Raised on a dairy farm, Matt Voss, developed a love of the outdoors from an early age. He started his experience as an entrepreneur by raising pigs as part of the Future Farmers of America program, which ultimately grew into a small business. Voss, who is the founder and owner of Bluegrass Landscaping & Maintenance in Bridgeton, Missouri, says that he attributes his strong work ethic to those days living the “country life” on a farm. He raised feeder pigs until he was 21 years old, when he moved to the St. Louis area to attend Bible School.
In an effort to pay bills for school, Voss began a small mowing service. He would get out of school around noon and mow six to seven lawns every day. This organically grew into a business that today services hundreds of commercial properties with 25 crews, as well as a Weed Man franchise with eight additional crews. Turf recently caught up with Voss to find out more about his strong work ethic and what he enjoys doing when he’s not at work.
I find no greater joy in life than my family. I also enjoy hunting and fishing, as well as athletics, and I have coached many of my children’s school sports teams.
I enjoy spending time with people. It energizes me to be a part of different groups. I serve as a board member for a Christian School and am very involved there.
I also love to travel and see new places. I try to pick a new vacation spot every time we take a yearly trip as a family.
Newcomers should know this is a great industry. My advice would be to get involved with leaders and influencers who can help you reach your goals. The green industry is very open and people are willing to provide you information if you put yourself out there. Get involved in leadership. Get out of the truck and start managing. As the quote goes: “What you measure gets managed and what you manage gets better.”
I enjoy a good steak at KiTARO Bistro of Japan in O’fallon, Missouri. I enjoy the show they put on, as well as a great meal.
My favorite aspect of the green industry is the opportunity to be outside daily. I love nature. Hard work also runs in my blood from the time I was an adolescent.
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As a Generation X kid, I remember my first pair of Bugle Boy jeans. The zipper pockets and elastic around the ankles made me pretty fly for a 1988 guy. Fast forward just a couple years, and I wouldn’t have been caught dead in those pants.
Imagine my surprise as I see some of my daughter’s male friends now walking around with similar new adaptations of this 80s fashion trend. What are next? Zoot suits? Jelly shoes?
I’m sure you have a similar story in mind. Trends come and go and resurface again, particularly when it comes to clothing. But when it comes to marketing a business in the lawn and landscape industry, that resurfacing rarely occurs. Trends die and become obsolete. This particularly holds true when it comes to websites.
Why websites must change
As a business owner, change is all around you. Product and equipment technologies, employment laws, tax regulations and countless other shifts have you and your team scrambling to stay current. The website seems just like one more item that eventually demands your attention. And after a quick glance, it can’t be that bad, right?
You think back when the company website was last touched and wonder if it’s time for a change. And, deep down, you’re concerned that when some people find your website, it isn’t exactly representing your brand as one that is progressively relevant to them. Plus, will your website make people want to do business with you above your many competitors?
The ever-flowing tide of web design trends goes well beyond visual taste. Smart devices are constantly changing along with consumer browsing and buying behavior. On top of that, online security continues to grow in importance. Change is imminent and must be dealt with in a timely fashion.
8 signs that it’s time
As a rule, if your website hasn’t been redesigned in four to five years, it’s definitely time. And as technology progresses, this window may get smaller and smaller.
Here are some of the telltale signs that these lawn care or landscaping websites needed not only a fresh, new look but that they weren’t accomplishing their intended purpose — generating leads that turn into sales.
1. Poor brand positioning. Let’s be honest: Almost everyone reading this article has their company positioned pretty much the same way. Change the company name, colors and logo and many green industry websites could be easily mistaken for one another.
“We are dedicated to quality.” “We do these services.” “Here are the awards we’ve won.” These are just some examples. While those items should be reflected somewhere in your marketing, they aren’t unique. Plus, they’re company-focused, not about your customer.
If you haven’t taken the time to define specifically what makes you different than your competitors and your website isn’t clearly communicating that in a concise way, it’s time for some major changes before you begin to implement a new web design.
2. Not having a responsive design. About 40 to 60 percent of your website’s traffic comes from a mobile device. Smartphones comprise most of this segment, with tablets filling in another portion. If you open your website on those devices and it isn’t easily viewed, not only will it hurt your placement in internet search results, but it will make for a bad user experience and prospective customers will go elsewhere.
3. Unsecured connections. Search engines have begun to crack down on unsecured websites and filter them behind safe sites in results. Go to your website in a browser and look at the URL shown in the address bar. It should start with “https”, not merely “http.” The “s” indicates a secure connection.
4. Busy, confusing layouts. Simplicity is a mark of genius. Your website should be simple to navigate and there should be obvious paths that website visitors can take. They should also quickly know who you are, what you do and to whom you offer your services. It should be clean, offering just the right amount (not too little or too much) of easily digested content.
This can be hard to see if you’re too close to your company. Find a few savvy, straight-shooting business leaders in other industries. Ask them to share their candid thoughts on what it’s like to use your website.
5. Slow website speed. Websites that take too long to load are not only frustrating for prospective customers, but they get penalized by search engines. To evaluate your website’s speed, check out HubSpot’s website grader.
6. Poor search ranking. Your website should be ranking for dozens of local keyword phrases. These not only include the obvious terms like “landscaping [city name]”, but also should include many relevant longtail keyword terms like “how much does a patio cost in [city name].”
7. Inadequate content. Your website should leverage several types of content to compel a visitor to become a customer. It’s important that you use professional images and video, as well as informative, helpful written content throughout your website.
This content should be easy to find and should meet people in all stages of their buyer’s journey. From when they become aware of their need, to when they consider solutions and eventually decide which company to use, your website should be a valuable resource, not just a braggy, self-serving online brochure packed full of poor-quality images or stock images.
8. No clear conversion path. Even if your website has all the right elements above, it needs to call website visitors to action. What are they supposed to do? Is it obvious or are they left to hunt around through extensive navigation menus? What if they aren’t ready to contact you just yet? Is there something of value to them as they research your company as a service provider?
Is now the time?
Regardless of your intention or attitude on this matter, your company’s website will leave an impression. The question is: What will that impression be?
When someone visits your website, will your company appear outdated or progressive? Will your brand be braggy or helpful? Will this first interaction a prospect has with your organization be filled with confusion or confidence?
Even if they aren’t immersed in the world of modern website design, prospects see and feel the trends of today’s world. And if your company puts your website on the back burner, trying to get a few more years out of it, your prospects will quickly realize that something isn’t right and look elsewhere.
Open that metaphorical marketing closet and look at your website in front of a mirror. It may be embarrassing and tough. It’s going to take some work on your part, but facing the challenge head-on will show your prospective clients that using your company never goes out of style.
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As a result of their fast-paced growth over the past few years, employees at Landscape Details, headquartered in East Hampton, New York, were experiencing changes within their existing job roles. However, it quickly became clear that confusion was mounting as to the exact responsibilities of employees during this period of growth. Instead of taking the initiative to get tasks done, employees seemed to be constantly waiting on instructions, says Zachary T. Crawford, RLA, company principal. Crawford says that he and the owner found they were frequently spending time micromanaging employees during this period of growth in order to get things done. It was becoming a time drain and Crawford says they needed a change.
“It seemed that no one wanted to take ownership of certain processes or of project oversight,” recalls Crawford, adding that frustration was building all around. “There was a break-down in communication between our three main divisions. This was costing many hours of re-work or inefficiencies, which in turn, increased costs of jobs.”
Crawford says there was a need for clarity. The resolution came in the form of creating better-defined job descriptions that matched the company’s growth.
“My HR specialist and I have since rolled-out job descriptions to make sure that all managers know their exact roles, responsibilities, and the expectations of the company,” Crawford explains. “I met with each field manager in each of the three divisions to give them all their job descriptions. Many of them had not seen the job description since they were hired.”
Crawford says that each manager was given an opportunity to review their job description and even discuss alterations if needed. All managers then acknowledged and signed them. They were urged to take initiative to use the job description as a guide to carry out their role. Crawford says it has had a dramatic impact on communication.
“Managers now feel more empowered and more secure in their jobs,” he says. “Each of them kept a copy of their job description to help guide them. I also feel better because the company expectations were communicated to the managers, so their actions will be more aligned with the company goals.”
