November 3, 2020
Dave WrightIt’s November. The fall clean up season is underway for grounds maintenance folks and the design/build folks are busy navigating rainy days to cram in the last few jobs and finish their season off in a big way. Cooler temperatures are hinting that winter is not too far away.

As an industry, there never seems to be a time to stop and catch our breath. So rather than wait for the perfect time, now may be as good a time as ever. Can we really pause, reflect and plan while not taking our foot off the gas? In previous years, I’ve sold some of our best jobs at this time of year. The opportunity to set up next year for success while closing out the current season results in a big drive to the very end.

For the last couple of months, my team has been working on efficiencies — trying to bring projects in on time and under budget, to make up for some issues earlier in the year. It seems to be working. September was one of our best months all year. This is where the pause and reflect comes in. At some point, we need to look back at what went right and what went wrong. We need to make adjustments and move forward — stronger and more profitable. 

This is the time of year when I start to work on my budget. My team is busy finishing off the year, while I take a look back at the numbers and make adjustments for next year. In December, I will sit down with my management team to critique my budget. We will poke it and prod it line by line and make my budget “Our Budget.” We will split up the line items and take responsibility for them, both on the sales side and the expense side. This collective approach creates buy-in from managers and results in accountability. We then hold each other to our numbers at our monthly and quarterly meetings throughout the year.

If you’re not going to be accountable to the numbers, budgeting doesn’t really matter. But planning ahead brings many rewards. Profit is in the details: material and labour expenses have to be in line with the corresponding income. Overhead expenses need to be kept in check. We make fine adjustments all year long, but now is the time to make the big adjustments. We need to ask ourselves some tough questions. Are we doing the right kind of work? Are we charging enough? Is that service we have been providing for 30 years still relevant? Do we have the right people? Are the right people in the right places? Are there new services we should be offering or new directions we should be moving in?

No, there really isn’t time to catch our breath… I just filled up my pause with a whole list of tasks, but that’s okay, because I get energized by thinking about and acting on positive change. I challenge you to pause and reflect on this year’s challenges and successes. Let’s take what we learn and make 2021 our best year ever!
Dave Wright
LO President