BRAVE NEW WORLDS
August 1, 2009
Landscape Industry Trends
“To begin with, it’s worth noting that all the
insanity around us notwithstanding there will
be a moment when this age will start to make
sense: That brave new world will look very
different than it does now...”
— Joshua Cooper Ramo, author of The Age of the Unthinkable
By Tom Barrett
It’s the Economy What does this mean to our industry? In interviews
Yes, the economy is in shambles. One large U.S. with contractors, suppliers and manufacturers across
investment bank has disappeared while the the country, the overall U.S. landscape industry
remaining four have been acquired or become declined between 25% to 30% in 2008. Keeping at
conventional banks. As of July 30, 2009 sixty-four the current pace, it appears that the landscape
banks have closed this year1. The New York Times industry may decline an additional 20% to 30% in
reports, that beyond the $700 billion TARP bailout, 2009. Overall, this the contraction to our market
the government has committed to spend about $12.2 over the last eighteen months is between 40% to
trillion2 to prop up the sagging economy. . The 50%. The West Coast and East Coast have been hit
residential housing market has collapsed and the the hardest. The Midwest, with the exception of
commercial property market is on the brink of Michigan, is experiencing the least amount of
disaster. decline. Even in areas with lesser amounts of
decline, such as Indiana, the pain is still present.
In Indiana, companies focused on the residential delivering it when your customer wants it. Finally,
BRAVE NEW WORLD August 1, 2009, page 2
market felt the pinch early last year. This year, delivering all this at a value a customer expects is
SURVIVAL: companies focused on the commercial market are what separates you in the market. Quality has never
feeling the economic crunch. Overall, in the last been more important.
1. Adaptability eighteen months, the landscape market in Indiana is
down 30%. While not as bad as California or Florida 3. Courage
2. Great the decline is still frightening. Great leaders know tough times create opportunity
Customer to drive change and innovation. Historically, the
The only bright spot is commercial maintenance and companies that invest in marketing and sales fare
mowing contractors. Dan Diehl, with Consumer best in economic downturns. Increasing sales and
Manager for Kenney Equipment says, “With the marketing expenses when your company is slashing
3. Courage unusually wet weather over the last two years, the everything feels counter intuitive. It takes courage.
commercial mowing market has stayed about the Your competition is cutting expenses in sales and
4. Trans- same. However, everyone is being very cautious and marketing making your marketing efforts even more
formative prices have dropped as companies struggle to stay in lucrative. Your marketing will standout. How do you
Leadership business.” communicate with potential customers without
marketing and sales?
Competition 4. Transformative Leadership
In the short term, competition is fierce as Transformative leadership requires the courage to
competitors drop prices. Margins are being hold a vision and an inspiration that people can
squeezed. Surviving companies will be lean and follow. Transformative leadership is driven by
extremely efficient. Can companies reinvent sustainability and not simple efficiency. Decisions
themselves in a down market? The list of are open and transparent. Transformative leaders use
companies that have started in down economies is consultation and participation as a process to create
legendary. Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Dell change. The change required is not in what we do as
Computers are all companies that started in down a business. The change is about how we do business.
economies. Reinvention is possible. In the 1950‘s Transformative leaders empower people.
AT&T reinvented their telephone network.
Businesses today have a unique opportunity to
rethink how they conduct business. The smart Address the Environment
companies are doing this. They have changed. Smart In the landscape industry, green was simply what we
companies are accepting the economic chaos and are called our industry. Twenty years later, green is the
seeking hidden opportunities. one of the hottest growing trends in the world. Faith
Popcorn, of the BrainReserve, places this in terms of
Save Our Society (SOS). It is a growing trend
Survival towards social responsibility. People buy brands that
The companies that survive will have these help society. People want to work for companies that
attributes: help society. People are willing to commit a certain
1. Adaptability amount of time to help society.
Companies that are incredibly quick and responsive
will survive this crisis. “In nature, it is not survival Environmental issues have dramatically changed
of the strongest or the smartest of the species but the from conserving precious natural resources into
species that is the most adaptable to change,” said creating a sustainable environment. We in the
Charles Darwin. Adaptability also speaks to the need landscape industry can play an important role.
to be incredible efficient. Companies across the
nation are reducing costs at an alarming rate. Those Conversely, if we do not play an important role, the
companies which understand most effectively where environmental issues will dramatically change our
to reduce expenses without reducing essential industry. In 2007, seventeen Canadian communities
services will prosper. banned commercial lawn care applicators and in
2008 another 124 followed suit.
