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ritchiem
02-21-2010, 07:34 PM
In the beginning of my green industry career a wise man told me that “Landscape Maintenance is all about minutes”. I had a hard time fully understanding what that meant as I was young and still green (sorry for the pun) in the industry and life. He went on to explain that every minute matters in this business… if you don’t jump on opportunities, somebody else will… if you don’t track your time, you will be lost… if you cannot be efficient, you’ll never survive. As he explained I started to understand but it would take me years and the startup of my own company to fully get the picture.

Opportunity knocks more than once… But only a few times.

Take the opportunities that come your way. Quote everything (within your scope) that passes over your desk. Follow all leads and return all calls quickly. There is something to say about that old adage “The early bird gets the worm”. Generally speaking, if you are the first contractor to provide a call back and quote, your chances of getting that job increase dramatically. And if you start turning down quotes, you may not get another chance.

Potential clients don’t like shopping around for shotty expertise so make sure to give them what they want from the start.

Do your timesheets!

Make sure to do a timesheet everyday to track your work. This is a very big part of tracking your business.

Remember to keep them simple yet detailed… Simply Detailed if you will (I believe we have an oxymoron in our midst). As you can see in the example sheet the columns you need are;

- Client/Property
- Description of Work Done
- Time IN / Time OUT
- Staff and Times
- Total times

***TIP: To make entries quicker you can abbreviate, such as ‘Cut, Trim and Blow’ to CTB.

By doing daily timesheets it helps you with;

- Invoicing
- Tracking employee hours
- Apply hours to job costing

By knowing these numbers you can really see where your business is losing and gaining.

Know your route.

Use your timesheets and a detailed map to tighten up your route. Minutes are lost during drive time and is one of the biggest profit losses in the business. You would be surprised on how much time is lost while your butt is in the seat. Take this into consideration:

Service 30 Clients each day with 5 minutes of drive time between each one = 2.33hrs of driving per day or just under 12 hours per week. That’s a whole days work for one person lost in the truck. This equation doesn’t even include time it takes to get to your first client or the drive back to the shop… what about paid breaks? You could be creeping up to 18 hours lost by the end of the week. Now lets say that your hourly rate is $45.00 per hour, at the end of the mowing season (which is 26 weeks here in Ontario Canada) you could be sitting on a $21,060.000 loss of revenue. How does your butt feel now?

Now there will always be drive time, but what can you do to tighten it up and lower your loss? Here are some examples that I have found worked for me.

Bridge the gaps.

Knowing your point A to point B try to get clients in between by marketing. This will cut down on drive time between each client and increase ‘Productivity’ narrowing the gap of the dreaded ‘Loss’.

Stay in one place.

Find communities where you can drive to and stay awhile. Condos, gated communities large commercial properties are all great examples of zero drive time. By doing this your productivity will go thru the roof. I have one such gated community where I have 14 properties. We park and are there for 3.25hrs or 6.5 man hrs. Without the drive time we can Mow Trim and Blow 14 properties in just over 3hrs… solid productivity.

Reverse your route.

This may sound like a odd thing to do. However try reversing your route and see how the times differ. You may be surprised on what you find. By reversing your route you may find a lot of different outcomes, such as;

- You are at properties at different times of day. This allows you to make yourself visible to potential clients that have never saw you before.

- Avoiding traffic when the volume may be higher. There is nothing worse than sitting in traffic as break-lights turn into dwindling profits.

- Finding shortcuts to tighten you route. Going the opposite way leads to new discoveries.

Paper Bag it and Pack your lunch

This one may sound a bit grade school, but not only does it save you time it also saves you money from your wallet.

I use to be a huge Convenience Store junkie. But by buying my lunches and water when we do our weekly groceries saved me about $75.00 per week and a lot of unnecessary stops for snacks, food and drinks.

picframer
02-21-2010, 08:33 PM
And it can be a tough lesson to learn as we position ourselves with equipment and employees to maximize efficiency, we had to reposition ourselves a few times last year on the equipment side, sometimes calling for decisions to either grab the bull by the horns and get the gear to do it or walk away.

It can be and the economy is a tough environment not only at the moment but last year and I believe this year will be also.

