How do you know what the optimal lawn care crew size is? In this video, Jonathan gives you some factors to consider whether you are just starting out or simply trying to become more efficient.
What factors go into determining the best lawn care crew size for your company?
I believe it’s really important to know that as your company changes, your crew size will change. A company that’s just getting started that has 1 crew and grows to 2 to 4 crews will change just as a company that has 10 crews and grows to 20 to 40 crews.
How important is having the right crew size to running a successful operation?
It’s one of the core elements. We are in the business of selling time. Our number one line item on our profit and loss statements is labor. Labor, it’s either efficient or inefficient. One of the big factors in determining if it’s efficient or inefficient is the size of the crew. There are a number of different factors that go into a crew, but the crew size directly affects how productive we are. It affects how efficient we are and if we’re achieving our target man hour rate.
This video explains why using the right lawn care equipment can maximize your potential and bring in more profit.
This morning as you think about your business, are you putting the right equipment on the right properties? When you bid the job, are you bidding it taking into account the right production costs because you’re using the correct equipment? Are you selling work that’s bigger than you should be doing right now because you don’t have the appropriate equipment?
My plumber may be missing out on big profits of 150k a year. Hear how to avoid making the same mistake.
Hello! The other day we had a plumber out at our home and the reason is, we got a new grill and we have a gas line coming out of our home. I know it’s a super easy thing to do, but the line from the grill wouldn’t fit onto the line from the house. I didn’t want to mess with it. One, because I didn’t really have time, and two, because it’s natural gas, so I thought we’d just have the plumber out.
We called the plumber and he came out. Actually it was two guys, and they had a $135 minimum to come do the job, which was fine, and it probably took them 10 or 15 minutes to do the work. They fixed it. All was done and then the guy went out to the truck, actually both of the guy’s went out to the truck, and they were writing up the paperwork. I tried to give him my credit card before he even went to the truck, he’s like, “No, no problem. I’ll go write up the paperwork. I’ll come back in.”
I’m in my house about 10 minutes and I walk out to the truck and he’s legitimately out there writing up the paperwork. He’s got a calculator. He’s adding things up. He’s filling out all of the paperwork by hand. I stand around for a few minutes and then I finally just walk back in the house. Then he follows me in and then I give him the credit card, and he charges the credit card, and then we chit-chat for just a second. Great guy, great company, no complaints.
I estimate at an absolute minimum they spent 15 minutes between the time that they finished the job, filled out the paperwork, came back in, charged my card, etc. You get the idea. Plus there were two. If you could imagine, and these guys bill at $120 an hour. I don’t know if it’s $120 an hour for two or $120 an hour each. I’m not even sure, but if you do the math and we’ve done a number of videos on this, and it’s about non-billable time. That non-productive time. This is why a lot of companies do not make very good money, or they can’t figure out why they’re not making more money, or it’s why they don’t think their business is very good.
Let me give you the example math on this. He wasted 15 minutes at my job. For simplicity I’m just going to call it 15 man minutes. It should really be 15 minutes times two guys but let’s just keep this really simple. He wasted 15 minutes at my house. Let’s say through the course of the day, he wastes 15 minutes three more times, so he wastes a total of 1 hour for the whole day, and this is being really conservative. They bill $120 an hour, so in other words, had they not wasted an hour and they did one extra job, and they billed that one extra job at $120, that would have been $120 in profit to the company because all the other money they earned I’m assuming already covered the expenses, the over head, paying the technicians, etc. Generally when you save wasted time, it almost all goes to the bottom line unless you’re losing money in your company. But, let’s just keep it simple. It almost all goes to the bottom line. That $120 would have been profit.
Now imagine the owner of this company were to make an extra $120 per day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year. I believe that’s $30,000. I believe that’s correct. If my math is wrong, the point still is valid. That’s an extra 30,000 off this one crew of two guys. Now imagine if he has 5 trucks running around and all 5 trucks are wasting 1 hour a day that could be billed at $120 an hour, the owner’s not taking home $150,000 a year in additional pay that he could be taking if he just fixed the problem of 1 hour of wasted time.
