Remember the good old days, when business often just seemed to fall from the sky? 

Remember the good old days, when business often just seemed to fall from the sky?

Maybe you placed a few ads and did a little marketing, but you probably didn’t have to exert much effort to make a profit. It seemed like everyone needed a survey, and they weren’t concerned about how it would be done or how much it would cost.

These days, the surveying profession is quite a bit more challenging. No one has the money to pay for anything, least of all a survey. And if they can’t get by without one, they want it done cheaply and they want it done yesterday. How can anyone make a living in this environment?

I’ve been talking to a number of equipment dealers and surveyors to get their perspective on what 2010 might hold, and the conversations have been interesting. No one expects a quick rebound, and many don’t expect a rebound at all--at least, not in the traditional sense. As technologies and expectations have changed, some markets have disappeared completely. Others require a different approach or a more technologically savvy presentation just to get your foot in the door.

But the most successful individuals and firms aren’t focused on traditional markets. Instead, they’re constantly looking at how they can create new opportunities for themselves. “You have to take a hard look at your strengths and figure out how to capitalize on those strengths and use them to help people,” says John Matonich, PS, president and CEO of Flint, Mich.-based ROWE Professional Services Co. and NSPS president.

That might mean partnering with other firms to share expertise and resources, which has been a successful approach for ROWE. Daryl Huffman, regional sales director for Duncan-Parnell, notes that it might mean serving markets other than land surveying, such as forensics or homeland security. And Ed McCaffery, marketing director for Positioning Solutions Co., points out that there are opportunities in building information modeling (BIM) and in data prep for machine control.

Many firms already have the necessary skills to tap into these and other markets; they just need to think more broadly. Other firms will need to re-evaluate their expertise in light of the changing technologies and markets. J. Peter Borbas, PLS, PP, owner of Boonton, N.J.-based Borbas Surveying & Mapping, president of the Geographic and Land Information Society (GLIS) and ACSM Congress chair, says that increasing education will be vital to the continued success of the profession as a whole. “Technology is allowing us to get much more value out of our data and provide more value to our clients, but we have to understand how to do that,” he says. “An ability and desire to keep learning is essential. Education is the key for surveyors right now.”

So what will 2010 hold for the surveying and mapping professions? With creativity, knowledge, hard work and the right attitude, just about anything is possible. Maybe new business won’t fall from the sky--but it will certainly be within reach.

P.S. Check out this month’sWeb Exclusive feature “Turning the Tables”for more insights from Borbas, Matonich, Huffman, McCaffery and other surveying and mapping professionals.

Share your thoughts on this column below.