Look for “silver lining” in 2008

North American Power Sweeping Association

The coming year will not lack for storm clouds for contractors, as the environment is likely to include volatile fuel prices, anti-business candidates, soft retail markets related to the housing and mortgage corrections, tightening government budgets, and more. At first glance, there is a lot to not like about the coming 12 to 24 months.

Which is precisely why NAPSA contractors, as the leaders in the business, must set the tone by focusing on the opportunities that dislodging markets present -- there are silver linings among the clouds. It is a pretty good guess that some combination of the following will be prudent to consider for success, or survival, in 2008.

Go Green: Gas is high. Water is scarce. Al Gore is winning awards. Never mind the bothersome little detail that the planet was warmer in the 1300s, the green movement is on. Contractors need to position themselves, from an operational and PR standpoint, as green friendly, which can include fuel efficiency, water reclamation, and keeping up with legislation that can create new cleaning related niches.

Efficiencies: Sweepers will have to properly analyze how much focus they will put on pricing integrity and learn to get their margins from items below the top line. This Christmas shopping season told us what general retail has taught us for years: Big discounters are kicking the fannies of the boutiques. 2008 will be a discount year. Is your business a boutique? Everyone we send bids to is trying to hold on to their jobs by saving their company or agency money. If we can’t help them, they will hire whoever can.

Diversify: This is nothing new. With tight economies, it is more important than ever. The good news is, there now seem to be pressure washing, street washing, and irrigation companies that can be rolled up for cheap in the worst of the drought areas.

Payroll opportunity: When the job market tightens, “the man” gets the advantage. If you are reading this magazine, likely you are “the man.” Many sweepers have been having to over-pay for staffing in economies when jobs were everywhere. The good news for owners in softer markets is that suddenly a job becomes a valuable commodity. Getting ahead of the curve with tough staffing decisions can increase the likelihood of contractor success.

Attitude: Look at challenges like these as something you will handle better than your competition, and this can be an exciting year. And if the Fed can somehow balance stimulating the economy without destroying the dollar (and sending oil thru the roof) and the macro economy in ‘08 is better than expected… it will still have been a good idea to implement these “silver lining” ideas.