What’s your greatest strength as the owner/president of your business? Is it Sales? Marketing? Operations?
Whatever you do well, know that it might become your Achilles’ heel. As landscape industry business owners, we tend to invest in areas where we know we’re weakest. We know we have limited resources, so we spend what we have on backstopping the places where we’re most vulnerable.
This tendency leads many founders to under-invest in areas where they have natural strength, like sales and marketing. Most landscape business owners are good salespeople, so they figure they can compensate for a weakness in generating revenue through force of personality and sheer will.
Determination only goes so far, however, and you may reach a plateau where your greatest strength becomes the weakness that holds you back and stunts your business growth.
How Gold Medal Service Got Stuck at $700,000
Mike Agugliaro is an electrician by training and a natural salesman in practice. He’s a gifted speaker, and his warm personality makes him a magnet for customers.
When he and partner, Rob Zadotti, started Gold Medal Service in New Jersey, they didn’t invest much in sales and marketing. Agugliaro says the extent of their marketing in their first decade of operations was pinning a business card on the corkboard of the local coffee shop.
Over 12 years, the business grew slowly to around $700,000 in annual revenue, which was when Zadotti announced he was leaving. The news made Agugliaro reevaluate what they had been doing. He realized they had been massively under-investing in sales and marketing, and it stalled business growth.
Agugliaro convinced Zadotti to stay, and together they began investing heavily in sales and marketing. At the time, the yellow pages were still the primary way homeowners found service providers, so they bought a double-page spread in the phone book. They also tried radio, flyers, and just about any marketing technique they could measure.
Then the partners started to think of their trucks as giant, rolling billboards. Agugliaro’s wife did some research and discovered that humans are hardwired to notice the color yellow. Agugliaro and his wife reasoned that humans must have evolved to avoid bees, so they added black lettering. The result: Gold Medal’s 65 bright yellow and black trucks became a mainstay on the streets of New Jersey.
Those investments in marketing paid off. When Sun Capital acquired Gold Medal in 2017 for a significant premium over the 5 x EBITDA multiple typical of the home services industry, it was a far cry from that annual revenue of $700,000 in 2004.
The takeaway? Your greatest strength can help you start a business. If you under-invest in your strengths, they easily could switch from your most significant assets to hidden liabilities. As your landscape business grows, you may need to invest in areas you never considered necessary in the past.
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