Professional Land Surveyor Journal July 1, 2009

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touch-the-sunSummer is finally here and after a long, dark and rainy spring in New England. The economy has also remained dark and turbulent.

I had some hope that in late March and early April business would pick up a little. And, that’s just what business did – It picked up a little, very little.

Life and business has as its ups and its downs, like the weather and the tides. I am still hopeful that the economy will be improving soon. It’s only a matter of time, but the 64,000 dollar question is who will be left standing when the relentless tide of this recession recedes?

Speaking of tides, did you get a chance to listen to the National Ocean Service-Diving Deeper Podcast-What are Tides?

[audio: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr09/dd040809.mp3]

I love this podcast series, which is why I choose to share it with you, but this is a good one. Although, now that I think about it, the podcast prior to this one, National Ocean Service-Diving Deeper Podcast-What is Geodesy? was also fantastic!

[audio: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/apr09/dd040809.mp3]

While I'm going on about what interested me this month, let's not overlook two posts that where favorites of many of you, too.

The first was a video that I discovered through Facebook. This video is a clever ad with land surveyors in it. I've seen it dozens of times and it still makes me laugh every time. This is the link to the post, but it's so humorous I'll include it here:

The second very popular, and totally mind-blowing, post was about a demolition contractor in Georgia who demolished the wrong house and blamed it on GPS coordinates. If you missed this post you have to read it now: When GPS goes Wrong-Homeowner Says Crews Demolished Wrong House-News Story-WSB Atlanta. Here's a video of the aftermath:

A Year in Review

A year ago, early last May I created this blog. I had been planning on creating it for at least a year prior to that but with the busy times of the boom years I got so busy that I lost focus, and a little of myself, in the mad rush of the boom. When I started blogging at first I dabbled a little, spent a fair amount of time setting up the site and wrote a handful of posts.

In early July of last year, however, is really when I got the site looking and functioning the way I had envisioned it and started writing regularly. So in a year, I’ve posted on average about one post per day.

I’ve also expanded the site to include newsletters and the Professional Land Surveyor Forum. I can't fully convey to you how much satisfaction I've gotten from writing this blog, meeting and communicating with new people, and helping a few of you along the way, when I could.

A funny thing happened along the way. EricColburn.com has become very successful and popular; More so than I could have dreamed. EricColburn.com is the fastest growing, best ranked and most popular site for land surveyors on the web!

In fact, my site is ranked in the top 1.36% of all sites on the internet today.

When you visit this site you are not alone, with over 17,000 monthly visitors who on average view around 40 pages per visit and spend 50 minutes per day.

This has resulted in EricColburn.com being ranked 2 to 3 times better than other land surveying sites in the world and 3 to 5 times better in the United States.

I couldn’t have done it without all of you who visited, commented and are helping to create this vibrant professional community. Thank you so much!

Help if You're Looking for a Job

Follow Eric Colburn on Twitter

Follow Eric Colburn on Twitter

I just wanted to throw out there if you're out of work to feel free to post your job search on the Professional Land Surveyor Forum Careers Seeking Employment Discussion Board.  In addition to the Professional Land Surveyor Forum visibility, I will also Tweet your posts on Twitter several times.

I have found that this draws a lot of traffic giving your job search exposure to a wide audience. There is also a discussion board to post Employment Opportunities, if you are looking to hire.

A Visit to Carlson Software

In late April, I was delighted to meet with Dave Carlson, of Carlson Software, at his Boston offices. Dave Carlson is Executive Vice President of Carlson Software, an international independent company providing comprehensive land surveying, civil engineering, machine control and positioning, and mining software solutions.

I received a tour of the Carlson software Boston office and we had a nice conversation about the various Carlson Software products, the upcoming release of their 2010 products, the industry direction in general, and using software to make professional land surveyors more efficient, productive and profitable.

