Let's Start Winning the 'Other' Battle - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Let's Start Winning the 'Other' Battle

For the last three years, landscape professionals have been in survival mode, cutting out every excess cost, becoming more efficient, and literally dissecting every aspect of their operations in order to remain viable. It’s been a battle, but companies are better for it, today.

Something was missing, though, while we were in the trenches. We were so focused on making sure ends would meet that we lost sight of the bigger picture — our industry. It is at risk. And, I don’t have to tell you that if our industry is at risk, so is all the hard work we’ve done over the past couple of years to fine tune our operations.

Let’s put it in perspective. Our industry is in a great place and positioned to thrive. Customers are enthusiastic about plants in general and more specifically about the ROI that landscapes deliver. We provide aesthetics and value all the while improving the environment. The public has a very positive perception of what we do, and that’s great because it fuels our businesses.

But, while we were working so diligently to get our business houses in order, our detractors have been nudging us ever closer to the slippery slope composed of over regulation, unreasonable restrictions, and outright bans. While we were in the trenches, they were making headlines about the landscape industry using too much water, misusing chemicals, operating noisy and polluting equipment, and essentially saying that we provide a service that few people actually need. In other words, while we’ve been working in our businesses, they’ve been working on it, against it — attempting to change the publics’ perception of what we do.

We are at risk and could easily lose our “thriving industry” advantage if well-kept landscaping becomes less desirable or, worse yet, not the “right thing to do.” The reality is that is exactly where things are headed and will quickly end up if we don’t do something about it now. It’s time to turn the tables and also start working on our businesses. We are a strong industry, with an estimated 100,000 licensed companies employing one million workers and generating more than $60 billion annually in sales. We have a powerful voice, but it needs to be heard. I can assure you that PLANET is working hard to stand up for the industry and tell its story, but this won’t be a battle won at the national level by others. The power is in our numbers, and it is our local voices in our communities that will make the difference.

Just this week, I sent out six e-mails to key state and national representatives in my district and one to President Obama. It took me all of three minutes thanks to PLANET’s Web site that has virtually all the tools a landscape contractor needs to stay informed about critical issues, including position statements, contact information for legislators, and pre-written letters. And, this Web site automatically directed me to my representatives based on my ZIP code. It’s straightforward and easy! The resource is there … just not being used.

I believe the e-mails I sent will help our cause, and I plan to continue sending more. Imagine if all 100,000 landscape contractors took three minutes to send six e-mails each. That’s 600,000 voices that would get everyone’s attention and start correcting the perception that many legislators have about us and what we do.

The challenge for all of us now is to begin telling our story, one that is based on what we know to be true and not emotional, fear-based fiction. Yes, we use “inputs” such as water, control products, and equipment, but we responsibly manage their use and, in so doing, provide an environment that is beautiful, valuable, and healthy. The alternative is far less attractive for our customers, our environment, and our companies.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more proactive about working on my business and building on the already positive perception the public has about what we do. The six e-mails I sent were part of my efforts to raise awareness about some of our industry’s positive environmental and economic impacts. They can be your first step, as well.

Visit PLANET’s Web site LandcareNetwork.org and raise awareness among your state and congressional representatives. Then, whatever chance you get, polish the public’s perception of your business and of our industry by telling the story of what we do and how we do it.

We’ve already won an important battle with the economy. Now it’s time to win the other battle to ensure the future of our industry.

David Snodgrass, Landscape Industry Certified Manager

PLANET President