You hear that sound?
STOMP … STOMP … STOMP …
The Giants are coming for us… and they want to kill our business.
They want to drive you to the brink, until you are so weak you have no choice but to sell out or fold under.
Jonathan Pototschnik, co-founder of CitiTurf and Service Autopilot has a way out for you.
This is his powerful, strategic message for you to fight back against national lawn care brands and franchises backed by big bucks:
In this recent article from Landscape Management, the author praised the “Brave New Model” of a residential lawn company called Canopy.
Canopy is backed by billionaire investors (including Lowe’s). Their “new” model looks something like this…
Canopy’s “New” Lawn Company Model
- Use software to organize and operate in a city
- Buy out or kill off the competition (a.k.a. Other, smaller lawn care companies)
- Build a brand that can dominate the residential lawn care industry and scale out across the nation
Rinse, repeat, until they kill off everyone else in their market, and can spread to a new city.
This new model, the author claims, will shake up the landscape industry, “which has been relatively untouched by technology.”
This is not a new model. Technology is already the industry standard in 2017.
Owners, especially those who employ lawn scheduling software like Service Autopilot, have been building quality companies for years.
The main difference is they don’t have big investor bucks to “grease the wheels” and help them through rough spots…
Should You Fear the National Lawn Companies?
“Canopy did not invent this business model,” Jonathan explains, “There are a lot of companies that have been using it for 5+ years and they are winning in their markets.”
You are probably familiar with other businesses in the landscape and lawn care industry that run similar to Canopy:
- Scott’s Lawn Care
- Brightview (formerly Brickman Group), etc.
However, that doesn’t make the threat of a giant, billionaire-backed lawn company any less real.
What’s worse is this threat is hard to detect:
“We won’t feel any pain in the short term,” Jonathan Pototschnik says, “even if Canopy can find it’s footing.”
“Tomorrow, nothing bad will happen. Next week, nothing bad will happen. Even in 2018, nothing bad will happen to us due to anything Canopy is doing.”
“But,” Jonathan warns, “We risk becoming complacent. Our businesses won’t implode overnight. Rather, they will become harder and more expensive to grow because we are getting attacked from all directions.”
Fortunately, there is a way to fight back.
Focus on these 3 areas, and you will thrive against investor-backed lawn companies who want to claim your market:
3 Strategies to Win Against “National Brand” Lawn and Landscape Companies
These strategies are straight from Jonathan Pototschnik. He still uses these in his lawn company, CitiTurf.
1. Use Superior Customer Service will Protect Your Client Base
Everyone in the Green Industry has the same problem:
Great landscaping employees are hard to find.
Here’s what hiring looks like for a national lawn company:
- They have to fill a work quota ASAP
- So they have to quickly hire a number of crews
- When they can’t fill their roster with rockstar employees, they settle for “less than good” workers
Sometimes, these big national brands even try to hire unqualified workers because it lowers their costs.
So what happens to the quality of their customer service?
It gets demolished.
Their reputation suffers. They have to deal with terrible online reviews.
This is GREAT news for you!
“Great customer service is one of the last differentiators,” Jonathan says. “This is how you get the winning advantage.”
If you want to beat out the investor-backed giants, your number one plan of attack should be to have A+ customer service.
Stand out against the giant companies by providing a knockout customer experience:
- Make an A+ first impression with new clients
- Keep in touch and ask for feedback. Make sure your clients are happy
- Provide a satisfaction guarantee: “If you’re not happy with any part of our service, we will come back and fix it for free!”
2. Why You Need Local Marketing to Win the Battle
“Our industry is seriously behind the times.
Companies in other industries build internal marketing and sales teams.
We might have salespeople, but they often aren’t trained in sales. Instead, they are whomever we have on our team that happens to be fairly good at selling.
The biggest threat, in my opinion, of someone like Canopy is the fact they will build a marketing team and they will spend serious marketing dollars.
