Off-season Planning Tips for Landscape Contractors
The off-season is the perfect time to reflect on the previous year of work. You put in countless hours and dealt with ups and downs from weather, to labor issues and shortened seasons. We know a lot of you are thinking vacation, but before you stick your toes in the sand, look back at the previous year and how your entire maintenance operation performed.
Could your equipment fleet use servicing? How about hiring another seasonal worker during the busy months? Would a simple, bi-weekly email increase your customer base and improve communications?
These are some of the questions you should ask yourself when performing a self-audit of your operation. We’ll detail each area of your business that you should analyze after a season’s work.
What needs to be replaced?
It’s time to grab a pen and paper (or use your phone’s Notes app) and be honest with yourself. Whether you’re focused on lawn maintenance during the summer or snow removal during the winter, each piece of power equipment should be evaluated for potential problems.
Maybe it’s simply a new part, or taking it to your local dealership for service. Whatever maintenance your fleet may require, it’s a smart idea to take care of it prior to next season — one less thing for you to worry about come spring!
How can you improve efficiency?
Check the market for new products or add-ons to existing equipment. Can you bite-the-bullet and invest in a new piece of equipment that will pay dividends for seasons ahead?
If you have an old, outdated piece of equipment, consider whether costly repairs make more sense than a bright-and-shiny new piece of equipment that typically require minimal maintenance. Often times an investment in new, energy-efficient equipment or tools will provide a return on investment in less time than you might think.
Develop relationship with local dealer / distributor
Develop a relationship with your local equipment dealer or service center so you’re made aware of new products and opportunities for discounts on service, parts, etc. Another important perk to befriending a rep from your local equipment supplier or service center is the trust you’ll develop.
Bouncing around from one service center to another is not going to instill confidence that your equipment is being cared for properly. You run the risk of dealing with delays, pricing issues and worst of all, poor work or service.
When you invest in equipment that’s worth nearly six-figures, and your livelihood depends on it, you deserve a straight-forward, trustworthy relationship with a dealership or service center that helps optimize your business operation.
Dealerships don’t always market all discounts and offers to the public. However, if you establish a solid relationship with your sales rep, the better your chances of receiving exclusive offers, service priority and payment benefits.
Were you stretched too thin over the past season? Do you plan on expanding your services? If you answered ‘Yes’ to either of those questions, chances are you could use another employee (or five).
Adding qualified labor can be challenging in the current climate, however, investing in another hard-working employee can improve your business’ performance and reduce your workload.
The hustle-and-bustle of the busy season does not offer much in terms of free-time for training opportunities. There’s a good chance you’ll learn on the job, but that doesn’t account for all of the valuable knowledge that’s out there.
Our Online Contractor Training Portal is easy to access and offers users complete control over the courses you’d like to participate in. Whether you’re a project foreman or a seasonal worker, there are suitable courses for all learning levels. Topics range from leadership to designing landscape lighting and installing residential irrigation.
Click here to sign up for the Online Contractor Training Portal.
Whether you’re looking to increase your customer base or solidify existing customer relationships, taking a closer look at your marketing strategy may reveal a missed opportunity or room for improvement.
With so many landscape contractors in the marketplace, it’s important to differentiate your business. Do you offer referral discounts or employ veterans? Maybe you offer certain services that are highly-sought after — make that known.
At the very least, ensure your website is in order. Don’t have a website? Might be time to consider one to capture clients searching for your services. If you’re currently focused on traditional marketing efforts (print flyers, business cards, door hangers), you may want to explore a bi-weekly email that highlights local weather projections, new services and email-specific discounts. The same goes to those solely focusing on digital marketing (email, social media, etc.), you may want to explore flyers or postcard mailers to gauge the difference in response.
We highly recommend gathering customers’ email addresses to build a solid list. Utilize email marketing programs like MailChimp (free for 2,000 or fewer contacts!) or Constant Contact – both of which come with design templates where the content can be updated via the ‘drag and drop’ method.
Also, be sure to establish a presence on social media. Try Facebook first, and experiment with capturing photos and video of your projects, progress and sharing company updates. Above all: Be consistent. Post once a week, but do it every week!
Talk with both clients / customers and employees. What are clients asking for that you don’t currently offer? Is there a high-profit service you think your team is capable of undertaking?
Have you considered adding holiday lighting or snow cleanup to your winter schedule? Both services are in-demand from both commercial businesses and homeowners. You’ll be able to close new sales with add-on lighting for backyard events, entertainment venues, parks, cafes, restaurants and weddings.
Many of your existing clients may ask you to take care of snow removal just because it’s easier than finding a separate contractor. Snow removal is a popular service to offer during the off-season because it helps keep contracting companies busy. If you’re a landscape contractor in the Midwest, the winter offers very little opportunity for business.
Both holiday lighting and snow removal are great services to expand your abilities to bring in revenue throughout the year.
Who do you go to when you have a question? Sure, you can ask your network, but know that your distributor is an expert resource, with great connections to vendors. Many of Reinders’ reps, for example, have decades of in-field experience under their respective belts. But if you’re looking for more – free product samples to try before you buy, demos of the latest technology or just to get that nagging question answered, a reliable distributor can be a great resource.
The off-season is the perfect time to dive deeper. Researching new products, and attending distributor training events makes you a more well-informed professional. Take a chance and ask a question – who knows, it might just save you a buck or two.
There’s no guarantee that the next season will be better than the last. Numerous factors play a role in the success of contracting companies: current economy, weather, product trends and more.
If you closely analyze the areas of your business that we touched on above, you’re setting yourself up for a successful season. There will be less to worry about come spring, and more time for getting stuff done.