I am old, I am not wise….but I am old.
Being old gives you many things including aching knees, a dodgy back and hair in places that shouldn’t really be sprouting hair. It also gives you some insight as to how the world works – I think this may be called … ‘experience’…
Let me give you some of this knowledge that I have gleaned.
When I was in the sixth form at school looking for a subject to study at University my stance was finding something that would be in demand. Something that nobody else was doing that would be rare and unusual and therefore guarantee me getting a good job. My brother was training to be a town planner and he suggested that there was a shortage of landscape architects …sounded good to me – so this was my choice.
Unfortunately, everybody else was also aware of the shortage in this area of design, so by the time I had qualified …there was a glut of landscape architects and 20 applicants for every job going… 🙁
Hmmm – I needed to be different. I needed an angle???
Design and Build – this could be the answer.
So, I set up a Design and Build practice providing a service whereby we would provide design drawings, liaise with planners then (once approved) actually build the desired project – all for a fixed price lump sum fee.
This worked well for several years – I had a great business and a niche market that few others could compete with. Then the market suddenly became aware of how successful we were being and others started to offer the ‘same’ service.
The problem was that they weren’t ‘the same’ and were basically offering a cheap, cut price version of what we were doing.
I clearly remember losing a major project over a central avenue of trees. Trees are trees – right?? Well no, actually trees come in a multitude of sizes and a huge range of cost. you can buy a tree that is 300mm high, you can buy a tree that is 600mm high….or …you can buy a tree that is semi-mature and has a huge root ball 6 feet across.
My particular client wanted an impressive avenue of trees to the entrance of his new development so we priced the works on semi-mature fastigiate hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘fastigiata’). All good – but – then I received a fax (it was a few years ago) saying we had been replaced on the project due to cost savings offered by others.
To cut a long boring story short – we had been usurped by a company offering what they called ‘semi mature trees’ – which were in fact ‘heavy standard’ – half the size (and half the price) of what we had promised our client… and nothing like the impressive entrance that he wanted.
He did ring us some time after the opening and apologised saying that he had been duped.
After trying to continue in the Design and Build market I realised that the ‘cheaper’ end of the market was winning all the work.
Hmmmm need new business idea, need to be different, need a new angle???
Whilst working as Landscape architect I had been coming across invasive non-native species and had realised that there was an opportunity for a specialist company in this field so went about setting up Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd and Invasive Weed Solutions Ltd.
Again, we have had some fifteen years of successful trading …but…am getting the same vibe that I got when running the design and build practice…we are losing work to con-artists again …and there’s nothing I can do about.
I know how much you need to pay a man to give him a living wage – and i know how much materials cost. So how can competitors be undercutting our prices by such significant margins?? It can only be by cutting corners and not providing the service that they have obligated to provide….
My ‘experience’ tells me not to get into a panic, not to reduce my prices – just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Common sense tells me that companies working for less than cost – simply cannot be in business for long …
So, this is the circle of life that ‘experience’ has provided me with.
Get new business idea.
New business idea flourishes.
New business idea is copied.
New competition within new business idea drives prices down.
New business idea becomes less profitable.
Start new business idea…