Landscaping Owners & Experts Discuss Recession Fears

Landscaping business owners & consultants discuss the labor shortage and its implications for 2023 + how a recession might impact the industry.

Danielle Riha
February 1, 2023

Continuing on our conversation on recession concerns and their impact on the labor shortage, green industry business owners and consultants shared some insights specific to the landscaping industry.

On the Likelihood of A Recession & How to Prepare:

We are overdue for a correction that was expected in 2020. Interest rates will continue to rise until the economy cools off (possibly starting to do so now). Smart employers will be seeking their best options for a pivot now. If demand softens in landscaping design and build in 2023 for a couple of years, it's best to have less debt, more maintenance or other recurring revenue type work and the ability to re-deploy employees rather than losing them.

— Alison Hoffman, The Harvest Group

We are lucky enough to work in the fairly recession-resistant Horticulture Industry that, traditionally, has only seen a decline in large landscape/hardscape installations during economic downturns. Thus, we are not overly concerned about the likelihood of a recession.
Employers continue to bolster their customer-facing teams with additional talent while being a bit more cautious when planning increased production facilities and hiring additional production teams.  Through the pandemic, many companies built out supply chain teams which we believe will be beneficial in customer retention as budgets tighten throughout the economy.

— Ben Molenda, Best Human Capital & Advisory Group

I believe the likelihood of recession this time around is less than the fear of a potential recession due to a 24 hr news feed pushing the topic. We will continue to keep our “ear to the street” with upstream real estate development professionals, but as it currently stands we concentrate on transparency with our staff and will push a collective effort towards client retention.

— Loren McIrvin, Allied Landscape

Find new ways to offer perks and incentive programs. During economic downturns, people often look to cut out non-essential expenses like gym memberships, and going out to eat. Are there ways you can offer gift cards or vouchers for these items? Are there monetary incentive programs that are based on annual performance? These could go a long way to creating an employment relationship that goes beyond the next week's paycheck.

— Chad Diller, Landscape Leadership

On the Labor Shortage & Its Implications for 2023:

According to LinkedIn's Ultimate List of Employer Brand Statistics, 75% of job seekers research companies before applying for a job. Green industry companies struggle with recruiting because they have a weak employer brand that offers little to no differentiations from other home services providers in their market. They're all saying the same things and there is too much uncertainty behind the curtain. Recruits have no idea if they're applying to work for a true "winner" or just another landscaper.

Companies will continue to compete on wage alone unless they do three things:

  1. Show a superior positive company culture.
  2. Clearly position their company with a strong and unique identity in their market.
  3. Effectively market their employer brand.

— Chad Diller, Landscape Leadership

The labor shortage will continue into 2023. The best employers are companies that are growing, creating new opportunities for workers, invested in careers for their employees, and providing a culture of quality, teamwork and respect that embraces the many benefits of the green industry. I do think the best people will continue to be poached from the best companies and to prevent that, long term incentive plans will become prevalent for both the existing managers and contributors, as well as the "bench".

— Alison Hoffman, The Harvest Group

We expect labor shortages, but we will continue to hire to our core values. We will advertise and recruit with clear career paths and formalized training in a multicultural, friendly work environment. Our culture and employee referral program has allowed us to recruit informally with a 15% growth rate.

— Loren McIrvin, Allied Landscape

From what we’ve been seeing, it's unlikely that the labor shortage will ease up in 2023. In fact, it's likely to continue to be a candidate's market, with more job openings than there are qualified candidates to fill them. This presents a significant challenge for employers, who will need to get creative in order to attract and retain top talent.

— Scott & Kati Molchan, Million Dollar Landscaper

In 2023, it will likely still be a candidate's market despite more job openings, especially for frontline employees.

— Jack Jostes, Ramblin Jackson

For more on this topic, see what the rest of our partners had to say about current recession fears, or see how things are looking for the construction industry.

Recession Readiness for the Green Industry: Proactively Preparing Your Business

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