2. Great Customer Service
Great customer service never goes out of fashion. We often think water conservation is reserved for the
Take care of your existing customers while your arid West. In the late 1980’s we saw the advent of
competition offers panic driven discounts. Know low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads. In
your customers. Talk to your customers. Great Massachusetts today, most area communities impose
customer service is all about communication. water restrictions to meet the 2004 state standard
setting the maximum per-person usage rate at 65
Great customer service also means great quality. The gallons per day. Massachusetts also adopted the first
value proposition of your company depends upon low-flush toilet ordinance. With the average U.S.
delivering what a customer wants. It also depends on household water usage at 78 gallons per person per
day this regulation has the potential to put the 50% of their landscape water requirement from
BRAVE NEW WORLD August 1, 2009, page 3
Massachusetts landscape industry out of business. rainwater harvesting.
New World What is our role? Through landscapes, we create Currently, rainwater harvesting is seen as a method
will look very sustainable sites. Several organizations have to conserve the amount of water used in a landscape.
different identified “green” industries as the number one However, stormwater mitigation is the largest
than it does growth industry. benefit from rainwater harvesting. Like rain gardens
and bioswales, rainwater harvesting takes the
now. . . Simply, plant trees. The EPA reports that tree landscape from an aesthetic to a functional aspect.
planting sequesters carbon and enhance the quality Developing a functional landscape essential for
of soil, water, air and wildlife. If every family sustainable site development.
planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the
atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds “The over-borrowing, over-consuming, and under-
annually. One tree will absorb about 10 lb. of air innovation is now in the US . . .” Antonio van
pollutants, including 4 lb. of ozone. Trees planted Aqtmael said in an October 2007 issue of
around a home can reduce air conditioning usage by Newsweek. Every organization has the power and
30%. Over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates the talent when unleashed, will result in dramatic
$31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth change. In order to create success, drive up your
of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of mental tenacity, keep a positive attitude, and drive
water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion. fear out of your organization. The best way to work
with change is to create it.
Vegetative roof surfaces, or greenroofs, are an
additional opportunity. Greenroofs are growing at a Endnotes(July 30, 2009) Failed Bank List [Data File]. Available
rate of 35% this year. Greenroofs improve from www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/banklist.html.
stormwater retention, save energy, and reduce noise 2. Adding up the Government's Total Bailout Tab, New York
levels in a building. Environmentally, greenroofs Times (February 4, 2009).
mitigate the urban heat island effect, reduce dust and
smog, produce oxygen and act as a carbon dioxide
sink. Financially, greenroofs increase the life
expectancy of the roof, contribute to LEED® points,
and may be eligible for government incentives.
Rain gardens, bioswales, and rain water harvesting
technologies provide additional “green”
opportunities. Rain Gardens are water retaining
areas planted with native or low-maintenance
vegetation. A properly constructed rain garden
allows rain water to runoff from impervious surfaces
like rooftops, driveways, and sidewalks. This
reduces stormwater runoff - allowing captured rain
water to soak into the soil instead of running into
storm drains. Rain gardens can reduce non-point
source pollution running into local streams and
waterways. Rain gardens improve water quality, aid
in flood control, and encourage wildlife.
Bioswales, similar to rain gardens, have an
additional element of a subsurface under drain -
usually a corrugated pipe that feeds into the
stormwater system. A landscape with properly Tom Barrett is an accomplished corporate growth
designed rain gardens is cost effective when they and change agent with over thirty years of
eliminate the need to construct curbs, gutters, storm experience. Tom’s leadership experience, holding
drains and retention ponds. executive level positions, drives corporate revenue
growth through change and innovation for
Rainwater harvesting system is an old idea seeing an business start-ups, corporate expansions, and
increased interest in the U.S. as an alternate water divisional turnarounds. Tom Barrett delivers
supply. The City of Tucson, Arizona recently passed energetic, dynamic presentations and training.
the first commercial rainwater harvesting ordinance
requiring new commercial development to obtain He can be reached at: