How Important is Crew Size?

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.

Continue reading “How Important is Crew Size?”

Should The Same Lawn Care Employee Handle Sales And Scheduling?

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.

Should Employee Smoking Be Allowed On The Job Site?

The question is, “Should I allow employee smoking in the truck or at the job site?”

I think the answer is an absolute no. Remember that we are in the business of theater. We are putting on a show for our clients and we want that to be a very positive experience. We want every interaction with them, with us, to be a positive one.

You don’t know who you’re dealing with. You don’t know how they think. You don’t know what they care about. So, you have to go as far as you can to protect your image. That’s why you answer your phone. That’s why the person that answers your phone is very friendly and positive. That’s why when you’re on the job site, you’re in a clean truck. That’s why they’re in a clean outfit, uniform, clothes, whatever the case maybe, because every little thing matters in your overall brand and appearance.

Smoking detracts from that. You don’t want them sitting on the property smoking because it just takes away from your overall appearance.

Likewise, and maybe even a bigger concern, is a lot of work is built based on time. If the individual, the homeowner or the business owner sees an individual out there smoking, their assumption is, it’s just like if they see them out there on their telephone, they think they’re billing me while they’re taking a break.

They are on the clock, getting charged and they see the crew screwing around. You don’t want to give people any reason to think that. So I believe, if there’s going to be any smoking and personal cellphone conversations, they need to happen off the property, away from the client’s site.

Whether or not you let your team smoke in the truck or not, that’s your call. But, if you’re minimizing drive time and break time and all of that kind of stuff, you may have no choice but to let them smoke in the truck if you’re not willing to let them smoke at the property because there would be nowhere else to do it.

You have to make that decision. The place where I take a hard line is never on the job site, ever. If they need to smoke on a big commercial property, they need to go off the job site. They need to do it when they’re on break or on lunch. Never ever, ever on the job site.
I know that there will be many that may disagree with that point, but I think it’s incredibly important when you think about the fact that you’re in the business of putting on a show and making that show be a very, very positive one.

Do I Have to Pay My Employees for Travel Time?

This question’s from Kenny. “When I pay hourly employees, do I have to pay for travel time?”

“When I pay my employees by the hour, should I be paying them for their travel time between jobs?  Do I need to pay them for the ride time between jobs? Exactly what should be included when I’m paying them by the hour?”

My perspective on this is that when you’re paying by the hour, you’re paying for every moment that they work. If you want to be within the law, you’re paying from the moment they show up at your office. You are paying them to drive to the clients’ properties as well as while they are maintaining the properties. And then, you’re paying them at the end of the day to ride back in your truck and unloading your truck. The moment they clock in to the moment they clock out, they’re getting paid.

You’ll see a model in the commercial world where they will write contracts with their employees or contractors, however they set it up, and they will pay for performing the job and not driving. I’m not sure how that fits within the law, but you will see that in the commercial side.

In this commercial model, there will be a driver of each truck and that driver is on the clock from the moment he arrives at the facility to the moment he returns to the facility to unload at the end of the day. But, the individuals in the truck with him are only being paid for any work performed at the shop and job time. They’re not being paid for drive time because their agreement stipulates that they should drive their own cars to every job and they’ll be paid for performing each of those jobs. They can hitch a free ride in the truck if they’d like, but it’s not paid time.

Before you go down a road and follow that type of model, you better be certain you’re double checking that will hold up in your state. You also need to double check that your employment agreements are written correctly and that they will hold up. I can tell you from my experiences in the cleaning industry when I used to own a company with some other partners that there were other companies that were competitors of ours that for years and years had certain payment practices of employees. When one employee became unhappy and sued them, it resulted in settlements for lots of employees.

Something creative around payroll might work out for you for 5 years but that doesn’t mean that when you do get hit, that you won’t have to make up for the many years of underpaying your employees. They don’t just slap your hands with a fine and ask you to do it right from now on. You get a fine and then have to pay a lot of back pay in payroll and taxes! Before you go down a road like that, be very cautious.

If you want to go down a road where you’re paying more for performance, then I would look at an alternative to payroll, meaning an alternative to hourly pay. I would look at piecemeal. I’d look at pay by the job, and then there’s plenty of things to consider even when you do that. You have to keep in mind overtime laws and a whole lot of other things. If you’re going to do something creative outside of just paying straight hourly time, you want to get counsel from somebody that really knows the laws in your state, to be certain that you can sleep each night and not have to worry about someday when you get hit with some big amount of money that puts you out of business. Good luck.

I Run a Two Man Crew, Should I Hire Someone to Replace Me?

The question is, “This will be my 3rd season in business. I run a two man crew. I’m wondering if I need to step away to sell and market and hire someone to replace me?”

Absolutely. Yes. With that question, there is no other reason in my mind to be in business but to give yourself a little bit of leverage. Now, if you desire to be the guy doing all the work and run a 2-man crew, if that’s what you like and that makes you happy, fantastic. From your message, I’m pretty certain, it’s not the case. You need to start this path, as soon as you can. I’m going to answer your question but I would recommend that you go over to the website, howtogrowyourbusinessfast.com. Put in your name and email address and the website will send you 2 videos.

One is of a talk I gave with Planet. It was a webinar about how to get off the track and basically get out of the field. I think it was about an hour. Then, I also gave a talk at GIE in 2013 and it’s a little bit geared towards bigger companies but there is a bunch of stuff in there that you could take away and that’s an hour and a half long talk that I gave. I would highly recommend that you take those 2 resources and figure out how to get out of the field.

Now, let’s say you go hire somebody to take over your position and now you’re free. What are you going to do and what’s your plan of action?

I think a lot of people stay in the role of running the crew because they can’t get their head around, exactly what, why, and how to grow this business. If you can’t answer that question, then you keep saying, “I’m not quite ready yet, I’ll do it next year.” You procrastinate because you don’t know what to do. How do you solve a potential procrastination problem? You need a plan. What’s the plan? If you free yourself up, how are you going to bring in new business? What are you going to do? Are you going to knock on doors, put out door hangers? What is it? Are you going to  talk on the telephone?

Just because your freed up, it  doesn’t mean that anything magical is going to happen. You’ve got to know what you’re going to do. It might just be that over the winter, you’re going to get a great website put together. You may plan to start working on your SEO or pay per click or content marketing. If you don’t know what any of that means, do some Google searches. You figure out what the door hanger is going to look like. Maybe you put together a gift card or referral program to garner a new business. Watch my videos and learn about marketing and think of let’s say, 3 ways that you’re going to get new clients. Get that stuff all worked out over the winter and then you start doing it.

Be ridiculously specific with your plan. Don’t just say, I’m going to put out door hangers. No, you have to know which neighborhoods you want to hit, on which day, and how many. You might do 500 in one neighborhood on one day and 500 more to a different neighborhood on the next.

You need to have all of this in place so that when you hire somebody, you don’t get overwhelmed or distracted. Spend the time now to think through exactly what it means to put out door hangers, exactly what it means to get a website up and running, exactly what it means to knock on a door and sell certain things or go knock on all of your existing client’s doors and try to sell them something else. Again, be ridiculously specific where you know step by step what to do. Almost to the point that you could hand it to a friend or business partner or employee and they would look at it and have a pretty good idea of exactly what to do if they were going to do.

If you do that, you’ll overcome the biggest hurdle to growing and getting started. You’ll have an action plan. Once you get out of the business and start doing this and practicing this because it’s a new role, you won’t have to do that anymore.

I’m just saying do that first so that you guarantee yourself a level of success when you do hire somebody to replace you. The very simple answer that I could have answered in 10 seconds is a yes. If you don’t take the action I described to go with, the yes of getting out in the field, then you may not be overly successful. You’ve got to make sure that when you get free, almost all of your time is devoted to selling and marketing activities. If you free yourself up and 80% of your time is devoted to inconsequential things like maintenance and other miscellaneous things, and 20% is devoted to sales and marketing, you might as well have stayed in your old role of doing work and then just work extra hours to do sales and marketing.

If you do it right, you absolutely want to get off that truck and you want to do it now, not next year. Good luck.

Why You Never Make Money in Your Lawn & Landscape Business

Do you feel like you don’t make enough money in your lawn care & landscape business?

Are you frustrated?  Not getting ahead?

Watch this video to learn exactly why this is happening and how to finally make money in your lawn care business.

 

In your lawn care business, do you feel like you don’t make enough money? Do you feel like as you grow your company, things aren’t getting better, that there’s never money leftover?