In our case I simply had to invest to raise the bar and carve out as many niche areas where there was demand as possible, provide as many services as we could so that the client and prospect could see us as a one shop stop, for the most part it has worked.

As we go into this season I am very excited as we have the gear in place to do just about anything a customer could want with respect to their property and a core a very well trained employees who have bought into the exceeding the expectations of the client.

That was a major issue in April and May of last year as this was all new to all but one employee, we made mistakes but as long as we learn from them and grow I see it as positive.

Steve
02-22-2010, 08:42 AM
What blows me away when I think about this is..

The industry is all about time. The more efficient you are with your time the more money you will make however.

Isn't something that we see time and time again how important it is to spend time doing those little extra things for your clients and talking with them? All these things that supposedly are going to help you stand out from a competitor that 'doesn't care' are also potential time wasters when you look at the big picture in this light.

So how can that be? To be well liked, you have to do the opposite of what you would think would be required to run an efficient business.

It's like you just can't win! You are pulled in two different directions.

JP Landscaping
02-22-2010, 10:23 AM
I think this has a lot to do with the balance over quality or quantity of work.

If you shoot for the quantity, you need to be very effecient and waste no time. That allows you to decrease expenses and price as compared to your competition. In return you will gain clients that are shopping based on price.
So you can have a lot of lower paying customers but in the end make money because of your effeciencies.

On the other hand, if you take the extra time to look at the little things and talk to your customers every now and then, you are providing more quality work. Efficiencies are lower and you will probably have to charge a little more to make as much as the competition. but your niche market then has to be those customers looking for quality work and are willing to pay the extra 3 bucks per mow (figuratively speaking).

picframer
02-22-2010, 10:38 AM
It is a balance Steve, if I am very efficient then I can spend some time with the client or the staff and we do talk to just about every client while on the site, some clients work beside staff which is great. Sometimes in the evenings after supper I will visit the bigger clients to talk about how things are going or just chat, small investment with a big dividend.

What we have to be careful of is the older clients that simply like to chat and tell war stories, while we have to listen a bit we also have to let them know the clock is ticking in a very kind way and I have a few of these clients as well, some even stop when we are at another site and they are driving by, just want to see what we are up to, it can be a pain at times.

Steve
02-23-2010, 09:58 AM
Good point.

It seems when we look at larger lawn care businesses, the place where they drop the ball is in customer relations. They get in and get out so fast you never know who they are. Then they send a customer survey every once in a while from the corporate offices. This is there way to reach out and see if everything is ok or not.

With the large companies, as a customer, you are not hiring a local business owner who is personable, you are hiring a faceless machine.

Have you found this to be the case too?

If it is, it shows you a way to compete with them. Don't do it on price, do it on customer service and relations.

picframer
02-23-2010, 10:52 AM
Good point.

It seems when we look at larger lawn care businesses, the place where they drop the ball is in customer relations. They get in and get out so fast you never know who they are. Then they send a customer survey every once in a while from the corporate offices. This is there way to reach out and see if everything is ok or not.

With the large companies, as a customer, you are not hiring a local business owner who is personable, you are hiring a faceless machine.

Have you found this to be the case too?

If it is, it shows you a way to compete with them. Don't do it on price, do it on customer service and relations.

What we found in talking to new customers is the owner like me sends a crew in to do the job, the difference between companies I have gone up against and took their clients is they do not empower their employees to talk to the clients whereas with me you had better be talking to the clients, I try to have one super personality on each crew although all the guys are great, some are a bit timid, works for us and how I know this is the guys are always telling me who gave them what to eat today:)

CHEESE2009
02-23-2010, 11:20 AM
Time is important when it comes to employees, you want them to make your business profit, you don't want to pay someone who works so slow that all the money your business makes goes straight into their pockets. (rare)

You also don't want to pay someone who works even slower, that your business loses money.

I think after my employee would cut 3 lawns, after that I would make profit. 3.5 lawns cover his hours, the rest goes to the company.

The slower the employee, the more lawns go to waste paying his hours off.

Though if the owner of the business is taking his time, it doesn't really effect your profit. You can work as fast or slow as you want, as long as you finish your route! As the owner, I pay myself the same every week anyway. If I work slow, too bad for me, I don't get paid for the extra time I take.

