Travels with Jim follows Jim Huston around the country as he visits with landscapers and helps them understand their numbers to make smarter decisions.

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I was looking forward to the 700-mile drive from Idaho Falls, Idaho, to Reno, Nevada. It was mid-April and my four-month winter consulting run was coming to a close. The early spring drive would do me good and allow me to decompress a little.

In between audio books, I listened to Sirius/XM radio and Kenny Rogers’ 1978 hit song, “The Gambler” came on. In it, he sings about an aged, veteran gambler offering advice to a young novice. “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser,” he sings. The key is “knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.” Hence, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em.”

Not all benchmarks are created equal. Objective, analytical ones you measure with a calculator. Intuitive ones you measure with your gut. Your profit and loss (P&L) statement provides you with plenty of data that you can analyze. Your psyche or spirit tells you if you’re under a lot of stress. It tells you whether you’re enjoying your career or not.

The intuitive benchmark for all of us to attain is to flourish in all areas of our lives. You don’t need a calculator to tell you that you’re depressed, lacking hope or despondent. These are first-hand benchmarks. You know them from direct experience.

Stress across the board.

A young landscape contractor on the West Coast was overwhelmed. Money was tight. Labor was almost impossible to find. Tension at home with the wife and kids was high. His gut was trying to tell him that he was confused and needed encouragement and direction.

“The intuitive benchmark for all of us to attain is to flourish in all areas of our lives.”

A mid-life landscape entrepreneur on the East Coast was having trouble wrapping his head around his business. It had always been a struggle but a divorce and a very sick child made things almost impossible. He was overwhelmed and losing hope. His gut was trying to tell him that he needed help for both himself and his son.

A 65-year-old green industry contractor in the Midwest had done well but a couple of accidents and the stress of a heavy workload were taking their toll. He knew he only had, at most, a couple of years left, if he could hang on. He needed to exit his business but his options were few. His gut was trying to tell him that he needed creative options, and fast.

Go beyond the numbers.

The gambler adds that you have to, “Know when to walk away and know when to run.” I’m not saying that the three men mentioned above need to walk away from their businesses or run away from their challenges. However, they need to pay attention to not only the analytical indicators (benchmarks) in their businesses, but also the intuitive indicators in their lives. They need to get creative and think outside of the box. See these signs for what they are – indicators of something more.

I’ve worked with thousands of green industry entrepreneurs these last 30 years. The ones who flourish learn to use not only the analytical data in their businesses but they also learn how to pay attention to their intuitive data, so to speak. They monitor both their critical numbers and their gut.

Every green industry business can be a winner. And every green industry business can be a loser. It’s how you play the hand that you’re dealt that’s important.

If you seek out advice from wise counselors throughout the green industry and pay attention to both your internal and external benchmarks, the chances that you and your business will be winners will be greatly enhanced.

However, if you refuse to learn and refuse to pay attention to the indicators all around you, your chances of being successful will be significantly diminished. And that’s a gamble you can’t afford to take.

Jim Huston runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm.