Keeping your staff happy in the workplace is key to improving your chances of surviving or even thriving in economic turmoil, a leading landscape designer has said.
James Steele-Sargent will tell the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL), which he used to chair, that improving staff harmony can bump up the profits of garden design and build businesses.
Steele-Sargent, one of several speakers at an APL conference next month, said: "A key to improving profits when times are hard and prices are being squeezed down is through staff harmony, which works for me."
The managing director of Arun Landscapes in Arundel added: "Creating harmony in teams enables them to look after themselves like 'microcompanies' and also look after each other, the company and customers."
Ways of boosting morale include giving more responsibility with pre-ordering materials, cutting back on middle management and holding more meetings to foster transparency, said Steele-Sargent. This could help squeeze an extra 20 per cent of turnover, he added.
"It has saved tens of thousands of pounds on wasted time and materials," he said. "I could not have gone from a £200,000 business to over £1m in 10 years without the team on board. We do not have a hefty ingrained management structure with more overheads."
IT Genetics managing director Paul Hogden will tell the networking seminar on marketing and profitability on 17 October how the smart use of social networking can maximise returns.
"There's a misconception that social media is a toy," he said. "Businesses tend to take a scattergun approach, which tends to mean it is used infrequently or firms engage too many social media platforms. Others use it to aggressively sell services."
Hogden added that a better approach is to use between six and 10 platforms such as Facebook and Twitter - ones potential clients are most likely to use - and integrate them together so each one points to the other to create a single message.
"One of the biggest issues is companies using social media as a sales platform. The key is to give friendly advice that may not lead to a sale. But as long as what you say is interesting and relevant, they are likely to return when they need something."
Landscape conference Seminar speakers
Mandy Buckland, Greencube Garden & Landscape Design - Building Trust Between Designers & Contractors
Paul Hogden, IT Genetics - Effective Use of Social Media to Boost Business Returns
Rod Winrow, Garden House Design - Honing Services to Stand Out From the Crowd
James Steele-Sargent, Arun Landscapes - Streamlining Core Businesses to Boost Profit
The seminars are open to Association of Professional Landscapers members and non-members. For details, see www.the-hta.org.uk/calendar.