A 30-day review had also been scheduled to measure the success of this job description implementation and at press time Crawford was in the process of going through them. He says that all-in-all the job description roll-out has been a success and that it has decreased the need for micromanagement. Employees now have a lot more confidence in exactly what they’re meant to do.
Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them. Discuss your biggest business challenges on LawnSite’s Business Management forum.
The post Like A Boss: Creating Clarity With Job Descriptions appeared first on Turf.
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Like what you see? This interactive walkthrough of our Richmond Grove Design is just a taste of the dream homes Kitome can provide. We have an extensive range of designs to choose from, all of which are completely customisable. Browse through our selection today and find the home that is meant for you.
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Want to keep up with the latest news in lawn care and landscaping? Check back every Thursday for a quick recap of recent happenings in the green industry.
TruGreen Ranks 10th on List of Happiest Companies in America in 2018
Bayer Appoints Burgess Perry to Head of Marketing for Environmental Science North America
Davey Tree Promotes Larry Events And Joe Tommasi
Briggs & Stratton acquires assets of Ground Logic
New Holland Updates Warranty On Skid and Track Loaders
CAT Introduces Its First Inverter Generator
The post TruGreen Ranks On List Of Happiest Companies In America: This Week’s Industry News appeared first on Turf.
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As I write this, the snow industry is entering yet another winter season. Weather predictions run the gamut. I get people calling and asking what I think will happen this winter, as if they believe I’m the great prognosticator of weather events to come. Sadly, that is not my forte and I’d be guessing, just like all others, if I made a prediction. So, I stay away from what the weather is going to be like.
I hear from many around this great country about the woes, problems and challenges facing snow contractors for the upcoming winter. One issue that is definitely a constant in all parts of the snow world, is labor. The economy is picking up. Whatever the government policies are, they are affecting the labor force. With the uptick in the economy, more folks are finding gainful employment. This good fortune for the economy is creating challenges within the snow and ice management industry that is something bothersome to all who fight the elements each winter.
I am happy about the economic conditions as I too am benefiting from the apparent successful rebound in the economy. I too have felt the effects of the past half-decade of stagnation we have all witnessed. I too have looked at what my underperforming IRA and 401K has suffered through these past several years, bemoaning the anemic economic times that brought this stagnation to the forefront of the minds of those of us who now see thoughts of retirement creeping into our conversations. And, I too have relished the fact that the steamrolling Dow Jones Industrial is raising the positive outlook looking toward the last quarter of my existence on this earth.
However, there is a downside to all this. I am hearing, almost daily, about the challenges that most every snow contractor is experiencing with regards to obtaining labor to clear sidewalks and even to operate equipment used in our service offering. Talk has turned to: “How can I mechanize clearing walks instead of relying on hand labor?” This is a philosophy I wholeheartedly endorse. Companies that build equipment for sidewalk snow and ice management are adding manufacturing space, trying to keep up with demand and working to ship units as fast as they come off the line.
At Snowfighters Institute, we normally have the latest and greatest products sitting at our facility for attendees at our events to get their hands on, play with, drive and generally check out what is available. Not this year. Nothing. No Arctics, no Ventracs, no liquid-distribution equipment. It wasn’t from a lack of trying, or from our sponsors not wanting to display their wares. It was because nothing was available to sit offline in Erie, Pennsylvania for 14 weeks. The demand for these products is incredibly high at the moment. Obviously, this is good for those building and selling such equipment. But, many a contractor is going to be disappointed when they go to place an order for multiple units at upward of $45,000 each. There simply are not enough to go around.
Supply versus demand will likely provide opportunities for those who are developing new equipment to solve the labor shortage that will permeate the conversation in many snow contractors’ offices this fall. I have witnessed this myself as I sit in on discussions about: “How are we going to entice or draw in sidewalk crew members this winter?” Upping the pay scale is not necessarily the answer. If labor is simply not available, or if no one is looking for work, any incentive will fall short in the quest for necessary labor.
I don’t have the answer, but I am seeing/hearing the negative effects of the economic boom as it pertains to those of us who pay attention to the snow and ice management industry. The bottom line, from my viewpoint is – you’re not alone. Other contractors and entire industries are fighting for workers. I understand this will not come as a surprise to many, but it is the new reality for what looks like a few more years, and that is something I feel comfortable predicting.
