Tis the Season to be Planning

As the seasons fall back, smart contractors and dealers push forward to get a head start on 2015.

This is the point in the year when I lose all sense of time. You see, our magazine staff is spending a considerable amount of time on "next year". We're putting budgets, editorial calendars and marketing plans together, constantly talking about "2015". By October I have forgotten that it's still "2014". So have a little fun and pay close attention to the dates and page numbers in this issue; there's a good chance a "2015" may have slipped in there somewhere.

Many of you are laser-focused on next year as well. Contractors are in the midst of prime selling season, at least where most of their commercial customers are concerned. Dealers are looking at sales histories and planning inventory needs. I feel for you guys; there is little time to take a breath in this business, even during your supposed off-season. As your sales curve begins to make its descent, you now have to put on your CEO hat and start the planning process.

The planning process can, and should, go much deeper than just renewing business or determining inventory needs for the coming year, though. Here are a few other important items successful contractors and dealers tell us they analyze in the fall and early-winter months:

  • Equipment fleet – What needs replacing, what changes can you make to improve efficiency, etc.? Contractors should be talking to their dealers now about their needs and opportunities to make improvements.
  • Personnel – Do you have the team you need to execute your plan? If not, where must some changes be made? Or maybe it is you, your management team or your training offering that needs to change.
  • Marketing – What has been working or not working, what else could you try? Non-helpful marketing is one of the top profit drains for a landscaping company or equipment dealership.
  • Opportunities – Talk with your customers and employees to determine what your best opportunities are to grow sales and profits, and then discuss tactical plans to capitalize on those opportunities.
  • Vendor relationships – Keep the line of communication open here through the off-season. Talk about ways to help each other in the coming year.
  • Bank relationships – Have a chat with your local bank contact to discuss how this year is winding up for you, and what you plan to accomplish next year. Building bank relationships is an ongoing, year-long process. Don't lose momentum once the busy season is over just because you're flush with cash after all of that mowing, fertilizing and landscaping you've been doing all summer.

This list could obviously go on and on. Heck, we could write a book on just about every bullet point. But hopefully this has helped remind you about all of the important management tasks you can complete this off-season. Of course, you also need to take a little time to enjoy your life outside of your business. Consider coming to Louisville the week of October 21 for the annual GIE+EXPO to mix some business with pleasure. We'll be there in Booth 9048. Please stop by and say hello.