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    I was thinking tonight I have to make some serious changes in this company as it has taken on a life of it's own and I no longer have one. Don't get me wrong I am happy for all the work we have ahead of us and the clients referrals and kind comments but I was thinking while doing payroll this evening, this is insane.

    Looking back over the past few weeks, with the exception of rain days which have been few, I am pounding in 12 to 16 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week, son is hiring staff and we seem to be going further behind.

    We agreed to pull any advertising including the newspaper and stop taking on any further business, as it stands we have close to two months work ahead and are running a week behind in all four areas we do.

    This was supposed to be a fun retirement type business my son and I could work at during the summer along with a few of his university friends, I signed 19 payroll cheques this evening, that to me is just too much.

    I have never had to cut back growth so this will be a real challenge for me as we will cut staff as we finish up jobs which is a shame as I don;t know of one staff member that isn't going above and beyond.

    The other serious issue I have is all my staff will be going back to University in September, September and October are prime times here for landscaping and laying sod. I spoke to Chuck from the forum about this the other night, it is something I need to address as time flies, I just can't find people that are willing to do this type of work or if you do, let's just say they wouldn't last long.

    On top of all this I have my woodworking business which is suffering, we are about to head into tall ship week and we have little inventory yet we prepaid a booth and we are in the advertisements......

    Oh the trials of running companies.....

    Thx for the open ear....might be over tired....dunno
    Andy
    Halifax, Nova Scotia

  • #2
    You have 19 employees ?

    I know how you feel, I think I worked for 14 days straight due to rain for 2 weeks so far. I'm a solo man, running a tractor. I know I can do as much and more and many lawns with a ZTR way faster but yeah, it's coming.

    Keep your head up, something will be for the best

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    • #3
      You have 19 employees ?

      I know how you feel, I think I worked for 14 days straight due to rain for 2 weeks so far. I'm a solo man, running a tractor. I know I can do as much and more and many lawns with a ZTR way faster but yeah, it's coming.

      Keep your head up, something will be for the best
      Yes, Seth had three more start today and they worked with me all day doing a wood job, they workerd out perfect. His friends from University are asking to work for us and quitting their jobs, I think something like 12 have done this.

      I just need to learn to say no to projects and not keep booking stuff, I should have pulled marketing three weeks ago.

      My lawyer who is a long time business friend just bought a lot on the ocean, 11 acres, I looked at it last night, he has a designer come in and wants us to do the work, it will take 5 to 6 people 8 to 10 weeks, not sure how to get out of this, I just do not have the people or the additional equipment however he has done a lot of favors for me over the years and we have been business parteners twice, both companies worked out well, they were quick build and flips we did on the side.

      The ZTR will save you at least 30%, that is compareing a deck on a ZTR to a tractor, we use both but the ZTR is pretty friggin amazing.
      Andy
      Halifax, Nova Scotia

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      • #4
        This is a very interesting question. It does make me wonder if someone were to come to you for advice on how to scale up to handle all this, what advice would you have for them? What options would they have to choose from?
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        • #5
          Just the opposite

          My problem is just the opposite. I had 3 jobs cancel today and 4 that were put on hold. 2 of the three major employers here announced major layoffs this week. The unemployment rate for the county topped 12%. I have bought supplies and new equipment based on what was happening and now wonder how to pay for them. Well, I guess I will have to use savings.

          Job layoffs are spiraling out of control;not just the 2 big companies (Specialty Metals and Sunoco) but many other small companies that supply them. The third major employer is Coker College which is on Summer break. Even WalMart announced layoffs today!

          People aren't spending, they are saving for the unknown. To top that off, the temps are supposed to over 100 for the next 3 days. The heat index today was 105. Have 3 spray jobs for tomorrow, 1 for Saturday (golf course), but only 4 jobs that haven't canceled or postponed for next week. It's getting scary!

          Steve


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          • #6

            People aren't spending, they are saving for the unknown. To top that off, the temps are supposed to over 100 for the next 3 days. The heat index today was 105. Have 3 spray jobs for tomorrow, 1 for Saturday (golf course), but only 4 jobs that haven't canceled or postponed for next week. It's getting scary!

