February 1, 2021
Brent Ayles
Brent Ayles

Covid-19 created supply chain headaches

And we’re not out of the woods yet

LOOKING BACK ON THE PAST YEAR, I’m reminded of what it was like when I first started my business. As a 20-something, every experience was fresh and new, and I relied on the advice of the experienced professionals around me. Whether it was from successful entrepreneurs in the horticulture and landscape profession, or bankers or lawyers, I needed guidance from those who had been there before.

“Just-in-time” inventory management caught many of us with our pants down in 2020. And that’s just one of the many Covid-19 related headaches business owners continue to face.

Supply chain is defined as the “Management of the flow of goods and services, involving the movement and storage of raw materials, of work-in-process inventory, and of finished goods as well as end-to-end order fulfilment from point of origin to point of consumption.”

In simple terms, it’s the inflow and outflow of products and materials used to create a finished project. It includes the basic hardscape supplies: lumber, brick, nails, steel, rims, parts, ect. And softscape supplies like soils, mulches, nursery stock, fertilizers etc. We purchase supplies, we store them, mark them up and resell them in the work we do.

As tradespeople we’re reactors. We get a job then we call our suppliers to book what we need. The need is addressed. We respond. The one that solves that need the quickest, with the best experience, in the most markets, wins.

This will continue to be a competitive advantage, but success in the future will also require a more proactive approach: seeing market trends and areas of concern long before they happen. Some markets are easier to predict than others.

One way to do that is to reflect on commodities data from past years. Another way is to seek guidance and knowledge from those that have experienced similar issues.

All signs are pointing to another challenging year ahead on the supply chain front. As things ramp up in the spring, make sure you set realistic expectations with your clients. Be as open and upfront as you can be. The more you can share at the start, the easier it will be down the line if and when supply issues arise.

On the positive side, during the pandemic, we’ve seen a renewed appreciation for outdoor spaces and nature. People across the country see even more value in landscapes and gardens today then they did a year ago. Now is our chance to shine. Shoot straight with your customers, continue to build solid relationships with your suppliers, and have a great 2021!  
Brent Ayles is president of Ayles Natural Landscaping, based in Riverview, N.B.