I’m going to show you in this video exactly why that’s happening. I’m going to show you why the business doesn’t feel like it’s ever improving.

Some of the common complaints that we hear from guys are, they feel like they’re not pricing the work correctly, not making enough money, the business never gets better, there’s never any money leftover no matter how hard they work or how much they grow, and they feel like they’re just always scraping by.

When they started the business, things felt good. Then, as the company grew, they felt like they could never get ahead…feeling trapped by the growth.

I’m going to show you some numbers. Now, if you get caught up in the numbers that I’m demonstrating, you’re going to completely miss my point because I have not put the thought into this to come up with real numbers. Don’t be caught up on the numbers, they’re only to get you thinking and to illustrate my point.

Let’s say when you first started out, you were working for somebody else working 40 hours a week.

You were making $14 an hour, which means you were taking home about $560 a week. We’re ignoring taxes and all that. Let’s say you were in this industry and the company had some seasonality in it, so you worked this job and maybe another. Again, just keeping this simple.

You worked 40 weeks of the year, so you were making $22,400 per year. Then you decide since you have all the experience, that you can start your own company and make a lot more money.

You go out and start a lawn care company. Let’s say, overnight you sell 40 hours a week worth of work. You are now doing the exact amount of work that you were doing for your prior employer. You’re working 40 hours a week, but now you’re selling your work at $30 a man hour.

Whether you’re mowing yards or doing irrigation or installation, you’re selling that time on average for $30 a man hour. If you’re mowing yards, and you price the yard at $30, that means it takes you about an hour.

If you’re making on average $30 a man hour, and you’re working 40 hours a week, you’re making $1,200 a week. You’re doing way better than you used to when you had your job. You’re still working 40 weeks, but you’re making $48,000 a year instead of $22,400.

Things feel good. You think, “This is great. If I could just grow this business more, I could make a whole lot more money. If I were to go get more jobs and hire more employees, think of all the money that I would make.” You think growth is going to fix your problem and it’s going to let you have this really great lifestyle and you’re going to make tons of money. You run the numbers and think, “Man, if I had people I’m going to make a lot more money.”

This is where you really can’t get stuck on my numbers.

If you’re selling time at $30 an hour, but now you get a helper. If two of you are doing a job together and you sell that job for $30, that means you can only be on that property for 30 minutes because your 30 minutes plus his 30 minutes equals one man hour. That’s $30.

If both of you work an hour on the job site, you better bill $60 to make $30 a man hour. Now you’re selling your helper’s time at $30 a man hour. You think, “Oh, I could hire a guy for $14 an hour. I could sell it for $30 an hour. Think of all the money I’ll make.” But there are all of these costs.

Let’s say when you think about how many hours a week you work and you take the cost of your truck, the cost of gas, the cost of equipment, and you just divide those costs out by the number of hours you work a week to arrive at an hourly cost to run the truck, hourly cost of gas, hourly cost of equipment.

I’m going to say it for the fourth time…these numbers are not exact and are solely to make a point.

When you run the numbers, you’ve figured out that it cost you about $2 an hour to run your truck (these are working hours), $1 an hour for gas, and so on.

This employee now has a truck, gas expenses, equipment expenses, supplies, he has insurance on his truck, materials cost, and you are paying his worker’s comp and a storage unit. There are so many other costs that I didn’t even account for here.

On an hourly basis, if you were to look at all those costs, he’s costing you about $21.67, which is quite a bit more than the $14 an hour. That doesn’t even account for payroll costs, or what they call labor burden. That’s immediately another 8% of the $14 an hour.

Now you’re billing him at $30 an hour but you’re spending $21.67 on him. For every hour you work this guy, you’re making $8.33. If you are still working 40 hours a week, and now your employee is also working 40 hours a week, you were making $30 a man hour before, now you’re making $38.33.

You were getting to take home, in my very elementary example, $30 a man hour which was equating to about $48,000 a year. What’s great is, now you’re also getting to take home another $8 a man hour because you have a helper. Well, then you get another helper. The realty is that you have to go sell enough time to keep this other guy busy. You now don’t have time to work 40 hours a week. You have to be doing things to generate business.

You’re out doing estimates, answering billing questions on the phone, answering sales questions, and selling. Now, you’re really putting in 70 hours a week.

