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mortonslawn
02-03-2010, 07:35 AM
I was reading through some of the old posts on here, and I know there are a lot of new people just starting out. I just wanted to throw out a few ideas that I currently do and have done in the past for these people.

First off, every visit I do at each customer's house, after the job is complete, I ALWAYS leave a paper there so they know I was there, and the job was done. I have seen people say that their customers won't pay if they don't think you were there, and there was no proof. When I first started working, I started this because it would let them know what was done, the date, the company logo on the top. Even if I took their trash can back to where they usually keep it (after the trash man came), I would put that on there as well. This way, they know the job was done and they can look at their lawn and the paper and match it up. Even if they don't have weed control, and they have like 2 weeds that were making the bed look ugly, I would just pull them.

Another thing you can do, is go to an office supply store, like Staples, Office Depot, or whatever you have in your neck of the woods, and get some paper with a nice trim around it, like flowers, leaves, grass around the edges. Let your customers know what services are being offered as they come up. For instance, when I get ready to do leaf removal, I'll get some paper with leaves around the edges, and put on there something about leaf removal. Then I also remind them that the referral program is still on (it always is). I can send some expamples if anyone would like to see them. What I do so I don't waste the paper is print it out on a regular piece of paper, and put the leaf paper in front of it. If I can see my text in the middle of the leaf paper when held up to the light, I can print it on the leaf paper. For Spring, I use paper with flowers around the edges. They have many different kinds of paper. Fund raisers, you can get one with balloons and confetti all over it. Pretty cool. It's better than sending your customers a plain piece of paper.

Also, you can get colored paper, and print all your customer's PAID receipts on their favorite colored paper. People really love that I do this, because all the invoices are on white paper, and their paid receipts are colored. This makes it easier to find as well.

Just a few short ideas that aren't too costly that make a difference. Just trying to help!

mortonslawn
02-03-2010, 08:26 AM
I just uploaded these so people can get an idea of what I mean. These are nice.

Steve
02-03-2010, 09:33 AM
Very interesting and thank you.

When you drop this job complete letter off, do you leave it in the mailbox? Stick it in the door? Or what is best?

Also if you are promoting a special that day, do you fold the two together and stick them in the door? What is the best way to handle this?

mortonslawn
02-03-2010, 09:39 AM
When you drop this job complete letter off, do you leave it in the mailbox? Stick it in the door? Or what is best?

The best thing to do is ask the customer. Just let them know that you're dropping off the paper each visit. Some customers will let you put it in their mailbox, as others would rather you put it in their door.

Also if you are promoting a special that day, do you fold the two together and stick them in the door? What is the best way to handle this?

My specials usually are for a whole month. What I do is put it on my pretty paper, and mail it to them with one of their invoices or receipts. If they don't have any invoices or receipts, I just mail it alone.

Steve
02-03-2010, 09:45 AM
My specials usually are for a whole month. What I do is put it on my pretty paper, and mail it to them with one of their invoices or receipts. If they don't have any invoices or receipts, I just mail it alone.

This brings up another interesting point.

A while back we had a discussion on here about sending marketing material along with an invoice and one member was saying that it's a bad idea. The view was, when a person is writing out a check for services, they usually aren't in a mood to give you even more money.

What's your opinion on this? Does it matter or no?

mortonslawn
02-03-2010, 09:58 AM
It depends really on your work and your customer. If the customer really likes what you do for them, then they'll want more service from you. Like I said before, one of my customers asked me where I was before so he didn't have to do all that hard work. I think it's okay. It lets them know what you're doing in the next month/season. Maybe they won't need the service, but someone they know may, and they might give it to another person, and there's your next referral/customer. If they really like your work, they'll refer you. That's my opinion.

Steve
02-03-2010, 10:25 AM
That's great insight.

I was wondering, do you think a custom printed post-it note would be worthwhile to use that could act as a receipt of sorts that you were there? Maybe you could have a few checkboxes on it and a memo area. Then you could just stick it to the front door or window?

mortonslawn
02-03-2010, 11:51 AM
I don't know about post-its. Sometimes they don't stick, and I'd be worried that they would come off or blow away, and then the customer won't get it.

Bob E
02-03-2010, 01:58 PM
Hi, guys.

We used pre-printed post-it notes when we did fertilizer applications for 1000+ retirement home communities and it saved alot of time filling out blank forms (2-3 hrs per day). We never had much problem with them not sticking. Very convenient.

Steve
02-03-2010, 11:02 PM
Hi Bob,

Where would you stick them? What information did you include on them?

Do you have a picture of what they look like?

Bob E
02-04-2010, 09:16 AM
I don't have any pictures. They were about 4.5" x 4.5", white or yellow, they had the company's name on top, and they listed the service that was done ( Fertilizer, Insect control, weed spray, etc). We also had the post-application instructions printed on them (ie: do not water for 24 hrs., etc). At the bottom in bold was our phone #. We would put them on their front door window so they would see it when they opened their front door.

Steve
02-04-2010, 11:28 PM
Very interesting! What kinds of things would you do to promote upsells or different seasonal services?

Bob E
02-08-2010, 03:04 PM
We didn't try that because we used them on high volume basis (200 homes per day), but you could print them with a "note" section to add comments if you were doing a single family type route (15-20 homes per day). I think that would be a great idea.

Steve
02-09-2010, 04:09 AM
We didn't try that because we used them on high volume basis (200 homes per day)

WOW! 200 homes a day! That sounds like you all were very efficient! Do you think being in an operation that handled that many homes daily helped you stream line your operations now? What do you think you learned about doing that? How does one serve that many customers in a single day?