            Steve
            Holy crap, i tought it was hot today too, it was 25 (about 75) today, and it's suppose to be 29 (84) Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday...

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            • #7
              Andy,

              I have the same problem that you have in not knowing when to say no. Sometimes I over commit or fill the schedule to the brim. It takes a lot out of you and the money is great but not everything. I am sure that you know that with all the titles you had over the years. I have a business plan and stick to it. Mine is small growth to keep it controllable. I have a partnership in another business that takes about 50 hours of my time a week. I have given other jobs to my friends in the business being it yard clean up, new lawn account, land/brush clearing, mulch and planting. I even gave up a house check (monitor) to a friend of mine, what did that involve? I had to drive to his house and ensure that his alarm was working property and scan the grounds. Total time, 5 minutes weekly, at a cost of $50 per week. This might be a service you all can offer to your clients when they are away from their home on a vacation or a trip. You can throw it in as a perk or charge for this. This can be one thing that stands you apart from the rest. Sometimes we can’t get to the entire things we want to get too, so delegating some out is great.

              With the students going back to school in September maybe if you loose some you can downsize or go to an employment agencies to hire you people that are qualified to work for you at your standards. With all the unemployment we are having here and up there in Canada you can find some skilled workers to fill your needs. I think personally that a person who is skilled and paid very well at a job they just lost will be a good candidate to help you out and stay with you for a long time. I think that I remember you pay your staff avg. about $17- 18 per hour, supply work outfits, morning meeting at the local coffee shop and treat your staff well with respect. I think Justin said he would work for or with you and strongly believe that a good person or persons would too.

              From listening (reading) to you over the past several months you are an intelligent man with his priorities in check, business plan in hand and the future planned out very well. I think that you will overcome the small fork in the road. Good luck to you.

              Sincerely,
              John
              Last edited by majoe7; 06-18-2009, 11:44 PM.

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              • #8
                Holy crap, i tought it was hot today too, it was 25 (about 75) today, and it's suppose to be 29 (84) Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday...
                You think 75 is hot? You should try the 95 with 70+% humidity (heat index 100+) we have here in Missouri every summer!! I'm sure anyone in the midwest will agree you can go stand outside for 10 minutes and have sweat running down your face.
                Ben
                Shear Perfection Lawn Care

                sigpic

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                • #9
                  This is a very interesting question. It does make me wonder if someone were to come to you for advice on how to scale up to handle all this, what advice would you have for them? What options would they have to choose from?
                  This is a learning experience quite different than what I have gone through in the past, what is very different from this and the security business is I invested heavy into infrasture to handle a very large amount of business, hired the people, hired an excellent marketing fellow and then the sales force, I used to say we have size 12 shoes and a size 5 company so lets grown into our shoes. I think this yard care business has size 5 shoes when it needs size 12.

                  I think hindsight being what it is I should have chosen one or two offerings and stuck to them. When I saw an opportunity I tested the waters so to speak bought additional equipment and advertised it and it took off because I am in a niche market, in excavation we can do things small companies can't and the big guys either can't get into the spots we do or their equipment does far too much damage.

                  On the wood clearing and chipping side, quite simply I need bigger equipment for the jobs I have quoted. I bought an 8" bearcat chipper, I have other equipment from this company, made in the USA, considered the best and the cost of their equipment is quite high. In three weeks the chipper has been down 5 days, there is a sensor on the main flywheel that is in a very poor location, the dust gets on the sensor eye, scratches then the unit will not feed, Deere has replaced the sensor 5 times, three days ago the fuel pump went, because it's a new brand of motor from Briggs and they have made some plant changes from the little I know, closed one big one in the states, I can't get a replacement pump for three weeks, I have already started jobs based on the fact that we have this chipper and now we have massive piles of brush to chip.

                  I do have two other chippers a 6" Jinma that has been down for a week as a knife cracked and jammed, did a lot of damage, I ordered replacement parts but only half of what I need is here. Then I have the third unit however it is for smaller stuff, 5" and under, it is 1/2 the speed or less of the other two.

                  So I returned the Bearcat as I paid close to twenty grand, there is a diesel version however it's close to thirty grand, IMHO it's not worth it, I spent hours searching and calling then doing research to ensure what I found is reliable, dead ends.