You’re worn out. You’re working weekends and most nights. The business is starting to get really stressful and frustrating. The only answer is, you’ve got to work a little less. You need to get off the truck for part of the week so that you can do all the other activities of the business and have your team now generate the billable revenue.

As you add more employees, all of these new things happen in the business that take all of your time. You can’t be out there doing as much work. Let’s say that you were to get out of the field, or start to reduce your time in the field. If you want to continue to make $48,000, or make an equivalent of $30 an hour, you now have to take these guys so that you’re selling their time at $8.33. You now need 3.6 of these guys.

You need almost four guys out there in the field doing the work, so that with the money leftover, you can make the $48,000 a year that you were making before when you did all the work yourself.

Basically, now you have four guys doing the work for you, but now you’re busy doing all the other stuff for the business and you’re not making any more money. That tends to be the exact problem that most guys get into. You have four guys, you’re swamped, and you have no where to keep all your equipment.

Keep in mind, in my example there’s no profit leftover, you’re not building any money in your bank to protect you for a rainy day, and you’re not putting any money aside to go buy new equipment. You’re not doing any of the stuff that you need to be doing. Your are simply surviving in this example.

Now, you sit down one night and you’re overwhelmed and beat down because nothing is getting better. You have four employees but, they break stuff and things happen. That cuts into that $48,000 that you were making. You’re not always truly making $8.33 per guy. Something’s always happening.

You think to yourself, maybe if you had eight guys things would get better? That means you better get out there and hustle and sell and do everything it takes to grow the business.

Pretty soon you’re so busy again and you’ve hit a brick wall. You’re back in that same spot again. If you’re married, your wife’s worn out with you. If you’ve got kids, you never see them. You don’t know what to do.

You think, maybe you should get an office assistant. If you got an office assistant, that person could answer the phone and do a lot of the smaller activities that you’re doing so you’d be freed up to go do the bigger stuff.

You get an office assistant. Now you need an office and phones and you need all these other things. Your office equates to about $1 an hour for the time you sell across your guys. Your office assistant equates to about $2 an hour for every hour of time you sell for a guy.

You also have about $1 to help pay for the office expenses. The utilities cost you about 50 cents. Now, notice what’s happened down here, your cost has gone up to $25 a man hour, and so now you have to have almost five guys to make the same $48,000 a year you were making.

This is the trap that keeps happening. This is what happens so often.

A guy starts out and he’s making decent money. He wants to grow the company. You look up three years later and you’re thinking, “I’m not making any more money than I was making before. Maybe I’m making less or barely more, but I’ve got all these people, all these trucks, and I’ve got all this stuff going on. Why is there no additional money for me?”

It’s because you’re still selling time at the same price you were selling it when it was just you. But now, you have all of these expenses you never had before. I didn’t even put in marketing expenses. There is a whole list of expenses that I didn’t account for. This, again, is a super elementary example. My numbers are all wrong, but you get the idea. This is exactly what happens.

Now look what happens if overnight you were to change your hourly rate to $40 a man hour. Now how many guys do you need? See? You’re now making almost $12 an hour for every hour you sell of a guy’s time. Now you only need about three guys.

Let me just illustrate that one more time because this is a critical point. I need almost 17 guys when I was selling time at $30 an hour. If I sell my time at $40 an hour, I need barely two guys to make what I was making before. Now imagine that I actually still had the 17 guys, but now I’m making $11.83 per man hour on my 17 guys. Let’s do that math.

For every hour that ticks by in the day that you have 17 guys out in the field making you money, making you $11.83 an hour, you’re accumulating $201 every hour that passes. On a 40 hour week, you’re accumulating $8,000 a week. Originally you were making $48,000 a year, and we used the example of working 40 weeks a year. Now, you’re making $321,000 a year.

Now, this is an exaggeration. With 17 workers, you’re not going to make $321,000 a year in take-home pay and be growing the business and everything else that it takes. My numbers are flawed, but can you see the difference in the problem?

Originally you kept your hourly rate at the same hourly rate as you were originally selling time for when it was just you and you felt good. You were making money. Then as you grew the business and you acquired all of these additional expenses, you didn’t consistently adjust your rate. As a result, you kept adding people, but the business wasn’t getting better. In my example, we were still selling time at $30 a man hour.

It was taking something like 17 guys to generate the same income that you were making years back. By simply adjusting our rate that we sell time for, look at the dramatic difference it had. You would go from making $48,000 a year to $321,000 a year. This is the power of constantly adjusting your rates.