This is a perfect example of waste, and this waste happens in every way. How you fuel the trucks. How you maintain the equipment. How they load their trucks in the morning. You can just go down the list and there’s just tons of this waste. How fast they get out of the yard in the morning. I can go on, and on. Are they doing everything on paper and they’re not using mobiles? Maybe they’re not wasting as much time on filling out an invoice. We don’t do that. We bill back at the office. Maybe the waste is happening when they’re writing down start and stop times. Maybe it’s happening when they’re writing notes. Maybe it’s happening when they’re filling out paperwork for chemicals or writing notes that they leave on the door. A lot of this stuff could be automated or simplified in some way.
What I have found is you want to go through every single aspect of your company. Everything that’s happening. Watch your team. What are they doing? You look for the waste and then you work on that. When you fix that, and then you re-bill that time because now you don’t have to go hire a lot of new employees, you can sell that time to the customer, almost all that money is profit that comes back to you.
Hopefully the analogy makes sense and the example makes sense. This is why it’s so incredibly important to be thinking this way and working on these things. I hope you’ll apply it in your business.
Is the cool lawn mower a friend recommended, the best mower for my lawn care business?
When I was at GIE in Louisville, Kentucky, I was reminded that you really don’t want to buy the cool lawn mower. What I mean by that is, walking through GIE, I’m reminded how many different brands there are and how many manufacturers there are selling walk-behinds and riders. There are Skagg and Toro and Exmark and those are just my local brands.
Learn how custom truck beds cut non-billable hours making you a more profitable lawn care company.
If you’re not using custom trucks and custom truck beds, it’s worth considering it, especially over the winter season. Optimizing your fleet to give your team in the field the opportunity to be as efficient as possible is smart business.
Labor is your number one expense. The more you can drive that down, the more money you make. It’s way cheaper to invest in better equipment, better trucks, better truck beds, than it is to invest in more and more people.
Here are several pictures from GIE of custom truck beds. I think you want to get trailers out of your business as much as you can. Like I said, you want to drive that non-billable time out of your business. The way you do it is by giving your guys a perfect set-up to work with by minimizing load and unload time and by making sure they can find all their tools.
This last picture here is from Tony Bass’s company where they sell custom trucks. I don’t know what they cost and I’m not endorsing them. I’ve never actually even met Tony but I’ve heard great things about him. He is completely on to something with the custom truck beds in all different forms. They could be open truck beds. They can be on the back of Ford Rangers. They could be on the back of F-150s. I have several different types of them.
Custom truck beds work. You should look at it in your business, whether you work with somebody like him or you figure out how to do it yourself. There’s a lot of wisdom in this approach. There’s efficiency in getting trailers out of your business as much as you can.
Are you emailing lawn care customers? Use caution. It could just get you fired.
Text messaging, emailing, or trading Facebook posts with your clients, and even with your team, can really get you into a lot of trouble. It is really cool, convenient technology and you and your clients want to use it, but I’d really caution you based on some experiences I’ve had in the past, solely relying on this technology for convenience.
First, there’s nothing that will replace human interaction and building a relationship through human action. Second, as you know, there’s no way to interpret tone. For example, years ago, I was a partner in a company and we did not let our district managers when they were dealing with our clients who were property managers, we did not let them trade emails.
We didn’t even publish their individual emails. There was basically one email. We didn’t want them giving out their email addresses. We wanted them talking on the phone. If one of our clients messaged in or sent an email and said that they needed to get something taken care of, or that they had a problem, or were unhappy about something, we didn’t want our team emailing back.
We wanted our team to pick up the phone, call that individual and get it straightened out. We wanted our client to hear the tone and we wanted our team member, our district manager, to hear the tone of the client and make sure it truly got resolved.