Visit PlowSite.com for more forums on equipment, business management and technical information. Join the conversation in the largest community of snow and ice business professionals.
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Want to stay ahead of workplace trends in order to adapt and continue to find ways to recruit, hire and retain good people? Gallup has been studying the American workplace for decades, and the organization’s recent research uncovered three disruptive workplace trends landscape professionals should stay ahead of as a way to incorporate innovative strategies sooner rather than later.
1. The AI revolution is here, and business owners are unprepared for its impact on employee engagement.
A significant proportion of total U.S. employment is in the high-risk category of being replaced by automation such as that produced by robots, according to “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization?” Frey and Osborne calculated the probability of computerization for 702 detailed occupations. According to Gallup, nearly four in 10 millennials are at high risk of having their job replaced by automation, compared with 32% of those in the two older generations.
To fight negativity from employees based on this worry, business owners should communicate about and plan for the AI revolution as it relates to employees. By understanding employees’ needs and demonstrating how AI can assist employees, companies can improve employee engagement and amplify workers’ performance.
2. Millennials now represent the largest generation in the U.S. workforce — and many don’t stay with their companies for the long term.
For many employers, millennials now outnumber employees from the Generation X and baby boomer generations. While they have a lot to offer, including more diversity, tech savviness and a fresh perspective, the trick is getting them to stay with your company.
Gallup research reveals that 21 percent of millennials (more than three times the number of non-millennials) switched jobs in the last year. Gallup also found that only half of millennials strongly agree that they plan to be working at their current company in one year.
The trouble is in employee engagement – only 29 percent of millennials are engaged at work. One major contributor to this is poor or absent professional and career development. Nearly six in 10 millennials compared with only four in 10 Gen Xers and baby boomers say opportunities to learn and grow are “extremely important” to them when applying for a job.
3. Baby boomers are postponing retirement, and millennials are getting married and having children later in life, making workplace planning and forecasting increasingly vital.
As baby boomers move past retirement age, many are staying in the workforce longer than prior generations did. Rather than simply reacting to these changes, high-performing companies use workforce analytics and forecasting to enhance their workforce-planning strategies.
While most organizations continue to talk about the workforce of the future, the best ones are already predicting what’s coming and are building the analytics and capabilities to prepare for it.
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Joe Monello is not a man to rest on his laurels. The owner of Wayne, New Jersey-based Monello Landscape Industries LLC has some pretty good commercial clients, but he’s not taking them for granted.
One of his best is CareOne, a company that owns more than 70 acute nursing and assisted living facilities in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. Monello Landscape not only does maintenance for CareOne facilities, but also renovates several of its landscapes each year. Last year the company renovated 11 such facilities.
Monello admits that the renovation work always includes certain elements, such as an outdoor kitchen and entertainment area, a water feature, shade structures and plenty of seating. However, new for 2016 were a couple new landscape additions: a second, large water feature near each facility’s front entrance, and a sensory garden.
The two companies first gave them a try at CareOne at Hamilton Assisted Living in Hamilton, New Jersey, and the combination was enough to help Monello earn an honorable mention from HNA in the Combination of Hardscape Products Commercial – less than 20,000 sf category at the 2017 Hardscape North America tradeshow.
And, the award came despite the challenge of Monello’s crew having to crane everything in and out of the enclosed courtyard.
“This one was approximately 30 feet by 40 feet,” Monello says. “Some of them are smaller, and some are much bigger. However, there was no access through the building. We had to crane in excavators, bobcats, all our materials and when we took out the existing trees and concrete, we craned them back out in big Super Sack containers.”
The major component on these projects is pavers, and Monello says the largest part of the Hamilton project utilized a Techo-Bloc product called Blu 60 mm slate walkway pavers.
“We only use Techo-Bloc smooth surface for wheelchair users,” he says. “We use different colored smooth pavers in the seating areas to give those areas an inlay-look for contrast and contour. There’s also a border material called Villagio that we use for the edging that gives a nice finished look and defines areas.”
As part of the paver work, Monello always installs the CareOne logo in a different color.