I will soon write more about this meeting but first a few impressions of Carlson Software that I took away from our meeting. My first impression is that Carlson Software is concerned about and very responsive to the needs of professional land surveyors. My second impression is that Carlson Software is committed to providing first-rate customer service to its customers.

It was exciting to witness their people firsthand providing immediate, knowledgeable and prompt customer service. It's impressive that you will not only get to speak with a real person, but that that person is courteous, professional and knows what they are talking about.

Price Wars or Divide and Conquer?

It's been a difficult business climate and lately I've noticed a disturbing trend. Of the few calls I've received for new work, very few I might add, one thing has become clear: Price is king. People, also strapped for money and struggling to make ends meet, are more and more basing their land surveying buying decisions solely on price.

I supposed that's not unexpected in a recession. But what has struck me is that when given a price I'm often told by the prospective client that they've received a lower price by other professional land surveyors they've called; often at half my price, or less sometimes.

NOAA Sentinel at Shell Beach, Louisiana

To the Point

Business is business and I have no problem with someone who keeps their prices low in exchange for higher volume. This is a tried and true business model. However, knowing a few of these companies and the services they claimed to be providing it would not surprise me if corners were being cut and ultimately their level of professional service is being undermined with no significant increase in business being made up for with the lower price.

Is this a sign of price wars or is it that these customers are trying to divide and conquer us? Are they hoping that when solicited with this story of lower prices elsewhere that we will jump at the opportunity to be cutthroat and lower our prices? If so, and if you chose to take the bait, then I feel sorry for you. I do know in a few cases where another professional land surveyor has decided to take on projects at a loss in order to keep up a little cash flow and try to pay the bills and make payroll. I suspect he will not be around for much longer.

Don't get me wrong, lower prices come with the recession territory. The business climate goes up and down and every business needs to adjust their prices accordingly. The secret is this:

  • Adjust your services, too. If you previously included several services in one package, now is the time to unbundle them. Still provide excellent service but allow for less expensive alternatives and give yourself an opportunity to up-sell the additional services.
  • Become lean. Reduce your overhead and become more efficient. It really doesn't matter what your total fee is, bigger doesn't necessarily mean better, what matters most is how much profit you realized from that sale. By becoming more efficient and lean you might find that you can lower your prices and make more money.
  • Respect yourself. Develop respect for yourself, your business and the profession of land surveying by not underselling yourself and your services. When offered the chance to "beat the other guy's prices" stand tall, toe the line and do nothing. Stick to your original price (or raise it). Once you've allowed yourself to be manipulated it's all over: This customer and every other customer (word spreads) will come to expect that they can take advantage of you. Look at it this way, let's say that you buck-up and don't give in to this sort of tactic, what is the outcome? Well, you didn't get this job. You were in all likelihood going to lose money on it anyways, which frees up your time to do more productive work while the lowballer who took the job is tied up on this project and is losing money. To me, this is a win win situation.

In Closing

Again, I want to thank you for visiting  and helping to make it the fastest growing, best ranked and most popular site for land surveyors on the web today!

Please let me know if there is something you would like to see and by all means, if you find something interesting, or a news story about land surveying or business that you think everyone will be interested in reading, then pass it along.

If you've visited the Professional Land Surveyor Forum recently you will have noticed many additions. I've been posting events of interest and placing them on the Professional Land Surveyor Forum Calendar for easy planning. Feel free to post your company's or organization's events to these areas of the Professional Land Surveyor Forum.

Finally, please visit the new GIS Board and particularly, the GISurvey Union Discussion Board. I think it's time we focus on GIS as a survey solution.

Thanks and be brilliant!

Eric D. Colburn, Professional Land Surveyor

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Eric D. Colburn, PLS, "The Geo-Business Innovator", helps geo-professionals improve through innovative solutions, mastery of marketing and business growth strategies, and coaching/training. Eric is a successful, serial entrepreneur, podcaster, industry writer, product development consultant, and RI licensed professional land surveyor.

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