So as headline-worthy as the ValleyCrests and Brickmans are, they are anomalies.

Amidst the chatter over Brickman/ValleyCrest these past couple of months, something has jumped out at me. A lot of everyday landscape companies that compete against these corporate behemoths are doing some salivating of their own. These companies see an opportunity to recruit talent from ValleyCrest if ValleyCrest is gobbled up by Brickman, and also pick up some clients that are skittish about sticking with ValleyCrest post-acquisition.

How can everyday landscape companies compete against massive nationals like this? Perhaps they can take some lessons from a few of my personal heroes.

One killer slingshot. Remember the biblical story of David and Goliath? Goliath (the giant) was busy pounding his chest and barking like an idiot in an attempt to intimidate. Meanwhile, David (the little squirt) calmly whipped his slingshot into action and delivered a precise, fatal blow right between Goliath's eyes. Patience, focus and execution won out.

The Italian Stallion. And what about another historic underdog, Rocky Balboa? He'd get battered around for 12 rounds, picking his moment to turn it on when he knew his opponent was burning out. Preparation, stamina and execution won out.

Your equipment dealer. And what about the dealer you buy equipment and parts from? He's been dealing with some corporate behemoths of his own for many years: Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, etc. Why is your dealer still in business doing a bang-up job today? Because he has exploited his big-box competitors' inferiority in the realm of service and product knowledge. That doesn't work with all customers, but it does with many. You just have to figure out which of your customers it could work for—and start getting after it. In most cases, execution will win out.