Articles written by guest contributors
Find your $weet spotBy Bill Gardocki, Interstate Landscape
After 2 years of leading the HNA outdoor hardscape arena it was great to pass the education baton on to a new group of educators led by Frank Bourque. I enjoyed seeing many of my friends at the show, hanging out, having a beer, listening to their trials and tribulations, laughing, and roaming the show floor.
But the greatest sense of pride for me was seeing many of my past ICPI, NCMA and UNH Landscape Construction contractor/students walking the show floor looking at all the new and innovative products with the goal of understanding which products would make them better contractors.
Coming home and seeing Josh Jones, a former UNH student of mine, featured in last month’s Hardscape Magazine was almost a “drop the mic and walk away” moment for me. Because, by sharing knowledge that is needed in our industry, and not keeping it to oneself, we turn our industry into a respected enterprise that we all can be proud of.
Not too old to learnWe still have hard headed “do it my way or the highway” business owners. But we are making inroads on these attitudes. It is not all about young people learning from those that have been around the block a few times.
Us “more experienced” contractors can learn a lot from the younger generation if we keep an open mind. Last week we installed an 800 sf patio without any string lines to grade. It was completely done by lasers. The entire prep was done by 1 person from inside a machine with equipment Tom convinced me to invest in a few years ago.
I’ve had 4 hernia surgeries from lifting heavy objects and doing labor tasks with a wheelbarrow, shovel and grub hoe (look it up). I don’t envision any of my employees having to endure those kinds of injuries. My how things have changed if you are willing to learn new procedures, take advice from the young guns of our industry, and invest your money in the areas of your business that promote safety and efficiency (my favorite topic).
Where you make the most moneyA common question I get in my seminars is: What size jobs do you garner the best income from? Many years ago, we figured out what jobs were the right type/size for us, what jobs we were most efficient on. We prefer to be on jobs that are a week or less in scope. Every business owner needs to figure out what jobs he/she is most efficient at.
We are not built for the $100,000 jobs. Our sweet spot is the $10,000 - $20,000 job. A front walk with granite steps, or a rear patio with pillars and a seat wall, some lighting and a fire pit. These are the most profitable jobs for us. No subs to worry about schedules, minimal plant material to worry about survival, no permitting to worry about inspections, and landscape lighting made for electrical novices like me.
The new equipment and technology available today make everything easier and more efficient for us. Despite the current labor shortage, we are bringing in the same dollars we did 10 years ago but with half as many people.
Be strongEvery time I get visions of sugar plums dancing in my head because of the size of the job, my wife brings me back to reality by saying, “No, we don’t make as much money doing the big jobs.” They look nice in the job portfolio. But, is that what really matters?
Look at all aspects of the job that are important to you. Are you just as happy doing 6 $17,000 jobs as you are doing one $100,000 job? Are you more efficient at the $17,000 job? Is the cash flow better? Our contract states we get paid upon completion of the job. We do no billing.
How are the clients to work with? Is someone who has the income to spend $100,000 on landscaping going to have the same attitude as someone spending $17,000? Take the time to figure out your sweet spot and stick with it.
Then do us all a favor, and share your experiences, knowledge, and expertise with your colleagues in our industry so we can all build on our “$weet spot”.
Bill Gardocki is the owner of Interstate Landscape Co. Inc. in Londonderry, NH, installing hardscapes for over 40 years. Bill has taught over 100 classes as an NCMA and ICPI certified instructor. He also provides hardscape seminars for dealer/contractor education days, and in 2013 became the Landscape Construction instructor at his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. Contact Bill@InterstateLandscapeNH.com