Every employee should help make your business grow a minimum of 25%.

A well trained employee, basically if you cloned yourself, this employee should make your business grow a maximum of 50%.

Some people hire employees to do work that doesn't make their business profit, all the money made from doing a job goes right into paying for their employee. Finding a good reason for doing such a thing is hard.

I did it once just for advertising. Last year my garden weeder received 80% of the profits she made. The higher her pay, the more drive she had. I really didn't care if I profited from her work, as long as she impresses my customers who also hired me for lawn maintenance. I really wanted to stand out, & letting her keep the money did exactly what I wanted.

It's an image thing. Though I would never pay someone the full profits made for doing lawn maintenance, no point in having 50 extra lawns if I don't make a buck from them. Mind as well send the worker off with my truck & mowers so he can start his own business.

I typed so much I forgot what the topic was about? Lol

ritchiem
02-23-2010, 11:24 AM
Nice to see a good conversation starting here.

Quantity vs. Quality

Mow and Go vs. Stay and Pay

...or perhaps a bit of both? I find myself changing it up all of the time, but I mostly lean on Quality (there are exceptions). All depends on the situation, client, property. In this business you really need to adapt.

However, there are methods to maintain premium quality and still mow 25+ lawns per day. You need to build routines and be consistent. Once you do that you'll find that your route runs like a well oiled machine.

The fact of the matter is "You should never sacrifice quality in order to push your business forward". If you do this you'll find yourself in a decline and you'll never know what happened until it is too late.

Here is an example:

I received a phone call last spring requesting a quote for lawn maintenance. They told me that the company they have been using for the past year shows up with 3 guys they all hop on machines fly around, grass is going everywhere, skid marks in their lawn and on their driveway from the mowers, gardens are full of grass and they don't blow anything out so the clippings are everywhere. It was a rant for sure!

So I show up to the property 1 hour after the initial call. I was surprised to find out that it was a 1.5 acre lot and the lawn was a mess. One of my first questions I always ask "How long does it usually take to mow the lawn?" Asking that loaded question gives me tons of info about the previous company and what the client is looking for. Well I found out that it took them 2.5 hours to cut, trim and blow (even though there showed no signs of blowing), and they charged $45.00 per cut.

First of all there is no way that company was making any money with productivity rate of $6.00 per man hour...I laughed in my head.

I quoted the job at $75.00 per mow on a 26 visit contract = $1950.00. I got the job. It takes us 1 hour to mow, trim and blow.

2 workers x 0.5hrs = 1hr total
$75.00 / 1hr / 2 = $37.50 productivity per man hour

not bad numbers but I would like them to be higher.

I'll attach a photo of that property...see below.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that the other company was not efficient in any shape or form. They wasted time by not delegating tasks and it took them 1.5hrs longer to mow the lawn. And they low balled the property to begin with. And in the end they lost the job due to quality issues.

You can find efficiencies by doing the job right, and for the love of all things soft and cuddly...quote it right! Nothing gets my goat more then listening to people say things like "If I charge less I'll get more customers"...the biggest thing lacking in this industry is structure. Anyone has the ability to say "I'll cut your lawn for $10.00" and you know what they might get the job and they might get lots of jobs, but in the end quality will fail and clients will realize that they made a wrong choice. Thus, making clients worried about who they are going to choose next...it really hurts the industry.

This industry is hurting for structure and more professionals...who is with me?

CHEESE2009
02-23-2010, 12:16 PM
This industry is hurting for structure and more professionals...who is with me?

You get my vote.

If I charge a lawn that doesn't make me a great profit, it's only because I want these people to get used to being with a lawn service, when I raise my price the next year the real customers will stick around & the crappy ones can go to the next guy, or they can do it themselves.

My worst example to date:

If a drug dealer sells 10 people crack at a low cost, a few of them will still do business with the drug dealer if he were to raise his price. The customers who stay pay enough to cancel out the need for the ones who weren't willing to pay extra.

LOL.

Other than that, mind as well get one customer who pays a lot then 5 who pay a little. Less time wasted & you can make the same profit, or even more.

ritchiem
02-24-2010, 11:14 AM
Worst example by far :) might be a conversation killer