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Industry professionals share their keys to help you crush 2024

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Gabriel Compagna, owner of Unbroken Lawn Care in Simpsonville, S.C., test drives an Exmark mower at Equip Exposition. His company’s slogan is “Stand firm. Hold fast. Stay free.” (Photo: Kriech-Higdon Photography)
Gabriel Compagna, owner of Unbroken Lawn Care in Simpsonville, S.C., test drives an Exmark mower at Equip Exposition. His company’s slogan is “Stand firm. Hold fast. Stay free.” (Photo: Kriech-Higdon Photography)

New Year’s resolutions? You won’t find any here. What you will find is some sage advice from a myriad of industry experts — landscape and lawn care professionals, industry partners and our own group of consultants.

We asked everyone the same question: What will it take to get your 2024 started off on the right foot? This is what they told us.

Planning ahead

Ken Thomas
Ken Thomas

A longtime LM columnist, Ken Thomas, a principal with Envisor Consulting, has been coaching lawn care and landscape professionals for a dozen years. He’s been in the industry for 30 years, having built and sold three successful landscape companies.

With the new year underway, Thomas says now is the time to make the tactical plan.

“If you haven’t already completed your tactical plan for 2024, you need to get it done here in the first quarter,” Thomas says. “It lays out your sales goals, your margin goals and your key initiatives for the year. It sets a timeline and accountabilities for who is going to hit those.”

Annual planning is the most important thing, Thomas says. He has all his clients read Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman and asks his clients where they want to be in one year, three years and 10 years.

“Our vision is multidimensional, but we need to narrow it down to a bullseye,” he adds.

Mike McCarron, owner of Image Works Landscape Management in Fairfax Station, Va., says he thinks 2024 is going to be “pretty decent.” If gas prices can stay down and interest rates can calm down, it will alleviate clients’ anxieties, he says.

Mike McCarron
Mike McCarron

He has two bits of advice for companies to get 2024 started off right.

“First, clean up your books, clean up all your accounting and get a real grip on where any money leaks are, or loss leaders,” McCarron says.

“Second, measure everything within your operation. Get all your production standards for all your different pieces of equipment. Get all your production standards for flat, semi-rough and really rough terrain, so when you’re bidding steep hills and storm drains, it’s completely different from bidding a flat, wide-open area. Everybody uses software that measures, but they don’t realize that the terrain is so different, what you’re measuring from the sky it isn’t the same as what is going on on the ground. It could throw you off 20, 25 percent.”

The right direction

Chris Stoudt
Chris Stoudt

Chris Stoudt, owner of Stout Lawn Care, Pottstown, Pa., has a goal of growing slow and steady in 2024. It’s a method that has worked for him in the past, and he advises others in the industry that there’s nothing wrong with growing slowly.

“Our biggest key to success in 2023 was getting the employees that we needed to cover all the services that we wanted to get done in a timely manner. Last year was a perfect example of that,” he says. “We started on time and ended on time with a very productive year. In 2024, we definitely want to continue steady growth. We like to grow slow, mean and lean. That’s our business plan. We don’t really like to blow up and be fighting to get the services done in a timely manner. We like to grow nice and slow and with great customers and clients. That’s what we’re going for in 2024. Again, continued slow, steady and lean growth.”

Mitchell O’Banion
Mitchell O’Banion

Mitchell O’Banion, franchise owner of GrassRoots Turf in Madison, Miss., echoes Stoudt’s thoughts.

“Find the right people and put them in the right place so you can grow and serve your customers,” he says. “We want to continue steady growth. We’ve grown at a rapid pace. I want to slow the growth down and manage it a little differently — a little slower.”

Todd Christianson, president of Titan in Anchorage, Alaska, says his business has “exploded” and he wants to control his growth. His key, he believes, is to spend some time on his organizational chart for the management team.

Todd Christiansen
Todd Christiansen

“It’s time now to reel it in and get everyone in their key positions. As you grow, your organizational chart switches,” he says. “We run two different types of businesses. We have our summer book of business and our winter book of business. It’s time to look at hiring someone to run the summer book and someone to run the winter book.”

One tip John Amarosa, COO at Pine Lake Nursery and Landscape in Tampa Bay, Fla., offers is to schedule appointments on your calendar with your business leaders each quarter. Meet and be honest about where the company is going.

“Know where you stand. Every company, every owner/operator, every large company and everyone in between, have certain key areas, call them key performance indicators or whatever you like. Know where you are, then plan,” he says. “Where do you want to go? The first thing I think about is, I can see where I want to be by January 2025. What is the low-hanging fruit? What is the easiest thing I can do and tackle it first. Not because it’s easy, but because I know that’s where I can gain the most ground. Stop, get your key people around a table for an afternoon and plan, starting with the low-hanging fruit.”