It’s a battle that can be won, as they will have to spread their money nationally.
We can focus on the local battle. But we will only win if we start getting more serious as owners about learning and implementing marketing within our companies.”
Marketing is the best way to secure your market. For advertising advice, see the ultimate guide on marketing for lawn care and landscaping owners.
3. Fight Fire with Fire… or Technology
Today, the world is run by technology.
- The internet on your phone
- Electronic voting booths
- Self-serve lanes at grocery stores
…everything is digital.
Yet the Green Industry lags behind the rest of the world.
That’s why Jonathan says if we want to win against big corporations and national brands, we have to fully implement the right technology.
“I’m not just referring to Service Autopilot’s software.
Our technology systems (GPS, Accounting, VOIP, email marketing. whatever) aren’t getting fully implemented.
We aren’t managing change in our organizations. Some of us are wired to be cautious with change and very process oriented.
Changing our technology or the way we do things is difficult. As a result, we don’t try the new thing or fully implement it. We keep using our old processes from 5 and 10 years ago because they are comfortable.”
Jonathan says we use old processes, “because they worked for us for so long.” Most of us don’t see the need to change … until it’s too late.
On the other hand, some of us love change too much.
“Every time we make progress on implementing something we get distracted by the next new shiny object.”
Canopy’s goal is to fully implement their technology. It might not be the best technology, but they plan to make full use of it.
Jonathan advises, “We as leaders need to make sure our organizations do as well.”
If we don’t use what we have to the fullest extent, how can we expect to win?
“We want to build a culture that embraces technology and challenges the status quo within our companies.”
The 4 Technologies that Will Flip the Lawn and Landscaping Industry Upside Down
Jonathan’s thoughts are always on the future.
“I believe there are four tech phases coming in the next 10 years that will broadside us owners … if we don’t build organizations willing to embrace the future of tech and truly implement it.”
- Technology as an Operating System for Your Business:
This is what Service Autopilot was built to do.
Canopy also refers to this in their article, but it’s not clear if they are using a complete system, or are putting it together “piecemeal.” Either way, it’s obvious that software holds a strong place in the future of lawn care.
- Technology as a Virtual Stand-in:
- GoPro in real time
- Microsoft’s Hololens
- Other Virtual Reality Headsets
These will give you an edge in the field. It will allow you to keep employees accountable, or give them specific directions… through their own eyes.
- Machine Learning (Artificial Intelligence “Lite”):
Bots and machines capable of learning will change the industry completely. Imagine if you had an office assistant, a sales rep, and a marketing expert … all wrapped up in one little robotic script.
Believe it or not, some marketing companies are already using “sales bots” to sell products through on-site messengers. These bots adapt to the questions and responses people give through text.
The ultimate application of technology to our equipment. This will turn the entire industry on it’s head.
- Drones and more
- Automatic aerators
- Self-driving mowers, cars, etc.
What Should Your Lawn Company Be Doing Right Now?
There are giants, stomping around beyond the horizon. One day, they will come for us.
They will force you to change your business.
But the change won’t happen overnight.
Your focus will determine your future. Invest in these three areas today:
- Unrivaled customer service
- Great Marketing
- Full tech implementation
…and your company will slay any giant who stomps your way.
With the right focus, Jonathan adds, “there is reason to be optimistic about your future position in the market.”
A quote from St. Augustine, may help you get into the right mindset at times like these:
“To be under pressure is inescapable… We all know men who grumble under these pressures and complain. They are cowards. They lack splendour.
“But there is another sort of man who is under the same pressure, but does not complain. For it is the friction which polishes him. It is the pressure which refines him, and makes him noble.”
Patrick Hoffman is Marketing Director at Service Autopilot. He specializes in managing marketing campaigns and giving marketing strategies to the Lawn Care, Landscaping, and Cleaning Industries. When he's not writing, he's reading books on marketing, self-improvement, or science fiction.