I was just reminded of this today when I received a text message from one of my vendors and the text message basically made me mad. It made me think I could replace this person. I just didn’t like their tone and the way they were handling something. They were sort of blaming something on me that had nothing to do with me. I never picked up the phone and talked to them, but I did continue the text message and realized that they were completely wrong in their assumption.
I’m not giving you the details but basically they made an assumption, they were frustrated at me. Had I not continued the text, I wouldn’t have realized why they were frustrated. They were just simply wrong and when I corrected them, problem solved.
That kind of stuff, had I just stopped that text message, I would have continued on thinking I’m ready to just get rid of this individual. Think about that with your team. If they’re trading messages with the client, if they’re trading text messages or phone calls or Facebook posts, how is your client perceiving what they’re saying? Is your team member even perceiving what the client’s saying correctly? Are they understanding their tone?
We’re moving into all kinds of really interesting technology and convenience. It does not hurt, in fact it pays to continue to pick up the telephone and use the phone to really build relationships and provide great service.
What makes a lawn care business successful? Learn why I don’t 100% agree with the EMyth for landscapers.
A very long time ago I read the book, EMyth, by Michael Gerber. It’s a really good book. It was a very influential book. It absolutely had an effect on how I think. But, thereare a number of reasons why I don’t completely agree with the EMyth for landscapers. At first glance, if you read the book, you will think that you need to create a process and a procedure and a script for every single thing in your business.
While a lot of that resonates with me, and it makes a lot of sense, and I do think you need a lot of that in your business, what I feel that possibly isn’t communicated is that in the world we live in today, where we are running McDonald’s type businesses, and what the next 10 years looks like, I believe that if you’re going to be a dominant company, your team will not be reading from scripts. They will not be following step-by-step procedures in most every activity. It’s not realistic.
Rather, the ideal is that you train your team how to think. You train your team how to talk. You invest significantly in the training process. This isn’t a new idea. This isn’t my own idea. This is what a lot of very savvy companies do. Take somebody like Zappos. It’s a very good company. Their individuals working the phones and selling new shoes are not reading from scripts. They are very well trained. Individuals that can figure out how to solve problems and are empowered to solve their own problems on behalf of the client.
Take Hilton. Hilton is not necessarily my favorite hotel chain, but take a Hilton-type hotel and better, Four Seasons. The individuals in that company have been very well trained. They know how to deal with problems. They know what the most common problems are that could present themselves. They know the most common scenarios that they might bump into in dealing with their clientele, and they’ve been trained on how to deal with those problems. Then they’ve also been trained on how to critically think and how to be aware of a situation. That’s what’s needed in our business. The idea of reading EMyth and creating a step-by-step checklist procedure has absolute value in the business and is needed in the business, but that’s not enough.
I think for many of us we think if we create a new procedure or add something to our employee handbook, problem solved. Taken care of. No. It’s not solved. Adding something to the employee handbook solves nothing. Nobody wants to read that stupid thing anyway. What they really need is communication. That’s what the team needs. They need training, they need instruction, and that’s very difficult.
It’s easier for us to tell ourselves, “I’ll just create a procedure around this. I’ll just modify the guidelines or the handbook, problem solved.” What I’m saying is that’s our easy out as business owners, and as managers. What we really need to be doing is reassessing how we are training, how are we communicating with our team so that our team can solve these problems themselves. The procedure, the process and the task list is an aid that supports a very-trained person that knows how to think critically, to solve problems, and to look out for the company and do what’s best for the company.
That’s my argument against the black and white implementation of the EMyth for landscapers. I hope that helps you really think about how you can train and make your company great through training.
Can one lawn care employee be responsible for both selling and scheduling?
This question is about coordinating sales efforts with scheduling. The question is, “I’m constantly adjusting to accommodate the relationship between sales and scheduling. I don’t want to sell more work than I can handle or vise versa. When I scale, I’m concerned about delegating these positions to separate people. Can one employee be responsible for both selling and scheduling?”