Now, granted, you can only sell time for so much. You have to be competitive in your market. The trap is that so many guys go out and they build a company and everything’s going well. They keep adding more and more expenses to their business, but the rates aren’t going up. They’re either not becoming more efficient as a company, or they’re not adjusting the rate that they sell time for. Their margins keep getting smaller and smaller.

The only way to solve the problem is to keep hiring more and more people and selling more and more. You can’t sell your way out of this problem. You have to, at some point, correct your pricing. For those in commercial contracts, or those in residential contracts, the only way to fix the problem is to either get rid of all the work that originally built your company, or raise the pricing on all the work that originally built your company.

Oftentimes, the contract that you have doesn’t respond well to you taking as big a price increase as you need. If you realize three years later that you’ve been underpricing and you have to go back and raise prices 30%, that immediately gets most of your clients to go out and look for better pricing because it’s such a huge price increase.

Oftentimes, that’s the only way a guy can fix his business because he was underpricing his work from day one. This is maybe my final point. If you’re watching this and you’re just getting started in business, make sure that you’re pricing your work today, right now, at a price that will support your business as if you already have all of this additional cost.

Now, with that being said, if you’re pricing your work correctly today, when it’s just you and maybe a couple of helpers, then you should be making a lot of money. Don’t spend all that money. You should be putting it in the bank to help fund the growth of the company.

Let’s say, you’re out there with a couple of workers and you’re making $65,000. If you’re spending all that $65,000 to support your personal lifestyle, when you want to grow the company and you go through the phases of your business where you start to hire people and start to add costs, you won’t have the money to put in. You go through these ups and downs in the business where some of that money that you’re pocketing now is needed for the business. You can’t take quite as much out because you’ve got to invest a bit in the business to hire some people and buy some equipment.

My point there is that this is what happens. This is a common trap. A lot of guys early on make a lot of money when they’re pricing correctly. If they spend all that money to buy a house, a car, a cool truck, or whatever, if they’ve got kids, now they have no money leftover. They have to continue to make that 65 to 70 grand a year just to live personally.

These guys have no money to invest in the business. They aren’t able to take a temporary pay cut to afford all the expenses of the business to take it to the next level.

If you pay attention to these numbers from day one and you’re aware of them, you will grow so much faster and your business will be so much better.

Just Do It: Hire an Office Assistant ASAP

Why You Must Hire an Office Assistant as soon as possible.

A question that I receive fairly frequently and that I’ve answered a lot, especially in some of the round table consulting groups that I do periodically is, when should I hire an office person?  Let me read you part of an email and then, I will answer this.  This is about hiring an office person…how to get the confidence and the courage to do it and when to do it. 

In this message, it says, “My true talent is in pushing production, getting projects done, and sales as well. I hate being at the PC which is why I love your software.  I feel that as the marketing picks up, the situation will only get worse and at some point, we all have to bite the bullet and hire a non-billable person to help out.  Please explain how you would do it if it was your first office assistant.”

Okay, so a couple of key things here.  The word non-billable. I want to talk about that and I want to talk about how you figure this out because this is critical to scaling your company.  The first hump you have to get over is getting yourself out of the field.  The next hump, often times, is getting that first assistant in the office to take stuff off of you.  I’ve probably said this before, but it’s so critical to pound it into your mind.  If you’re doing something that you could hire somebody else to do, whatever that dollar figure is, it is worth it to go ahead and hire someone.

Let me say it a different way.  If you are doing something a $14/hr person could do, you are wasting your money, big time. For example, if you are scheduling work in a software system, taking a billing phone call and receiving a credit card payment, taking a phone call and emailing an invoice, or sitting in front of your computer to type out an estimate for 20 minutes, you are essentially making $14 an hour.  That’s really what it comes down to.  You’re doing something that a $14 an hour person could do. 

You’re the owner, the guy that made this thing happen, the guy that started it and that took all the risks.  You’re the individual that if it wasn’t for you, this thing wouldn’t be here. You have a unique set of capabilities that a lot of other people don’t have.  You have a level of dedication, courage, and perseverance that many people don’t have and you need to make sure that you’re working in whatever your unique ability is. 

In this email, it was mentioned that his true talent was pushing production, getting projects done, and sales as well.