The seat walls were built from another Techo-Bloc product: Mini-creta. Other stone products making their appearance in this project include an EP Henry veneer over concrete block for the outdoor kitchen and seating bar, and plenty of black granite for the kitchen countertops and bistro tables.
“We used a leather-finish black granite, so you have some coarseness to it; it’s not a smooth texture,” Monello explains. “It’s also a texture that’s good for outdoor use because plates and glasses don’t slide off easily.”
Other primary features in Monello Landscape’s projects for CareOne include at least one water feature in the courtyard, and pergolas for shade.
“Many of the courtyards have two,” Monello says of the water feature. “This has just one, but it’s a four-foot tall bubbling urn.”
As for the use of pergolas for shade, Monello says they’re an alternative to putting in large trees. Along with the pergolas, the company supplies sun-protective mesh tarps that are custom-made and snap on and off. Because Monello Landscaping is responsible for the maintenance, they’re put on in the spring and taken off again in the fall.
“We do foundation plantings where we use a lot of perennials,” he says. “We like to use a lot of colorful plants. We never put in shade trees because the leaves can be problematic for maintenance, and then there are the roots and the possibility they’ll outgrow the area. We use ornamental trees that top out at 15-20 feet.”
He cites Crepe myrtles as a good example of the tree palette.
And, then, there’s the sensory garden. Monello explains that CareOne had begun outsourcing people to come in and teach residents about different plants, “and we just took it to the next level and designed these courtyards to have sensory gardens built into them.”
The idea behind a sensory garden is to stimulate all the senses and, in this type of facility, to be wheelchair accessible, as well. By building up the garden area using the mini-creta product the residents will be able to do their own gardens.
“We’re now developing a program where we’re going to be teaching the residents about the sensory garden plants,” Monello says. “We’ll help them plant them and learn about the different types of plants and why they’re in a sensory garden.”
Because this is an enclosed courtyard, drainage and irrigation were also important components. Monello says the job required putting in new systems, although the company was able to tap into the existing drainage system.
“We typically use center drains with 6-inch iron grates,” he says. “These are custom-made grates shaped like leaves.”
While Monello Landscape was rebuilding the interior courtyard, the company was also giving a facelift to the area around the facility’s front door. The highlight of that work: a large water feature incorporating both boulders and plantings that is Monello’s favorite part of the project.
“It’s the first of its kind,” he says. “Now it’s a standard with the organization. We call it ‘curb appeal’ and it’s become something of a hallmark for the organization. When you’re out driving, you know it’s a CareOne site because of the water feature. They’re a great eye-catcher.”
The rest of the exterior work includes plantings, sodding, irrigation and lighting. Monello says his company did a lot with lighting, both in the courtyard and on the exterior, and it’s a company specialty.
The front of the building features a mix of up-lighting and downlighting, as well as path-lighting for pedestrians. And, the water feature is extensively lit with various kinds of lighting, including some submersed in the water itself.
“Inside the courtyard, we used probably another 50 lights,” Monello says. “There’s downlighting and up-lighting on the pergolas, lighting in the kitchen, and plenty of lip lighting in all the walls. We love the way it looks under the coping.”
Not surprisingly, the use of the crane offered the greatest challenge with the job, and the greatest learning opportunity.
“This wasn’t our first crane job — and, we’ve done about six this year — but we learned that every swing of the crane needs to have an element coming in, and every swing has to have an element coming back out,” he says. “We learned how to be efficient in using the crane because it’s so expensive. There’s a lot of thought that has to go into it.”
And, perhaps more so because Monello Landscape always has a 60-day completion schedule on its CareOne jobs — crane or no crane. To meet those deadlines, Monello says the crews on a project can vary widely.
Not surprisingly, he’s also very proud of this job, and not just for the award.
“I’m proud of the use the residents get from the courtyard,” he concludes. “They love it and use it. I love that their families have a place to go and gather, and I love the aesthetics of it all.”
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Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights
French Quarter Post Mount
The French Quarter Post Mount can be used with either of Bevolo’s post options, and it also can be used to fit an existing post or column. This light is available in natural gas, liquid propane and electric.