Bob E
02-10-2010, 06:52 AM
Well, since it as a retirement community, the lots were small (6000 sq ft total). What I learned was that you had to compartmentalize the tasks, whether for mowing or for fertilizing. For mowing, we used one man on the front lawns with a 48" mulching walk behind, we had another doing the side yards, and a third on a rider doing the back yards. We had 2 men weedwacking and one with a blower. We used mulching mowers alot because that eliminated clipping collection. So, that's a 6 man crew mowing 200 lawns per day for about $8 per cut. We also fertilized 200 per day with 4 men, again by compartmentalizing. This way, when there is a system failure, you know who did the task and who is falling behind.

ProCut TM
02-10-2010, 10:37 AM
Bob E
where did you get the post its made?

Steve
02-10-2010, 04:33 PM
For mowing, we used one man on the front lawns with a 48" mulching walk behind, we had another doing the side yards, and a third on a rider doing the back yards. We had 2 men weedwacking and one with a blower.

WOW! So a 5 man crew made things work smoother than a 2 or 3 man crew?

This way, when there is a system failure, you know who did the task and who is falling behind.

Would this be something that was analyzed after each mowing? So if one person was faster than another, you all would ask them why they are slow? You all must have been a very competitive group getting things done as fast as possible!

Bob E
02-11-2010, 12:10 PM
If you used a smaller crew, you would take 2 or 3 days to finish the task.
The goal was to finish as efficiently as possible to move on to the next site.

As far as analysis, you would know who was doing poorly by 11 am that day. Sometimes we would change task for that person, or sometimes there were conditions beyond their control. Usually it would work out because the person who had to go back and help out a slow worker would 'motivate' him to move faster (people generally don't like to have to do someone elses work after they finished their own).

Steve
02-11-2010, 03:16 PM
Very interesting! How did you transport such a maintenance team? Did you have quad cab pickups or what did you use?

Bob E
02-12-2010, 07:54 AM
Some crews has 4 door deisel duellies, others had 4 door international rack bodies. It was a large operation that I worked for.

Now I am starting a small lawn business with the goal of being super efficient with one or 2 employees.

I love this website. It is very helpful. I hope everyone takes your advice on marketing, which is JOB #1.

Thanks.

Steve
02-13-2010, 06:08 AM
As you look ahead, do you think it would be better to go for a 4 or 5 man crew now or 2 crews of 2?

When does having a 4 or 5 man crew make good business sense? At what point in a business should this be a goal to achieve?

Bob E
02-14-2010, 08:34 AM
I think a larger crew makes sense when you only go to one or 2 stops per day. On the projects I previously mentioned, the large crews went back to the same property every day. They would only had one site to do, but it was so large that it took 5 days to do it.

When you do many stops per day, a 2 or 3 man crew makes sense. What you have way is the cost of overhead per man. When you use smaller crews, the vehicle costs per man obvioulsy increase.

The down side of a larger crew is that you have some guys " float" while others are working. You need to have a supervisor with the crew. When you have a 2 man crew, there is more of a natural balance of the work load (nobody is going to do more work than the other guy on the crew).

Steve
02-14-2010, 02:37 PM
When you use smaller crews, the vehicle costs per man obvioulsy increase.

Can you tell me a little more about what you mean by this?

I was thinking that the costs would decrease because the windshield time spent between jobs would be multiplied by less employees.

So for instance if it takes 10 minutes between jobs. If there are two men in the vehicle, that is (2men x 10min) 20 minutes of unbillable windshield time.

Vs.

10 minutes between jobs with 5 men = 50 minutes of unbillable windshield time

Bob E
02-15-2010, 09:04 AM
As I said earlier, I wouldn't use a 5 man crew if I am doing more than 2 stops for the day.

Regarding the truck costs the man crews, you have to buy a truck, trailer, equipment, insurances, fuel, etc., for each crew. Lets say you spend $24,000 for the equipment and truck with a 4 year life span, that works out to be $6,000 per year. Also assume that insurance and fuel is $8000 per year. That works out to be $14,000 per year per each truck in the field. Now take the $14K and divide by 2 men ($7,000 per man/year )and divide by 3 men(about $4,650 per man/year. What you now have to determine is if you are going to make up the difference of $2,350 per man in Windsheild Time savings. You have to run the numbers.

Windshield Time will kill you. That is why I want to develop a pricing structure that rewards customers who are next door or accross the street from each other. Since I am saving $ on Windshield time, I want to share some of those savings with them by reducing the cost per cut by a dollar or two. That can also work as their reward for referrals, although I will offer additional incentives for referrals.

If you go to a 3 man crew that works efficiently and fairly amongst themselves,that should be the most efficient crew as far as overhead expenses. Also, you save on capital expenses because you share the truck and equipment purchase costs over 3 men, not 2.

Steve
02-15-2010, 09:21 AM
Isnt it amazing how much really goes on under the surface? So often, these decisions are made on a gut feeling or just at the spur of the moment without thinking about why the decision is made.

There are a lot of figures to consider!

Windshield Time will kill you. That is why I want to develop a pricing structure that rewards customers who are next door or accross the street from each other. Since I am saving $ on Windshield time, I want to share some of those savings with them by reducing the cost per cut by a dollar or two. That can also work as their reward for referrals, although I will offer additional incentives for referrals.

It also makes you wonder how to make more money per customer. As we saw in a previous discussion, one member was saying he made more money last year by selling more to his customer base than trying to mow more customers.

Upsells seem to be something that is so often overlooked in efforts to gain more customers.