Two points here.  One, that’s exactly what this individual needs to be doing all the time because, everything else they’re doing is a waste of their talent and it’s hurting the company.  He also mentioned that he hates being in front of the PC. That means that he’s probably not doing his best work.  There’s somebody out there that loves being in front of the PC.  They don’t want to sell. They don’t want to talk to the customer on the phone all the time. They don’t want to manage projects or be outside. They want to be in front of the computer and they love that stuff.  Therefore, give it to them. With your training they will do a better job.

Your only chance of scaling the company is to stop doing the work that doesn’t pay you much money. Get yourself, as fast as you can, to a point in the company where you’re doing only the work that you’re the very best at, and hire other people to do the other stuff.  One of the things that I’ve come to realize is I grew up thinking that I had to work really hard, which was right. I believe in that, and I’m teaching my kids to work hard.  Get the work done, work really hard, and do things differently than everybody else. But, at the same time, you can take that too far. You can condition yourself to think that if I just work a little harder, push a little harder, then I will make more money and become successful. That’s not actually always true.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out.  It’s more about doing the right stuff and getting as much junk out of your life as absolutely possible.  For example, when you’re not working I believe you shouldn’t be doing anything work related. You’ve got to give yourself a moment to rejuvenate, a moment to think, and time to recover.  If you’re not doing that, your business will never be great.

As fast as you can, you’ve got to be putting yourself into a place where you’re getting some time to recover, and you’re giving other people things to do.  If you’re like me, and you feel like you can just push through and work harder and therefore will be more successful than everybody else, it’s actually a bit of a hindrance. Because, then you’ll never let yourself give stuff to other people.  You’ll never let other people take things over because, one, we’re afraid that we can’t afford to hire the person.  Two, we’re afraid they’re not going to do as good of a job as us. And three, subconsciously, there’s an element of guilt with business owners and entrepreneurs when we take a break. We worry that we’re not working as hard as everybody else.

You really have to buy into the concept that number one, if you’re not working in your greatest skill, there’s probably somebody who can do it better than you.  Number two, if you’re doing something that somebody else could do for less pay, you’re wasting a lot of money and you’re slowing down the growth of your company. If you let them do it, you’ll be freed up to do something bigger that moves the company forward faster.  Three, if you’re not letting other people take stuff off your plate, you won’t have time to rejuvenate and then you’re never going to move your company forward. 

The fastest way to move the company forward is to make sure that, of the five million things you need to be doing, you’re working on the three most important right now.  You have to make time to think through what the three most important things are. Otherwise, you will end up at the end of the year and you’ll wonder why your business is only a little bit bigger.  It’s because you didn’t work on the most important, biggest activities that would have the biggest effect on moving the company forward.

You’ve got to create that time for you to think through that.  You’ve got to create a little bit of calmness in your life so that you don’t feel constant stress every time something goes wrong. You have to be strategic.  Yes, you may have other problems, and yes, you’ve got other fires.  You will deal with them, but they are not going to distract you from the big focus. I believe the only way to get to that point is to get stuff off of your plate.

It all goes back to hiring an office person. It may seem scary but nobody has ever come back and told me that they regretted following that advice.

I’m telling you, if you get stuff off your plate, your mind will be freed up, you will have new ideas, you’ll have new focus, you’ll see things in a different way, and you’ll be working on the more important stuff.  This new outlook and new freedom will allow you to create the new work that will easily pay for that new person and more.

You’ve got to get all the non-billable junk you’re doing out of your life and give it to somebody else that’s far less expensive than you. You need to be free to work on the big stuff.  Then, if you imagine a set of stairs and you’re starting at the bottom, doing all these small things. If you hand those to the person below you to take them over, it frees you up, to move up one step.  Then you’ve got these new things, and one day you realize, here’s a bunch of stuff I’m doing that I could give off to somebody else. So, you hand that off to a person in your organization or hire a new person.

Now, you get to move up another stair, and another stair, and you keep doing higher level things in the company. You have to continue to do this to break through the million, five million, even the $10 million mark.  There are all these bottlenecks that you’re going to hit, and the only way you get past them is to educate yourself on new things and then to delegate them to your staff. You will be freed up to do all the new things you’re learning to take your company to the next level.

