Industry veteran advises landscapers to exploit technology

Intelligro-Logo-Tag-CMYK-EN copy 2Editor’s note: This Q&A with 25-year green industry veteran Judith Guido was provided by Intelligro, maker of Civitas WeedFree Brand Concentrate, a hybrid selective herbicide. Guido serves as an adviser to the company. In the interview, she looks back on Landscapes 2015, a National Association of Landscape Professionals’ conference, which was held in conjunction with GIE+EXPO this past October.

Q: Tell us about your experience at this year’s trade show.

A: The show is always a community of energized and engaged attendees, but this year we saw even more, with 21,000 people setting the all-time attendance record. NALP’s educational conference attendance was up by 30 percent from last year and we saw almost 200 new exhibitors on the scene showcasing the latest and greatest in equipment and technology to horticulture, hardscape and irrigation. Despite their action-packed agendas, many attendees said there wasn’t enough time to see and learn everything they wanted to. This thirst for knowledge bodes well for future Landscapes shows and may even drive the need for an extended conference.

Q: What area presented the greatest opportunity for lawn and landscape professionals?

A: The winning companies at the show this year are really pushing themselves to increase the sustainability of their offering and leverage all available technology to get them there. I see some real efforts by these companies to leverage “going green” as a way to differentiate and grow their business while creating a valuable customer experience.

This is really being driven by the forces of market demand, increased regulation, changing demographics and diminishing natural resources intersecting with a greener trend in influential industries such as real estate and construction. A greener approach, once seen only as a feel-good measure, now fosters a unique business opportunity, helping grow jobs and profits and increasing brand equity and company valuation. The balance of the “Triple P” in sustainability has arrived: people, planet and profits.

Q: How does technology factor into success?

A: Technology affects every arm of your company. Your IT person or team will be critical to your success and will grow in importance. Simply said, embrace technology at every level to see how it can reduce costs, increase efficiencies and differentiation while creating a competitive advantage for you. From your back-end operations to the field, and into the hands of your customers, technology will enhance the customer experience, attract and retain outstanding talent and partners, which in turn will increase profits and company valuation.

Customer relationship software, mobile apps, drones and robotic mowers are all examples of technology that will continue to perform tasks, collect data and improve communication across your business ecosystem. Creating communities of stakeholders online will grow at a rapid pace, and technology will make our businesses and lives easier.

Q: What can businesses do right now to improve performance?

A: Know your customers, prospects, market and space better than anybody else. Create a service revolution where your customers (internal & external) are your strongest and most viable force. Embrace change and technology and move from being a technical subject matter expert in your industry and market, to being a thought-leader and game-changer.

Build a business-ecosystem full of smart partners. Create a culture based on a perpetual path of learning. A purely technical skillset in lawn care or design/build will only get you so far. A solid understanding of market drivers and customer needs is crucial in order to drive ROI. You also need to have the right people ready. After all, this is a service industry first and foremost. Strive to attract, retain and reward employees that live your brand and deliver a seamless customer experience.

Q: What are the go-to resources in the industry?

A: In addition to trade shows like Landscapes, there are many organizations and associations lawn and landscape professionals can draw on to learn more about business management and hot topics. NALP, the Irrigation Association, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the International Erosion Control Association (IECA) and the Hardscape Institute are all reputable sources with a good pulse on the industry. There are also fantastic community colleges and universities across the country that offer both two- and four-year programs.

Guido made two presentations at Landscapes 2015; they can be viewed at the following links: “Town Hall with the Top Industry Leaders” and “The Future of Now – Macro and Industry Trends.”

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