Yes, Business is Improving but Don't Get Sloppy

The U.S. economy suffers a serious downturn on average every 4.8 years
by Ron Hall/editor-in-chief
3/3/2014

Several weeks ago I received the results of an industry survey conducted by Hindsite Software, a company started by former landscape irrigation contractor David Crary. The results of the survey paint a rosy picture of the landscape/lawn service industry's prospects for 2014.

Crary painstakingly developed the business management system over a period of months so that he wouldn't lose his sanity in running his irrigation company. He said he too often found himself buried in paperwork even as he tried to manage his crews. He said he knew there had to be a better way to manage his small Minnesota service business. Being of an entrepreneurial spirit and after getting his system to a point where he felt it would benefit other contractors too, he left the contracting world and concentrated on marketing and selling his system.

But back to the survey, which seems legitimate enough and is almost certainly accurate in reflecting the industry's sentiments for 2014.

Briefly, here are some of the results of the Hindsite survey:

* 2013 was slightly better than 2012, with 73% of respondents indicating they'd experienced revenue growth in 2013, up from 69% in 2012.

* Expect green industry businesses to hire in 2014. 75% said they'd increase the size of their staff in 2014, compared to 54% last year.

* Expect a price hike if you buy green industry services. 69% of respondents plan to raise prices in 2014, with most citing increased operating costs as the main reason.

* Green industry suppliers have reason to be optimistic in 2014, as 63% of businesses plan to increase spending on equipment and software to improve their efficiency, up from 51% in last year's survey.

* Green industry businesses have been busy updating their websites. 67% say they have updated/overhauled their website in the past year. It should come as no surprise, then, that 80% of respondents are somewhat or very pleased with their website.

You can download the Hindsite 2014 Green Industry Benchmark Report by clicking here.

Other industry entities (including Turf magazine) will within the next month or so share similarly positive sentiments based on their industry surveys. All of them will shed light on our industry's expectations for this year and, to one degree or another, make for interesting reading and comment. Even so, these reports are never a reason to get too complacent. In the end, they offer up a general  "big picture" snapshot of the industry that may or may not be of practicable value to your small, independent operation. The industry is that diverse, which I find fascinating.

Yes, 2014 could well turn out to be the best year the industry has experienced since 2010 when the negative effects of the Recession really became apparent. But things (from good to bad) can change in a hurry. A big hurry. Unexpectedly too.

In the years that I've been reporting on the green industry I've seen the industry experience and recover from three serious recessions (1990-1991, 2001 and 2007-2009). Recessions and economic downturns it turns out are relatively commonplace in our U.S. economy. In fact, the country has experienced 49 of them in the 238 years since its founding in 1776. This works out to be one serious economic hiccup every 4.8 years.

The take-home message here should be obvious. Even though things have been looking better for most of us every year that we put the 2008-2009 Recession behind us, that's not a reason to get sloppy or over-extended.

Take advantage of and be thankful for all the opportunities that present themselves to you this season. But keep in mind that the next recession or economic panic is always just around the corner. We just don't know how or when it will arrive. But it will arrive.