You have heard the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, but fewer have heard that a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures.
Back in 2010 I wrote a column using the apple orchard metaphor to help communicate what we saw in the remodeling industry after the 2008 crash and what we might see in the future.
Times of Abundance
I am now dusting off this metaphor, and writing another chapter more than 10 years later.
The remodeling industry and apple orchard metaphor begins with apple seeds back in the 70s and 80s, but I begin my story in 2004-2005. At that time, the orchard was bearing an abundant amount of fruit. There were so many apples that they were falling, rather than needing to be picked. You could grab a basket and scoop these apples off the ground (even though some had bruises and worms). It was easy, and as a result, many got lazy.
Then, the weather began to change in 2007, and in some areas of the country, we began to see drought conditions. By 2008, that weather became the storm of the century. We hit a wall during the crash, and those apples were no longer easy pickings.
A Challenged Orchard
The better companies knew they needed to invest in new techniques and training to reach the apples that were up higher. They needed a team approach with climbers in the trees and receivers on the ground. While the fruit supply was limited, the orchard continued to give results.
As we moved out of this time and into 2010, we began to see the fruit slowly return and new competitors leveraging technologies for additional data and efficiency. Marketing became as important as producing for success. People development and training became a priority.
Then, the pandemic hit in 2020. The orchard was attacked. The owners had never seen anything like this, and the new storm shut down operations. Fear became the driving factor over logic. Would the trees die off? When would they return? No one predicted abundance at this time.
I remember in spring 2020, I predicted that about 25% of remodelers would not make it through this—I was wrong. Because of the nature of the apple orchard business, it not only came back fast, it also became the poster child industry.
The home became the favorite fruit. Trying different varieties of apples became a priority. The government stepped in to provide orchard business subsidies to allow them to keep the doors open and invest in new training and technology.
The sun came out and allowed trees to come back even stronger. Businesses began to see record levels of orders, but at the same time backlogs began to grow. The supplies necessary to grow and harvest the fruit were challenged. Getting the orders became secondary to delivering the fruit to market and seeing the financial returns in the business.
While the phones were ringing, and orders were flowing in, the profits for many have been disappointing.
This brings us to today. I use the metaphor not to be cute but to convey a message.
The apple industry is here to stay. Clients want shelter and you to provide them with wonderful improvements to their homes. While the weather may change, and we might see cycles, being a fit business (or a healthy orchard) will pay off in the long run.
Be smart and confident, not greedy. Be hungry, not desperate. You are in the most wonderful and fulfilling industry that not only provides real business growth opportunities but also brings joy to people’s lives and makes the world a better place.