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Blazing New Trails

Blazing New Trails

By Diane Calabrese / Published March 2024

Blazing New Trails Stock Image

…goes the well-worn adage. To venture nothing is to never gain. Either blaze new trails or exhaust the resources along the old ones. What will it be in 2024? Will you wait and see or forge ahead? The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA.gov) released quite an optimistic forecast on January 10, 2024. Among other things, EIA foresaw flat crude prices in 2024 and 2025. Then on January 11, the United States launched airstrikes targeting Houthis in Yemen, which caused Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate barrel prices to begin rising.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained…”

The answer to the complexity is to keep doing or to blaze new trails, which comes from the 18th century concept of marking a trail—blazing trees—harkening back to the importance of record keeping and being able to retrace steps or alter them.

Christopher Blann, the CEO of Powerwash.com in Fort Worth, TX, notes his affinity for the principles of Kaizen™ in his bio at the company’s website. [See https://kaizen.com/what-is-kaizen.] Thinking through the concepts of Kaizen, he looks at how the pieces of the big picture—leadership, team members, products, and society— fit together to keep the focus on improvement.

As such, Blann seems a perfect source to share some thoughts about new ventures—trail blazing—in 2024. For starters, we ask whether there is a venture he would like to see the industry as a whole pursue.

“Well, the coolest thing out there is drone technology,” says Blann. “They can handle both pressure and soft washing around 100 feet in height; it’s a game changer.”

A big change comes in what drones mean for requirements when working high up. “If you rent scaffolding and do big jobs just a few times a year, then drones are actually cost effective and feasible,” says Blann.

On the industry level, Blann has some ventures that he would love to see be considered. “I’d like to see us consolidate and lean into fewer, less-individualized trade shows and educational events. Perhaps have two consolidated big shows that accommodate all the initiatives.”

Moreover, Blann anticipates questions that would arise about having sufficient time for everything with big shows. “Maybe make the consolidated shows longer and have real training opportunities, business building resources, etc.”

There are many possibilities for such large meetings. Issues such as hacking, new 1099 rules, or any other dimension of business might be addressed in topic-specific seminars that would complement industry-specific sessions.

To be sure, while Blann holds a vision for the industry (as we all do in varied ways), he also is deeply engaged in his company’s new ventures. “Our company developed two programs over the last year that we think are future forward and on trend,” he explains.

“One is a business-in-a-box program that leverages our partnerships to offer all machines, accessories, and equipment needed, training from PowerWash Academy that is business specific, delivered online and hands on, as well as tech support,” explains Blann. He adds that the “boxed” program is “wrapped up in an approved lease” that can benefit both new owners and industry veterans who want to scale companies.

The second venture at Blann’s company is a prime membership. That membership level includes “free shipping, discounts, preferred access to training [at the academy], and more.”

Blann points to the successes his company has had in developing training, using its Washaholic program as an example. “The program is a fully customizable learning management system,” he explains.

“The LMS leverages AI to minimize the time necessary to make a training module to mere minutes.” That is a real time and effort saver for company owners who might otherwise be consumed by a DIY approach.

The deployment of AI in-house brings Blann to observations about how it will mesh with the industry. “In 2024 there will be a huge push toward how AI can work for any business, and early adopters of this tech will be the winners in 2024,” he says.

“Unfortunately, since this industry plus AI is wide-open space, we have to be watchful for scams and self-proclaimed experts who add little value and charge too much,” says Blann. “There is no easy road here, and we will all have to become educated about AI.”

Therein is a good example of why it’s important to blaze new trails. A record of paths—multiple paths and alternate paths—can all be compared.

[Full disclosure: This writer belongs to what seems to be a small group that considers the concerns about AI, or at least the intense focus on it, overwrought. For one, we have great confidence in the human intellect that is still not being used to its full capacity. We can also recall incidences from the past when other concerns, such as Y2K, have overtaken industries and blurred economic outlook, only to materialize as no threat at all.]

Blann thinks about the future of the industry, as do all leaders considering new ventures, and he shares his thoughts.

“I see consolidation in the industry with a growth of franchise systems,” says Blann. “Innovation will come from franchise development of easy-to-deploy systems.”

Blann’s company has already developed programs to “partner with franchise systems to solve many pain points, from logistics to supply chain and custom-built rigs,” easing scalability but keeping the franchises branded.

The churn of the economy is real. Talk to a CPA who has been immersed in working with businesses for at least a decade. He or she will explain the mechanisms that power the economy do not work in a linear way. There may be a merger here or a splintering there, and both count as new ventures.

Entities may become so large they decide to shed (sell) some sub-businesses. A period of consolidation may be followed by an interval of fragmentation (specialization).

For every trail blazed, such as a realtor who decides to add his or her own contract cleaning operation to prepare properties for curb appeal, there is a trail abandoned. That’s when the realtor asks, what is my core business?

What is my core business? That question should be the departure point of any new trail.

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