By Jason Wedmore
For any business owner, there comes a point where a certain level of satisfaction is achieved. The client base is ample, profits are respectable and the business as a whole is solid. Many owners could slip into this comfort zone and continue operating just as they are. But for the owner looking to grow or diversify, now would be the best time to do so.
Diversify is a word that can mean different things for different businesses. It can be a way to avoid the plateau effect and keep the business from becoming stagnant. It can offer the opportunity for a business to grow and find its way into other markets. Most importantly, it prevents a company from taking part in the risky behavior of receiving all its business from only one market.
Proceed with caution
Although some business owners may dive headfirst into the opportunity to diversify, it is not uncommon for most to feel a bit of hesitation. They may feel that the business is successful as is and there is no need for change. However, diversifying is not necessarily about changing, it is about offering more to existing and potential clients.
Take a mulch producer for example. Although the business of producing mulch is pretty solid in itself, there is also the business of delivering and applying the product. By adding those services to the business, there is no change — only more to offer a client.
Another possible hesitation to diversify comes from the misconception that it is too risky. But the business that only serves one market is actually putting itself in a higher-risk situation. If a dip in the economy results in one market taking a big hit, the business that is depending solely on that market for survival has no way to recover. Conversely, a business that caters to multiple markets could look to the other areas it serves for more work, balancing out the loss from the one area that is lacking.
Big machine, big decision
Pneumatic blower trucks can provide tremendous aid to companies looking to diversify in the landscaping and mulching arenas. These trucks haul a variety of organic materials and provide a faster, more effective way to apply them than traditional methods that involve multiple laborers dumping and spreading by hand.
Although it may provide the best way for a mulch producer or landscaper to diversify, a blower truck isn’t something one purchases after strolling into a store and taking a quick look around. It is a big decision that requires serious thought, consideration and capital. It is an investment, and just as any other investment, there is the potential risk and reward. But unlike a typical investment, the purchase of a blower truck offers an extremely high-reward potential on multiple levels.
Time (saver) machine
Blower trucks not only haul and apply a variety of materials, but they are also time- and labor-saving products. A job that would typically take six laborers six hours to complete would take less than two hours and only two laborers operating a blower truck. The time saved would not only be a selling point to clients seeking an efficient operation, but could be spent on other jobs — increasing the total amount of jobs the company could take on at once. The additional laborers would be free to work on other jobs, further increasing the amount of jobs the company could handle and allowing the business to grow without hiring any additional laborers.
Ahead of the curve
For the owner looking to get into new, cutting-edge markets, the hesitation often comes with the uncertainty of demand. Are these markets really on the rise, or are they simply passing trends that will fade away? In the case of markets such as green rooftops, erosion control and playground safety surfaces, not only is the demand there, it is rapidly growing. And the businesses looking to take part have the advantage of entering just as these markets are beginning to take off, giving them the chance to become a leader in each industry.
The consequences of not abiding by government regulations regarding environmental concerns are substantial. With companies facing the threat of fines or serious lawsuits for inadequately complying, or completely failing to comply, with strict EPA regulations, it isn’t difficult to see why the erosion control market is in high demand. From small-scale contractors to giants like Wal-Mart, no company is immune to these regulations. Because of this, contractors are willing to seek out and pay companies to perform this service, which further promotes the notion that erosion control is not a dying trend.
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System was established to regulate the release of pollutants, most often eroded soil, into water bodies. Applying a blanket of composted mulch over exposed soil is an effective way to prevent polluted runoff water from moving downstream. These blankets reduce the total runoff, increase the time for runoff, and reduce soil erosion. And they do all of these things better than typical erosion control practices such as silt fences.
Another benefit of mulch blankets is that they are good for the environment. The blanket protects the soil, while nutrients from the mulch are placed back into the earth. And, because they are entirely organic, there is no waste. Nothing must be cleaned up and thrown away (unlike a silt fence, which will eventually need to be removed from the site and disposed of).
Blower trucks are able to apply composted mulch blankets quickly and effectively. And for jobs that require the establishment of vegetation, the process of Terraseeding is a fast, effective way to plant seed for grass or native wildflowers while installing the blankets and berms (Terraseeding combines the soil mix, fertilizer and grass seed in one application and is easily applied on virtually any terrain and even the steepest slopes using a blower truck).
The green movement in our society is gaining momentum, making green rooftops a market with staying power. Federal and state incentive programs are being passed to encourage the installation of green rooftops. In fact, New York City recently had a legislative package signed, which included a bill that created a tax abatement for building owners that install green roofs. Furthermore, colleges and universities have begun to install green roofs for aesthetic, economic and educational reasons.
A blower truck is ideal in this market because of its ability to install the material faster and more efficiently than traditional methods. It eliminates the need for expensive equipment such as cranes and manlifts, and requires only two laborers. Some blower trucks are able to blow material great distances in the air (in some cases up to 150 feet vertically). The power of the machine, combined with the convenience factors it provides, makes blower trucks an economical way to execute this application.
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on playground safety, much of it being aimed toward surfaces that reduce the chances of serious injury when a child falls off the equipment. 75 percent of playground injuries are caused by falls. Having the proper surfacing underneath the equipment can absorb the impact when the child falls, reducing the likelihood of serious injury.
As previously stated, blower trucks have the ability to apply a variety of materials. Playground safety surfaces are regulated by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and can consist of various materials such as pea gravel, sand, mulch and wood chips to name a few. All of these materials can be spread easily by a blower truck much more efficiently and quickly than by hand.
Not just a machine
Manufacturers of blower trucks understand that a machine of such great size and power can be intimidating to a first-time user. That is why they are typically committed to providing quality training and support. Training not only includes learning about the basic components of the truck, it also teaches customers the best blowing techniques and how to set up and clean up actual jobs for maximum efficiency. Also included with the training, customers are shown how easy a blower truck is to operate. It only takes one person operating the remote controlled system and another person positioning the hose to do the actual spreading of material.
Companies often continue to aid their customers long after the initial training. For example, Express Blower holds an annual summit for its blower truck owners to attend. They can share ideas and tips, and discuss how the blower trucks have been advantageous to their business.
Some manufacturers even offer assistance to customers on how to market themselves and the new services they are now able to provide. This includes providing pre-designed truck graphics, creating photo libraries and DVDs, and designing flyers and direct mail campaigns. The manufacturer knows that he is selling more than a machine, he is selling an opportunity. Essentially, it is a turn-key business for owners to add to their current successful operation.
To use the phrase “Good things come to those who wait, but not those who hesitate,” seems a bit cliché, but it applies perfectly to the case for diversification. Yes, it is necessary to wait for the right opportunity to diversify, but once the opportunity knocks, a business cannot hesitate to answer. By seizing the opportunity, a business will not only see the obvious benefits such as increased productivity and profits, but also will be protecting itself from the risk of drawing all its work from one market. And that may be enough to convince even the most hesitant owner to jump on the diversification train – or in this case, the diversification truck.
Jason Wedmore is national accounts manager for Express Blower, Inc.