2024 State of the Industry Q+A: Edward Arens, E&M Outdoor Services

Edward Arens, owner at E&M Outdoor Services, provides his thoughts on the current state of the green industry.

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Edward Arens, owner at E&M Outdoor Services, provides his thoughts on the current state of the green industry.

Green Industry Pros: What’s your take on the state of the industry and how 2023 went for your company?

Arens: I think the state of the industry is going well. The hardest part about the industry is probably still the labor market, although it's gotten a whole lot better over `21 and `22. And I would say for 2023, we actually had a good year.

In Minnesota here, we've been experiencing a drought for the last two seasons, and that had an impact, but we set ourselves up on a monthly billing schedule with our HOAs, so we can still bill whether we go or not. The way that contract is structured has really helped.

Green Industry Pros: Can you talk about why labor has been a concern the past several years?

Arens: I think that more people are getting into industries that aren't so labor intensive. What I’ve noticed with some of the younger employees that we have is that they’re more looking for the positions that don't require as much physical labor.

Green Industry Pros: In addition to labor, what were some of the other challenges your company experienced?

Arens: I would say the inflation rates and the price of supplies and stuff like that. The way we combated those is we worked with our suppliers and preordered our products for the next season. The reason we do that is so we can control pricing ahead of the next season coming. So, for example, if our suppliers are charging $2 more per bag of fertilizer, we know that going into 2024, we just adjust the prices to offset that. The price of fuel and gas and other commodities like that have really leveled out over 2022. In 2023, we had a really good year as far as expenses, but things were still up over what they have been in the past three to five years.

Green Industry Pros: What successes did your company experience in 2023?

Arens: One of the things that we did take advantage of for 2023 was dialing in our hiring process. Instead of just hiring anyone to do the work, we tried to find a little more skilled labor, someone with experience. That helped us get through this season and some of those shortfalls.

The amount of work that we had for 2023 was above and beyond 2022. We've seen a substantial growth of almost 60 percent each year for the last three to five years. I would say that COVID probably helped that. I can say our best year ever in business, and we've been in business since 2015, was 2020.

Green Industry Pros: Are there any other trends you’re noticing?

Arens: The trend that I've noticed is more of a shift to electric equipment. I've noticed that a lot of the bigger name manufacturers have a lot more electric or green specific offerings.

Green Industry Pros: What are your expectations for 2024?

Arens: Our expectations for 2024 are actually trending higher. We've noticed a growth in our services now that we've added irrigation, service and landscape lighting, and we're hoping to grow those services exponentially in the 2024. For our maintenance division, we would like to see a 20 to 30 percent uptick there. In our fertilizing and weed control division, we're already seeing a growth in that area of over 35 percent.

Green Industry Pros: And switching gears here, what would you say is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

Arens: Have your numbers dialed in. It gives you a more confident price structures and allows you more room to adjust going into the next season for forecasting ahead of time for equipment purchases and cash flow. Cash flow is king in this business, and profit is right there with cash flow.

I’d also say just focus on your business instead of everyone else’s business around you. 

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