What Top Contractors Are Talking About For 2023

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Last week at the Irrigation Show in Las Vegas, we partnered with Hunter and Irritech to host “Coffee With Contractors” which offered a special opportunity to network with other contractors and industry leaders over a cup of joe. 

Contractors and industry leaders from across the country came together to discuss the past year, the year ahead, and every major topic impacting the industry, today and in the future. With plenty of energized discussions, as well as, live polling data we thought it would be wrong to withhold such insights from the rest of the industry.

 

Looking Back at 2022

  • Rising Costs: Labor and parts and materials were the biggest culprits but rising costs - in the majority of business expenses - had a huge impact on everyone. The increases are starting to level off, but most attendees anticipate they will continue into the next year.
  • Raising Prices: Naturally, this increase caused the majority of contractors to raise their own prices in 2022, with some exceeding 20% or more.
  • Labor: For over a decade labor challenges have burdened the industry. And in 2022, labor costs and talent retention became an even bigger pain point for the vast majority of contractors - leading to competitors offering signing bonuses to steal talent, and different industries (e.g. construction) were also competing for the limited talent pool.

 

Looking Ahead to 2023

  • Economy: Uncertainty was the primary word folks used to describe the year ahead - uncertainty in the economy, parts/material pricing, availability of labor, etc.

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  • Raising Prices: The vast majority of contractors expect to continue raising their prices but expect to limit those increases to under 10%.

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  • Development: Employee training and development will be a focus, with the goal to retain talent by creating opportunities for personal growth and a clear career path.
  • Downturn: Anticipating slower install and build opportunities, contractors are proactively looking for additional and long-term revenue streams from their existing customer base. These included:
    • Working with their customers to create a multi-year 'must do' and 'should do' list - essentially mapping out work for the next few years.
    • Identifying customers with older installations, and encouraging them to update to new equipment or parts.

 

Additional Topics & Insights

Monitoring Service via Smart Controllers: 
  • The majority of contractors in attendance are offering monitoring services as a billable service. The target customers of this service tend to be commercial properties or residential properties that are vacation or second homes.
  • The biggest challenges in operating this service are:
    •  1) To identify the true issues from false alarms that occur when monitoring customers’ systems
    • 2) When an issue does arise, ensure the customer will be aware of the work needed and pay for the materials and services performed to resolve the issue.
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  • This service also provides contractors an opportunity to have regular touch bases with their customers. For example, by sending out automated monthly consumption reports, contractors can show their value more frequently and create a deeper relationship with their customers to maintain them for years to come.

Metrics: Revenue Reporting & Monitoring
  • Revenue and productivity by crew/technician were the most important metrics to the group in attendance, but it continues to be difficult to accurately calculate this information.
  • The next most important metrics focused on company revenue overall and average revenue per customer.

Labor Retention
While salary and bonuses were important factors in labor retention, employee surveys produced some other interesting ideas to maintain employees.

  • Flexible Work Weeks: allowing employees to work longer days for a four-day work week, especially in the non-busy months
  • Career Growth: providing education/training/certification opportunities, and building career paths
  • Better Benefits: vacation days, health coverage, retirement plans, etc.
  • Bonuses Through Reviews: encourage techs to have their customers submit reviews for good service; create a bonus program around this and get more public reviews for the company.
  • Importance Within the Organization: raise the visibility and importance of techs within the organization to make them feel more valued. Move them up in the hierarchy, give them creative titles (e.g. irrigation designer), etc.

 

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