The landscape industry offers a profession, not a hobby. To create a professional image one needs to act professionally, learn what it takes to be successful in the industry and implement the elements necessary to achieve success. I believe far too often we have individuals join our industry because it is easy to enter our profession and because they enjoy the great outdoors. These may sound like good reasons to join the profession, but to belong to a profession, it requires you to submerge yourself in the profession and learn what it requires to be successful and to be a professional.
I have talked with people over the years that suggested that they joined the landscape industry because they didn’t like to deal with people or they enjoyed working with plants or were laid off from another job and started mowing lawns. It seems too easy to get into the landscape business. Whether or not licensing is necessary to restrict entry into the landscape industry, I am not sure. But it would appear that one of the issues faced by professionals in the landscape industry is the lack of consistency in bidding, pricing and sales. A lack of business knowledge and how to operate a business.
Technical skill is important however, we all are in business to make a profit and without the profit we become day labor, working for an hourly wage. We all started small and grew our business because we filled a niche in the market place that customers were willing to purchase. If we do not meet the needs of the niche market we would go out of business. The struggle is that the companies that don’t understand pricing and the concept of profit are hurting the professionalism of the landscape contractor that are good business owners. It is easy to say that market forces will hold strong and force out the poor business owners. But it hurts the legitimate business in the meantime.
There is no easy answer to this issue however, there are things we can do as professional landscape contractors. Being members of local and national trade associations is one way we can fight this battle. The trade association offers certifications, education and a loud voice for the contractor. We can educate our clients on what makes a good contractor and what makes a bad contractor. Client education is time consuming and expensive, but necessary. We can offer to mentor the smaller contractor, working with them to understand the world of business. We can suggest that the smaller contractors hire a consultant or a coach to work with them to develop the skills that they are lacking.
The issue is not going away however, it is our responsibility to maintain the professionalism that we believe in and continue to work to educate our clients. I have mixed feelings about licensing and government intervention. I am not ready to ask for assistance from big brother. We need to continue to fight the battle through our associations and certification.
We are a strong profession, landscape contractors, that will survive all that we go through to make our industry stronger. It is frustrating at times, but well worth the fight.