The Consultant - 2016 - (Page 44)

OPINION Will Small Firms Have to SPECIALIZE TO SURVIVE? Editor's Note: Two ACF members were given the task of taking a position on the following statement made by Meredith Low, ACF's strategic planning consultant. I expected one would support the statement and the other oppose it. Well, what I ended up with was either two consultants with somewhat similar views or the wrong question. In any event, a lot of thought went in to their responses, and I hope it sparks more discussion on the future of smaller firms and how they can continue to be successful. "The industry seems to be entering an era in which successful, profitable businesses will either grow to a scale where they can hire in individuals with the specialized skills, or will remain small-but specialize. Larger firms will be able to hire in both foresters and others (forestry technicians, wildlife biologists, technology specialists, etc.) to fulfill particular niches. Both of these models imply the ability to price beyond a commodity level, which helps with profitability. However, this landscape suggests that smaller generalist businesses will find the next decade difficult, especially if they find client management a challenge." HAROLD BURNETT, ACF I've been employed by and/or run my forestry consulting business in Maine since 1988. It stimulates me, enables me to be creative, helps keep me fit and demonstrates what I think are good forest management practices. Fortunately, and not insignificantly, I also love this business and the pride that it instills. In addition, Two Trees Forestry pays my health insurance; funds my retirement account; and keeps my family, banker, and grocer satisfied. However, I still feel compensated below what I believe the long hours deserve. For example, in 2014, I worked on over 130 projects with a median gross income of $600. After 27 years of this, I'm beginning to tire of this pace. So the particular challenges to success, as mentioned in ACF's consultant's report, that face sole/small consulting firms continue to interest and motivate me, and in one case made me laugh. 44 ACF's expert's analysis of the business environment for consulting forestry includes this gem "...this landscape suggests that smaller generalist businesses will find the next decade difficult, especially if they find client management a challenge." ESPECIALLY? I don't see how anyone can begin to succeed in consulting if they can't woo, serve and benefit clients. In my world, I am first and foremost a service provider-the forestry work is often secondary. Clients will become disgruntled much more quickly when their phone calls are returned late than if one tree is marked to be cut rather than another. But back to our conversation about future business success: I assume that my business is similar to many other small firms. We market ourselves with ads in landowner's publications, our website, favorable client comments and numerous woodlot tours. During the last five years, Two Trees has generated 52 percent of its income from timber sales, 32 percent from management planning, and 16 percent from miscellaneous consulting and assorted contracts. Generally our margins are highest with timber sales and consulting but low for management planning. We even lose money writing some plans when the property or client requires more work than we'd anticipated. However, I can't run my business THE CONSULTANT 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Consultant - 2016

From the Executive Director: The Elephant in the Room
From the President ACF – We Join You
Member Profile: Keville Larson, Renaissance Forester
The Value of a Consulting Forester
Fracking and the Landowner
Two Weeks at the Gates of Hell
If It Walks Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck…
Proposed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Regulations from the FAA
Cross-Border Trade Disputes Heat Up
Will Small Firms Have to Specialize to Survive?
The Cradle of Forestry
Products & Services Buyers’ Guide
Index of Advertisers
A Call to Order

The Consultant - 2016