Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company.

Before spring services set in, we all look forward to catching our breath after a long and busy season and taking some time off to recharge your batteries. That is definitely needed and well-deserved. For those of you in the northern parts of the country, this is truly the slow time of the year – except for the occasional snow event. You can deal with the slow time of the year in one of two ways:

Way #1: Put your business on autopilot and coast from now until it is time to start gearing up for your spring rush.

Way #2: Develop and then attack your “Winter Checklist.” We suggest you follow Way #2! Here’s the start of a good winter checklist:


  • Hold a strategic planning session to forecast out three or five years to determine where your company is headed. 
  • Establish an operational plan to map out how you will be doing business in 2020. 
  • Create a rolling budget for 2020 and then spread it over 12 months. 
  • Assign team members to oversee each line item on the budget to make sure you are meeting budgetary goals and not over-spending. 
  • Establish an on-boarding program so you are ready to greet and bring on new employees in the spring.


  • Check tool complements for each crew. 
  • Order missing tools. 
  • Set up a tool tracking program for each of your crews to create accountability. 
  • Assess your large equipment (review hours, condition, etc.) against your budget for the upcoming year. 
  • Create a “wish list” of all equipment that you would like to buy. Assess your capital expenditure budget to see what you can afford to purchase. 
  • Explore equipment leasing programs to see if they will work for your company. 
  • Perform preventive maintenance on all equipment. 
  • Build relationships with several equipment dealers to set up a long-term equipment purchasing plan. 
  • Review production labor needs against your budget for direct labor hours. 
  • Establish a recruiting and hiring plan to attract the labor you will need. 
  • Investigate the H-2B program or update your paperwork for labor needs if already part of the H-2B program. 
  • Establish a safety program if you have not already created one. 
  • Assign a champion to head the program and perform safety training.

Sales and Marketing: 

  • Review sales goals for the upcoming year against your budget. 
  • Review or establish a sales pipeline report. 
  • Assign winter sales goals for each salesperson and consider some rewards for meeting or exceeding those goals. 
  • Assess your sales team and perform year-end performance reviews. 
  • Review/set up/budget for your marketing plan for 2020. 
  • Contact your existing and past clients. Offer to walk the property with the clients. 
  • Perform an analysis of all of the key properties that you maintain. Suggest enhancements for these properties in a bound presentation package separated into primary, secondary and tertiary areas. This will serve as a great budgeting tool for the property manager that you are working with. 
  • Follow up on Phase II and Phase III of design/build projects. Have budget numbers ready to show clients. 
  • Consider reduced price incentives for work that can be performed in early spring (i.e. construction work, large trees, etc.)

This is a short list of what I consider the most important things to accomplish during slower times of the year. I know that there are many more points that we could add to the checklist. I challenge all of you to create your own list that addresses your company’s most critical needs. I invite you to send me additional points to add to the list and make it a working document.

Please be sure to send me what you consider the most critical items at

I will accumulate all of your responses and send out an updated checklist by the end of the year to all of you that responded to me.

Contact Jud Griggs at