Radiance Multi-Function Light
The Radiance Multi-Function Light can be mounted on any solid vertical surface — brick walls, decks, steps and more. The light is principally used for uplighting, downlighting and as a wall light. It comes in seven color options, is waterproof and offers warm, white light with a 120-degree beam radius.
C- Series 120V-277V LED Accent Lights
The C- Series 120V-277V LED Accent Lights are part of the new commercial outdoor lighting line from KIchler. They come in large and small sizes with 3-beam spread available. The integrated cowl cuts glare at the source and highlight key architectural areas and doorways or illuminate signage. The fixtures are also rated for wet locations.
StarLites Solar LED
The new StarLites Solar LED Lighting are available in four shapes and sizes in a warm, white light color. Cool white, red, green, blue and yellow light colors are also available by special order. The lights can be installed into new or existing patios, walkways and driveways.
The new Endicott fixtures feature a Craftsman-inspired silhouette. The outdoor lanterns have an elongated frame with clear, seeded glass and black finish. It is wall-mounted and uses a medium base, 100-watt bulb.
The RB30 Bollard from Philips has a durable construction that protects against moisture, dust and insects. The path light features 5-inch post burial pole for large commercial applications. It is a line voltage luminaire with a clear molded glass lens and is available in black and bronze.
The new Coachman LED Path & Area Light is a low-voltage estate- sized coach light that stands 62 inches tall. It features a realistic LED bi-pin candle and an LED bulb hidden under the lantern. The 12- volt light is dark-sky friendly and produces neither light pollution nor light trespass.
Gate LED Bollard
The Gate LED Bollard from WAC Lighting is IP66 rated with a detachable back plate for lighting control to illuminate pathways or a fuller area without the back plate. The fixture is 27 inches tall and 3 by 3 inches wide. It is rated for a life of 60,000 hours and comes in two color temperatures: warm white or pure white.
Have a new product? Submit entries using our Product Form for Turf, Turf Design Build and PLOW, a supplement to Turf.
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At the beginning of this year, did you start off with a clean slate? The idea was to examine your business — taking a hard look at what wasn’t working — and try to address those issues and learn from them as the year progresses.
Did you complete this task?
If not, here’s another chance.
According to an article on Forbes.com called “4 Year-End Evaluations For Your Business,” there are a handful of items you can examine now to start 2018 off on the right foot. Take a few minutes during this time of year, when the day-to-day work is probably lighter, to examine the following:
What did you achieve this year? According to Forbes, while not all successes may have meant more money in the bank, they are still important. “Take the time to revisit these triumphs, and make sure to share this list with your co-workers and staff.”
What challenges did you overcome this year that were unexpected? Perhaps an employee with a major role at your company left for another job. Or maybe you experienced a devastating theft of equipment. Whatever surprises threw you for a loop this year, take a look at how you recovered and evaluate what measures you can put in place to prevent being shocked in the future. As the Forbes article reminds us, “…no matter the impact, you now have more experience under your belt and can be better prepared for the future.”
Can you learn from another company’s missteps? A lot of times we compare ourselves to other people’s best. We see how many contracts they have, the number of employees they have on their team or we make conclusions based on the fancy car they drive. As the popular saying goes, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” But on the flip side, learning from another company’s mistakes can be a valuable educational tool. “Examine the practices of other businesses and brainstorm ways they could improve,” the Forbes articles says. “Then apply these changes to your own business.”
Are you putting customer service first? This may be the most crucial part of your end-of-year evaluation because how you treat your customers directly affects your bottom line. Forbes suggests identifying wins and losses in this area. Did you remedy all customer complaints in 2017? What lessons can you learn from your customer service successes and failures?
There’s undoubtedly other areas for you to examine as the year winds down, but these questions will help you dig deeper into where your company has been in 2017 and where you want it to go in 2018. We all have room for improvement – from our relationships with clients to our training and treatment of employees. And don’t forget your own education – how are you keeping up with design trends and new materials coming on the market? Making a list of all of these improvement areas, both personal and company-wide, can give you a map to follow for the new year.
No question that when you do an end-of-year evaluation, revenue will play a large part in that puzzle. Here are a few questions to help you out, from Quickbooks:
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Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.