                  I tried renting units from CAT, no luck, all their chippers are in Quebec, or so they say, called everywhere and the biggest I can get is 4", desperate slow using them as they are manual feed, kills the arms so that is a no go.

                  I got so caught up in the new business coming in that I let things get out of control, I can and will reel this back in, I still wonder though, when you run an ad in the paper, you get lets say 60 calls and they are all withing what you do, you bid, you get 90% yet you have the staff and equipment for 30%, you book this out over weeks and the clients still accept, you bid some of the tougher ones high and the client still accepts, what the heck do you do?

                  I don't want the company to get the reputation that we are slow getting to jobs, we turn jobs away etc. the world might be big but negative news travels like lightening.

                  Anyhow I should have probably just stuck to mowing, organic spraying and maybe pressure washing, I would probably be 6 to 8 staff and very easy to manage, now I am in a very difficult position at this point due to equipment. This down time is really cutting into profits as things are going slower, an 8" chipper for 10 days would fix this, I just haven't pulled the trigger for a diesel unit and even if I do I don't know that I won't have issues. I can't research for reports as this is a new line.

                  Anyhow its almost 7, staff started arriving so I better get going.

                  Andy
                  Last edited by picframer; 06-19-2009, 05:06 AM.
                  Andy
                  Halifax, Nova Scotia

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                  • #10
                    Staff meeting is over, seems now I have some tension in the ranks, work crews think the excavator and backhoe operators are wasting too much time, this is the first time I have had staff confrontations, generally speaking it is the supervisor on the crew running the biggest piece of equipment and in the heat, I think everyone including myself would like to be running machinery vs manual labor.....I will get to the bottom of it, I think they are working hard as I look at profitability and what staff need to understand is some rocks take 20 min to move, I have seen other take two hours, same with stumps or when fill is delivered, sometimes the quality is not there and we have no control.

                    Anyhow it's time for the old guy to hit the road.
                    Andy
                    Halifax, Nova Scotia

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                    • #11
                      If you could drive the situation now into any direction, which direction do you feel would be ideal?

                      Also do you feel you have now or can create a business and operational plan for the next 12 months? Or is this still in the feeling out stages to see what the potential is?

                      I am sure there are others reading this who find themselves in a similar situation but don't have your experience to help in overcoming it.
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                      • #12
                        If you could drive the situation now into any direction, which direction do you feel would be ideal?

                        Also do you feel you have now or can create a business and operational plan for the next 12 months? Or is this still in the feeling out stages to see what the potential is?

                        I am sure there are others reading this who find themselves in a similar situation but don't have your experience to help in overcoming it.
                        I am sure I speak for may when I say if I have a crystal ball I would know the direction to take.

                        I can build an operational plan based on my current abilities, equipment, vehicles and staff, what I can't get my head around is how to handle peaks of inquiries, even though I have pulled advertising I received seven inquiries from the website today, there is no way I am going to change things to drop my rankings yet I am finding it difficult to respond to these people, I mean what do you say, too busy .....sorry??? That doesn't sit well with me.

                        I hanve a handle on our abilities and what all the equipment can do, I could throw another $160,000 into this from my other company and the issues would be fixed as I would have the equipment to handle this peak but I do not want to do that, I "think" I want to go back to running a simple company, 7 or 8 employees and just ride it through and have some fun.

                        Sprayed all day with one of the tractors, I love spraying on the X500, in and out in 20 min or less, no pressure, just you and the machine and time to think.

                        Calls for rain for two days so I will have time to figure this out, part of me is tempted to sub out to some local companies not doing so well but that brings on a whole bunch of headaches if they do not do quality work and I honestly do not need any head aches at the moment.

                        I'll post back, I was pretty down yesterday when I wrote this, it was a desperate hard day, ran a chain saw it the heat for 7 hours, not a fun thing but that crew was behind and I can really cut wood when I go at it.

                        Anyhow, have a super weekend, Happy Fathers Day to all, and don't forget about dad.

                        Andy
                        Andy
                        Halifax, Nova Scotia

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                        • #13
                          A couple of things I wonder is, first off, is it a big deal to schedule any of the excavating stuff into the future? Can the customers understand this is a busy time of year and its no rush or do they demand service asap?

