This time of year, there’s one question I get asked over and over again from all the landscape pros I speak to and coach who don’t have the good fortune of working in always-warm climates:
What do I do in winter? What should they do?
Believe me, I know where they’re coming from. Winters in Southwest Ohio, where I live and run my landscaping company, can be cold, dreary, and long. The ground is unforgivingly hard, snow is often threatening if not falling, and very few people are thinking much about their landscaping.
Over the years, I’ve done what every entrepreneur worth their salt would do—I have explored and exhausted every avenue I could think of to try to turn a profit in the winter months. We cleared snow: Great, but only when there’s snow. We sold gift baskets: A distraction with very little return. We sold Christmas trees: Disastrous. I sunk $60,000 into inventory, only to find myself left with $45,000 worth of evergreens on December 23 and no buyers. We explored the possibility of laying everyone off until spring: Economical in the short term, devastating in the long run. Your team is your most important asset—they greatly determine if your business succeeds or fails—and you can’t build a strong, experienced, loyal one by leaving them in an off-season lurch.
So what should you do instead? At my landscaping company, we work our tails off for nine and a half months of the year and then we take the off season to strategize and plan. We review and fine-tune our systems, from production to administration to technological infrastructure. We perform maintenance on our equipment and replace what can longer be fixed. We reassess our recruiting plan, measuring and documenting what works and what doesn’t and researching new ways to reach good candidates. We train and develop our team members. And we network to develop new leads and strengthen our relationships with our existing clients.
The result? We have a whole system of standard operating procedures in place that’s improved our efficiency and profit margins year over year. We have some of the cleanest trucks and equipment in the business, an often overlooked selling point that enables us to stand out to prospective clients in a sea of sameness. Our team members are up-to-date on the latest advancements in the field. And we’ve set ourselves up for sales success come spring.
But we also don’t give up on doing and selling work now. Instead we shift our marketing focus to products and services we can deliver on in the winter, from installing LED lighting systems and winter pruning to designing and prepping outdoor spaces for spring and summer. We also sponsor the enormously popular University of Dayton basketball team, which gets our name in front of some 13,000 fans in the arena at every home game and in front of many more on TV. We stay top of mind.
In other words, we make winter work for us. What will you do this year to make winter work for you?
P.S. If you’re looking for a surefire way to jumpstart your business and your career this winter, join me and some of the most successful landscape pros in the country at the GROW! 2018 Annual Conference in Tampa, February 19–21. It’s three days of learning, inspiration, and sun you won’t want to miss.
Marty's Turf is a monthly column written by Industry Business Consultant and Owner of Grunder Landscaping, Marty Grunder. Each month, Marty provides a piece of business advice for Gravely landscapers to help grow their businesses. For more information about Marty and his services, please visit www.martygrunder.com.