Peter Haakon
Peter Haakon

Peter Haakon, co-founder of Nuleaf Lawn Care, Lorton, Va., says it is important for all employees to be on the same page. All of his employees have personal and professional financial goals, which helps create a winning culture.

“We want to make sure everyone’s moving in the right direction and following through with our core values,” Haakon says.

A unique crossroads

Landscape Management Network (LMN) is one of the industry’s leading business management programs. Since the company launched in 2009, its customers have budgeted more than $125 billion, priced over $25 billion in design/build, maintenance and snow contracts and recorded 37 million clock-ins.

The company’s co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, Mike Lysecki, says he foresees 2024 as an interesting year for the green industry. He predicts strong growth in the service side of the industry. The design and build side, which is more of a luxury than a need, is where he predicts interesting dynamics are going to happen.

Mike Lysecki
Mike Lysecki

“2023 still had a lot of carry-over work from times when interest rates were extremely affordable and gave people the purchasing power to do bigger and better things with their outdoor environments than at literally any other time in the history of humankind,” Lysecki says. “But now, as money gets tighter, it will necessitate that green industry companies drive continued growth through efficient work habits and not necessarily because they’re the only contractor willing to say ‘yes’ to a job. Becoming more efficient at what you do, especially in the construction side of the business, will be integral to maintaining growth and profitability over the next few years since the supply of money is going to be a bit tighter than we’ve seen in the last couple of years.”

Whatever the economic forecast is for 2024, Envisor’s Thomas says this is a good time to be in the lawn care and landscape industry, and suggests everyone take full advantage.

“We’re in a unique crossroads, our industry, where private equity has increased the attention and the professionalism of our industry,” Thomas says. “We’re a much more sophisticated industry than we were 20 years ago. Business owners are required to be more business savvy in order to be competitive and successful. We’ve raised the bar. Everything points in the right direction for a great future for our industry.”

Mark Bradley
Mark Bradley

Industry partners offer their best advice

They don’t own a landscape or lawn care company — but they know a lot of people who do.

“I think 2024 will be the year of smoothing out. There was so much turbulence over the last few years between COVID, supply chain issues, pricing and all those different pressures that everybody felt. I think in 2023 things have settled down a lot, but I still think there was a lot of uncertainty out there in the market. I think 2024 is the year that everyone can truly plan, get out there and then execute.” — Allen Hollen, territory manager, The Andersons

Caleb Myers
Caleb Myers

“Begin the year by crafting a concise mission statement and establishing specific goals to clarify expected results for revenue, employee growth, enhanced customer experience, safety, quality and efficiency. After setting these objectives, ensure the entire company comprehends both the goals and the strategies to ensure execution. Investing in comprehensive staff training is crucial; too often, business owners introduce new systems and processes without adequately training their staff, hindering rather than enhancing efficiency — it’s imperative that employees understand the purpose and functioning of these systems for meaningful improvement.” — Mark Bradley, CEO, Landscape Management Network

“Based on the conversations that we’ve had with people in the industry, I’d say the biggest thing is finding the right help and maintaining the right help. The biggest thing we see from everybody is labor. It’s all been, ‘Supply is getting back to where it should be, (and the) cost of everything is decent enough. It’s just finding the right guy.’ They’re still out there; it’s just a matter of finding them and then keeping them on their staff.” — Caleb Myers, sales representative, Steel Green Manufacturing

John Perry
John Perry

“From what we’re seeing and the conversations with our customers, I think the biggest key to success for the industry in 2024 is learning how to be more effective with the dollars you have. Inflation is obviously hitting everywhere and for these guys to produce the same results and keep their profit margins intact, I think it’s going to be the key for the whole green industry in 2024. To be able to do the same job with less money while keeping their profit margins there.” — Jeff Rampino, Florida territory manager, Quali-Pro

“I think one of the biggest things is the labor shortage problem. Through planning and presentation of your company, you can entice better talent into your organization and that’s going to make the biggest difference going forward.” — John Perry, CEO and president, Greene County Fertilizer Co.

“Acquiring and keeping good people. Personnel is always the issue in anything, whether it’s a manufacturer, distributor or lawn care company, it’s always No. 1. If you have good people, everything will fall into place.” — Russ Mitchell, director, Albaugh Specialty Products

Photo: Seth Jones

Seth Jones

Seth Jones is is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. A graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Seth was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. He has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories.

Joey Ciccolini

Joey Ciccolini

Joseph Ciccolini received his Bachelor’s in Journalism from Kent State University, where he created news reports across various forms of media such as video, audio and print. Prior to joining our team, he was an intern for 89.7 WKSU producing and voicing multiple broadcast stories.

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