DEPARTMENTS


Be Smart When Adding Services

By Rick Cuddihe


Many contractors are adding services to grow their businesses. Lawn care and snow removal are two services some contractors are adding to increase business and protect their customer bases. Adding services makes sense because you don't want to open the door for competitors to take away business from longtime customers because you're not providing all of the many property management services that they need.

Adding services also makes sense because it's an obvious way to generate more revenue on properties that you are already visiting. These are customers that know you and appreciate what you're already doing for them.

As you are probably aware, in recent years property owners have been reducing the number of service providers they use and doing more business with a limited number of companies because it saves them money.

A review of your clients' needs will quickly identify the kind of work you should consider adding. How about enhancements? Enhancements offer a high gross margin service that most contractors could double sales without adding much additional expense. Seasonal color and tree work are other much appreciated services that you may be able to offer a shopping mall or a development.

The same goes for snow and ice work in the northern part of the country. If you're doing other seasonal services why not try to get the snow work, too? If you're sure you can do it right, go for it. Be aware that the contractor that's doing the snow and ice work for that same client may be thinking the same thing. He may be planning to take away the services you are providing for that client. You are not the only contractor looking for ways to grow business and expand your opportunities.

Don't get out of your area of expertise and begin doing work you are not qualified to perform. There's nothing worse than dissatisfied customers. This is especially true now that everyone is so connected. More than one Fortune 500 company has lost money and customers because they got into business segments that did not have proficiency in.

Your reputation could suffer if you can't clear a mall parking lot of snow fast enough or plants decline because you're not maintaining them properly. Snow and ice service requires larger trucks and equipment and plowing or hauling is extremely hard on vehicles and equipment. Brakes, transmissions, manifolds and bearings need constant service or costly replacement, so consider this in figuring your rates.

Adding lawn care and pest control services can increase revenue and profits, but requires certifications or licenses and state-of-the-art knowledge. Ron Lester, of Architerra Inc., Indian Creek, Ill., says, "We added lawn care to our company's services some time ago and it increased our customer base and billing. It's like fishing for perch and bass instead of whales and it has helped the business."

Business is tougher

The fact is, business is more demanding in the new economy. Clients are operating with a different business model and they are using more stringent benchmarks to evaluate service providers. This means your work is being more closely watched today than ever before.

Be creative when adding and quoting services. Show clients how you can reduce the cost of performing the work which will result in a saving for them. This brings a partnership business model to the relationship and assures long-term customers.

Stephen Mazelis of Mazelis Landscape Contracting, Nesconset, N.Y., reports, "You have to know what a client needs, not necessarily what they want, because those may be different. When asked to quote a large shopping mall property, I gave them two quotes showing pricing for what they wanted, and a second quote based on what they really needed using a creative approach to the work required. The client really appreciated our insight and knowledge in addressing all aspects of the work."

Clients and property managers today are changing service providers more often and you want them changing to you because they know you do quality work at a fair price and understand their needs.

Once you add a service, let clients know about it and add it in your website's services menu and marketing materials. A high percentage of customers go to the Web before buying products or services, and your site is their first impression of you.

Adding the right services can increase revenue and grow your business even in this competitive and challenging business environment.

Rick Cuddihe is president of Lafayette Consulting Co., a PLANET Trailblazer, and he works with landscape contractors to improve their businesses. Contact him at rick@lafayetteconsulting.com.