                          Is it possible that the time issue is something you are more worried about than your customers?

                          Also, at what point does the management of the staff become a big pain in the butt and how is it best to handle this? Can there be different crews that are given a task and can operate their crew like a small business? Where a crew manager gets a % of the job and therefor feels they are being compensated for the running their own staff or is this not a good way to go?
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                          • #14
                            A couple of things I wonder is, first off, is it a big deal to schedule any of the excavating stuff into the future? Can the customers understand this is a busy time of year and its no rush or do they demand service asap?

                            Is it possible that the time issue is something you are more worried about than your customers?

                            Also, at what point does the management of the staff become a big pain in the butt and how is it best to handle this? Can there be different crews that are given a task and can operate their crew like a small business? Where a crew manager gets a % of the job and therefor feels they are being compensated for the running their own staff or is this not a good way to go?
                            Very Good questions:

                            The excavation is booked at the moment into the last week of July, I allowed for three rain days a week, for example if we rained on a Monday and Tuesday, we would use Saturday and Sunday to catch up. I allow one day a month for maintenance per crew.

                            The time issue is being pushed by clients and myself, I would guess 90% of the time the client needs you within a week, it could be a water coming in the house problem, I have stumps to remove and want top soil spread and sod, etc.

                            Crap happens, I book the equipment, all of which is new into the schedule, I do not allow for repairs because it should be fine, however for example, one of the new excavators started loosing it's tracks at 20 hours, cost is about 4 hours one day putting them back on, John Deere investigated and discovered 80 some of these units were recalled, mine was one however it never received the replacement track, the local dealer was wild, anyhow they flew new tracks in however we lost three days of good weather then it rained for two, that put us 5 days behind.

                            Then lets say you ask me to level an area, I quote 7 hours, my staff do the job, you like it and want an additional area done, or you find more stumps or rocks, it doesn't make sense for me financially to move the gear and come back so we do it, I would guess this happens 80 percent of the time, clients like what they see and ask for the staff to do a little more, I have seen $1,100.00 quotes turn into $4,500 plus on a very regular basis, so now you are really far behind and people start calling.

                            This industry is known for not being reliable from sales calls to showing up on time, I didn't want to be one of those companies.

                            I was thinking while walking the dog tonight I could rent or lease one for a few weeks but I do not have anyone trained up yet, we cross train which is critical however the staff being trained are too green to let loose on your property, these units will do serious damage in seconds if you do not know what you are doing, so there is a learning curve issue.

                            We hired an operator a few weeks ago who graduated from heavy equipment at the community college, I would rate his work fair to good and we discuss each completed project, yes I am fussy but people are going to get what we discussed and what they are paying for, anyhow I wanted tomorrow off, a client calls at supper Ben had finished his drain and excavating an area for a garage, he was concerned so I went to see, I was concerned to as it wasn;t done right, called the employee to see why it was done this way, no real answer, so I have to go back tomorrow and fix it myself as the employee is about three hours away for the fathers day weekend.

                            I don't really have staff issues per say other than everyone wants to run equipment, the team leaders do a good job however there is no supervisor on the excavation side and sitting here thinking there should be as we have five units out there, a supervisor could watch the progress and correct issues, hummm thinking that is something I could do which would take some heat off.

                            The issue Steve is when you have this many staff, keeping track of hours, sometimes the employee doesn't agree with hours paid, inputting all this, doing the tax reports etc. it's desperate time consuming.

                            I think I need a mature 2nd in command, my son does an excellent job at what he does and perhaps I need to loosen the rope a little more.
                            Andy
                            Halifax, Nova Scotia

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                            • #15
                              I think I need a mature 2nd in command, my son does an excellent job at what he does and perhaps I need to loosen the rope a little more.
                              It's situations like this where opportunities present themselves that people get a chance to rise to the occasion and take on the task at hand. I'd love to see how it all works out with him.

                              Scaling up operations like this and having proper management must be tough. It does make you think this must be why the whole franchise concept was created, to spread the management needs to a greater group while also pass on a greater opportunity to be paid for that increased responsibility.

                              Either that, or just having slower growth over time would potentially allow for staff to be better trained and have more a desire to get things done the proper way because they would want to keep their job over the long haul.
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