For the state of Georgia, 2007 was the year the state suffered through a historic drought – the worst recorded in 100 years. With a statewide water shortage, residents had to endure empty swimming pools, dirty cars and browning lawns. Not being able to water your yard and garden can be an inconvenience to those who take pride in their property. But not being able to do your job because water restrictions have cut into your livelihood is a major concern if you’re an irrigation specialist.
PRODUCT/SERVICE: Irrigation Supply, Design and Implementation Services
NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 23
For nearly 20 years, Central Irrigation Supply has provided irrigation contractors with all the necessary products and services they need to excel in their business. With six stores in Atlanta, it wasn’t just the company itself that was feeling the brunt of the burning sun – it was their clientele who were truly suffering. “Businesses in and around the city have no choice but to adapt to the restrictions, and some were struggling to stay afloat,” said Jim Farr, area director, Central Irrigation Supply.
“At Central, service is at the heart of everything we do. We’ve earned a reputation as a valued business partner to our customers and we felt that we needed to help them find solutions to the day’s challenges,” noted Farr. One answer came in the form of client education. Central had hosted programs featuring products and manufacturers in the past, but this time the situation warranted something more. “We want our contractors to be the best educated in the industry. What they needed was training to help them work smarter and more efficiently.”
A Proven Perspective
Tony Bass, a small business green industry consultant with more than 20 years of experience including founding, growing and ultimately selling his initially small landscaping business for a seven-figure profit was called in to help. The two men tossed around ideas about what type of program would be of most interest to Central’s clients during these dire days. “Tony and I have been friends for years, as he had been a customer of ours years ago when he had owned a landscaping business. Now as a consultant to the industry it seemed like a perfect match, however, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was nervous trying something different and out of our comfort zone,” said Farr.
Targeting the Top Dogs
Previous Central events were aimed at laborers, showcasing new products and solutions for the everyday workforce. But in stressful times like these, Central wanted to do something new – target and engage the business owner. The program focused on recommendations for brainstorming your way to the next revenue generator while strengthening current service offerings to determine where the most money can be made. “Irrigation contractors in drought-affected regions across the nation have to fine-tune their companies to meet their customers’ needs and plan ahead to avoid being hurt in the future,” said Bass. Key to the seminar was challenging the business owner to consider ways to extend their expertise into new fields, to determine gaps in their service line and leverage strengths. “I wanted them to consider what sets their firm apart and think of new product lines that would appeal to their existing customer base, while reinforcing their brand image,” said Bass.
“Putting together previous events had always been a very time consuming task. With Tony it was a breeze, when he said he would take care of everything and I wouldn’t have to worry about a thing he was right,” noted Farr. Bass’ presentation was fast-paced and delivered with inspiring stories of personal accomplishments filled with practical solutions to everyday challenges. “Armed with proven strategies, relevant examples and handouts, Tony really captured the crowd’s attention and provided action items everyone could incorporate. In the past, speakers haven’t come with handouts or real life examples, leaving the audience feeling unfulfilled and uninspired. That was definitely not the case here; you could see the light bulbs flipping on and a renewed excitement about their businesses.”
Focus on You First
“In order to survive during tough times, let alone prosper, small businesses must first maximize their three greatest assets – customers, employees and equipment,” said Bass. Providing a road map to take inventory of customers, Bass relayed strategies on how to best up sell current customers, how to bring back those they had lost and strategies for reaching out to new clients. “The next step is to take a look at your operations and make sure you are taking full advantage and utilizing your existing equipment and employees in a manner that is best for the bottom line. Once your current house is in order you can take a look at adding new revenue streams.”
Invigorating the Irrigation Industry
“Often times, owners simply just do not know where to begin. When you take a close look and highlight the opportunities and limitations in your current portfolio, numerous niche opportunities will start to crystallize,” explained Bass. “You are offering customers more value and opportunities for repeat business by offering them a host of related and complimentary products and services. Diversifying also means you spread out your risks by creating several sources of income so when there is a slump in one service category, the others can keep the cash flow healthy. For companies like these adding in natural service extensions like landscape design and construction, lawn care and maintenance, outdoor lighting, as well as pond and water features are simple and smart moves.” “Tony hit the bullseye in terms of his topic. What company doesn’t need to come up with the next big idea to grow revenue – especially when current revenue sources were literally drying up?” said Farr.
The Pathway to Profits
Though Georgia has seen some positive developments in regards to the water crisis, the drought problem is far from resolved. “The event was a rousing success. In addition to the fantastic responses, clients have been putting their newfound strategies to work. We know that they’ve taken what they learned and are putting it to work as we’ve seen clients purchasing new and secondary products like landscape lighting and pond kits to supply their new service offerings,” said Farr. “More importantly, it enabled us to look good in front of the true decision-makers – the business owners. They know our pledge to doing whatever we can to help our clients grow is sincere, and we mean it when we say that their success will be our success.”