Lawn & Landscape
By Marty Grunder
It may be hard to believe after the long, cold winter many of us have had, but spring is about to spring. And when it does, landscape pros will go from calm to chaos as we’re launched into what my friend and mentor Mike Rorie calls the 100 Days of Hell. Like Christmas for retailers, this is the time that makes or breaks our companies’ year. How do you not only survive them but thrive, financially, emotionally and physically?
Let’s Start with the Money
We all know in business, cash is king. Require deposits from your clients up front with their signed contracts, bill immediately upon completion of their projects and don’t be shy about collecting. If you’re struggling in this area, put one person on your team in charge of billing and collecting. It’s great to have a line of credit, but at Grunder Landscaping we try to get through the 100 days without using it.
You can also ask your vendors for help. Visit them in person now and see if they’ll allow you longer terms. If your mulch supplier expects payment 30 days after you take delivery, ask them if you can go 45 days during your busy season. Do this with your top five vendors. Sure, they are facing the same financial challenges as you, but you don’t know what they can do for you if you don’t ask. If they value your business, they’ll work with you to keep it.
Lastly, make your work orders as detailed as possible. Make certain they clearly list the hours bid for the job so your team knows exactly what numbers they need to hit. I have seen the business owners I coach improve their profitability significantly just by focusing on this. You will never create a culture of accountability at your company if you do not make your expectations clear and explicit.
Pay Attention to How Your Team Is Feeling
You’re going to be asking a lot of your people in the next few months. Inspire them now with a vision of where you want to be in 100 days and the crucial role they’ll play in getting there. Foster a HOT – honest, open and transparent – environment in which they know you will listen to their concerns and work together to allay them. And no matter how stressed you may become or how great the challenges are when you’re at your busiest, do not complain in front of your team. When leaders do that, they give license to everyone else to complain too, and that drags down the whole company. When problems arise, you can and should discuss them with your team, but in a way that is focused on finding solutions rather than venting frustrations.
Don’t Overlook the Physical
There’s no getting around it that landscaping is hard work. It can take a real toll on your team. We think we can get more out of our crews by pushing them, but sometimes all we’re really doing is burning them out. Instead, look for other ways to get more work done. At Grunder Landscaping, we use labor-saving equipment like dump trailers, bed edgers and mini skid-steers to load trucks with heavy edging and wheelbarrows with mulch. A lot of our work in the spring consists of clean-ups, which do not require the skill and talent that, say, installing a landscape does. This means we can hire a couple of temps to push wheelbarrows and make our normal three-man crew a five-man crew. This helps ease the burden on our permanent team members and enables us to complete more jobs in less time. We will also rent trucks if it means we can take on more work. We affix magnetic signs with our company name and logo on them and we’re on our way. Talk to your team about what else you can do. I guarantee you they’ll have ideas for improving efficiency you haven’t thought of.
Good luck with your 100 Days of Hell and be glad for them. It means you’re busy, and that’s always good for business.