No, I don’t believe so. Maybe very early on, however, if you have a really great sales person you want to have them sell all the time. You don’t want to bog them down with anything else. You want to let them run and work in their unique ability and do that thing that they’re very best at. It’s hard to find great sales people, so you don’t want to limit this person from selling. You want to have them doing as much of that as possible, because it’s difficult to find more great selling people. You can find people to schedule.
The other thing too is, when you’re going to scale you’re probably going to have more than one salesperson. The idea that you’re going to have just one salesperson as you scale and that same person could schedule, I’ve not seen that play out. You’re going to need more than one salesperson.
I think these are two different positions. Even when you’re small, I think it’s two different positions, personally. A salesperson is more expensive than a scheduling person, so let the salesperson sell, find somebody to schedule. They need to work as a team, and they need to communicate, and they need to talk to each other.
A salesperson, at times, might have to be redirected because we need to communicate that we need to back off on up-selling, or we need to back off in selling a new service to certain clients. There’s a lot of examples where the sales team has to ratchet down the selling or take a bit of a break because of what’s going on operationally with the backlog. That does require communication.
A consideration is, how are you compensating your sales team so that when you have to do such a thing, you don’t put them in a situation where they can’t make any money and they possibly have to leave your company.
The two positions must talk, must communicate, must be aligned. It’s very legitimate that the sales team, at times, has to back down so that scheduling and operations can keep up so that you don’t create too big of a backlog and let down your clients. That’s a communication problem, and it’s not solved by putting the same person on both activities.
This video explains whether a COO or CEO is a better option for your company.
I talk a lot about building a real company that can run itself and that doesn’t require your daily involvement. I really do believe that’s the ultimate goal of business. You want to build this asset that can generate wealth for you and it becomes an investment in the sense that you don’t have to actively participate in it every day to make this thing run and operate.
The goal for many is to get a president or a CEO or someone to run this company. But, here is an alternative thought. What you really need is a COO. You could be CEO or president, they’re almost interchangeable terms in most cases. You could be the CEO and still create a pretty exciting, amazing lifestyle and still generate a lot of wealth and not completely relinquish all of your duties within the company.
The number one position that you need in your company so that you have some time and freedom to get away is a COO. It’s a Chief Operating Officer. This is the individual that essentially runs operations.
Now, when you’re smaller, your operations manager generally isn’t the same person that can grow into becoming your COO. COO is typically a term you’d use for a bigger organization. So, your operations manager when you’re doing $500,000 or $1 million probably isn’t going to be the COO of the company when you’re doing $10 million, unless that individual is really learning and studying and growing as an individual. A lot of times you’re going to have to replace that individual and bring in someone that has some experience in that area.
The COO is going to run operations. They’re going to do a lot of hiring. They’re going to do a lot of firing. They’re going to make sure the processes and procedures are in place. They make the engine of the company run, whereas the CEO, which might be you, is more the strategy, the strategic thinking, the big ideas, the moving the company forward, leading, and recruiting. A lot of those roles, they can take 60, 70, 80 hours a week, but most of the time they don’t really. What I mean by that is if you have a great COO, operations manager, you as CEO could really get away from your company for three weeks. You could get away from your company for four weeks and the company will still keep turning and running.
I created the video because it’s very easy to think you’ve got to hire a president or CEO to run your company. You believe that until you get to that point, you won’t have built a real company and that’s not necessarily the case. What I’m suggesting is that what you really want to focus on is operations and then hiring a COO-type person to run the operations of the company. You don’t have to completely walk away from this thing to be a great company that can sort of run itself to be a real company. Rather, you could put yourself in a position where all you do is the core CEO-type activities of strategy and some money and key hires and things of that sort.
When that’s all you have to do within your business, now you have a lot of time to do other things. You have a lot of time to go on trips, a lot of time to be involved in your family’s life, or to start another business or to do something else. Now you’re not consumed by the daily grind of everything that goes into building and running a company. Think in terms of COO versus CEO.