Land surveyors are facing some new choices, which could define their future.

Shopping with my granddaughter is an experience. She seems to want every new thing she sees, and she can provide a rationale for every proposed purchase. She’s six, so her choices are emotional, not pragmatic.

Technology in the geospatial field is advancing rapidly, and it is somewhat encouraging not to see that same “shiny object” attraction translating into impulse purchases among surveyors. POB’s current capital spending study reinforces that trend. Surveyors buy to upgrade equipment or improve productivity.

Technologies have to prove themselves before they become mainstream in land surveying. The question is whether that maintains the status quo at the expense of innovation. The answer isn’t clear.

A case in point is the fact that very few respondents to the POB capital spending study said they invest in equipment or software to develop new business or enter new markets. Is that your strategic choice?

A market strategy is about using your skills, knowledge and tools to address a need, and then being compensated for it. When business is good, we don’t ask what different market needs we could be addressing or what new skills we should add. In fact, that’s exactly when we should ask those questions, because we have the advantage of a strong business and available capital to invest in new skills and new tools to take that next step. When markets weaken, we aren’t hearing from even our loyal customers, and there is less opportunity to describe what new values we can bring to the relationship.

Surveyors have an advantage in the fact your licensing requires professional development hours. As with equipment upgrades, you can invest in updating current skills and improving existing knowledge. Or, you can spend a bit of that capital developing new skills or exploring new options. Taking a course in BIM (building information modeling) doesn’t mean you have to forsake your boundary survey practice in favor of architecture and construction, but it might lead to adding new capabilities in order to expand your current practice. It might also be that cushion in a down market.

Your toolkit is largely a reflection of your business strategy, whether you developed that strategy formally or informally. Every toolkit has a few extra tools that are used less frequently but are valuable when you need them. If you haven’t reexamined your business strategy in a while, you might want to pull out that toolkit and rummage around a bit to see what has been added (and what hasn’t been used in a long time). You are bound to find that your strategy has shifted over time through subtle readjustments to market or economic needs. Combined with the inventory of your current toolkit, you might also see some new opportunities and what steps would be necessary to pursue them.

I haven’t been able to convince my granddaughter she doesn’t “need” everything she sees, but we’re working on a holiday strategy that is more in line with market realities — hers and mine.