One final thing, there’s a reason why only 9% or 10% of this industry makes over a million dollars a year.  It’s not because of low-ballers. It’s not because of too much competition. It’s not because the industry’s too hard or because it’s a bad industry.  It’s generally because you’re not working on the most important things to move the company to the next level.

We as the business owners are usually the ones holding up the ship because we’re doing too much stuff. We become the bottleneck in the company and we’re slowing it all down.

When you start to get yourself in a position where you’re no longer the bottleneck, things go faster and faster and faster.  Every time you educate yourself and move to the next level, you pass stuff on to other people and move onto the bigger and bigger stuff.  A really, really important topic.  Good luck.

How To Hire Office Employees

Are you ready to hire office employees?

Hiring your first office person is critical to growing your landscape maintenance company and making more money.

Watch the video above to learn tips and tricks to hire your first office employee.

 

Mike is looking for hiring advice on how to find and hire his first office person at his lawn care company. He says, “Hey Jonathan. This year has been going really good and really smooth, and thanks to your software, we might even see some growth.”

This is an incredibly important topic, and almost everybody I meet is waiting far too long to do this.

By the way, Mike is probably one of our first 50 clients at Service Autopilot. He’s been with us for years, and has given us some really awesome advice and direction for the system. Mike is somebody that we’ve worked with for a long period of time. He’s been through everything with us on the system, since he goes back to day one.

Mike says, “I believe I’m at a point next year that I need to hire an office person, thanks to SA. How do you believe is best to take on an office person with fair compensation? If they are working from a virtual office, how do you keep tabs on them? What would your plan be for hiring that first office person?”

Again, great question.

I have dealt with Mike quite a bit over time. And, just from knowing Mike, I know what he’s capable of, which is probably true for so many of us…he shouldn’t be doing these types of activities. That’s my perspective. He should be spending his time on more important things.

I have hosted several round tables where I speak to owners of small businesses. We spend several days working on their businesses, and if they do not already have an office person, I usually advice them to hire one as soon as they return home. The guys that do it, universally come back and say, “Thank you, I did it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s changed everything.”

Our very first office hire, when I started my lawn care company, was a stay at home mom that also home schooled her boys. She still works for us and does a totally fantastic job. If you get the right person, you don’t have to worry about managing them. Many of these people are experienced and skilled and are simply unable to join the traditional work force. But, they can be an asset to your landscape company, and in exchange for the freedom of working from home, are usually willing to work for a little less.

That being said, my favored approach is to have people work from the office. Because we are so big on customer service, I like to have everyone here so that we can all work together. I like the culture and the environment of having everyone together.

I have been really fortunate in this area. You need to hire quality people. You need a person that just has something innate inside of them. You need someone that can empathize and wants to deliver quality. This of course is harder than it sounds. If someone doesn’t work out, you have to let them go quickly. You might just have to do a little trial and error.

To do that, you might start out looking at Craigslist. I just put an ad up on Craigslist for just $25. If you have nothing to lose, there’s a lot of people looking. I would also use word of mouth. The home schooling thing is huge and there are a lot of people out there that home school. I tend to think that you’ll get a different kind of person. A person that is willing to stay home to home school their kids, is a different type of person by nature.

You might even put the word out at local churches to see if anyone in their congregation is looking for work. I have not done that, but that may be an effective way to find employees.

Next, you really need to consider your personality in all of this. Can you handle not seeing somebody at the office?

Can you handle not knowing exactly what they’re doing. If that’s going to eat you up and bother you, and you’re going to have to micromanage them, it’s not going to work out. You might as well setup an office environment. You have to really think about who you are. This doesn’t work for everybody.

If your first hire feels a little risky, you might consider a part time position, and then see where that goes.

When I got my very first office, it was only a 10X30 office that I rented for $400/$450 a month. It was just something I found to work out of since it was too hard for me to work at home with my kids when they were little.

That was how I started. Then, as we grew, we got a bigger office. There are some inexpensive ways that you could go about getting started with this, even if you want to bring somebody into your office and have them from day one work from your office. But, really think about part time if this is a big concern for you.

One of the activities that most often necessitates having somebody on your team as soon as possible is that the phone is not getting answered when it rings. The calls are rolling to voicemail.

If you hire someone that works from home to work the phones, I have found that having them track their time does not work. It is a nightmare to have them track their time on calls. What we did is provide platonic headsets for about $390 and agreed to pay them for 30-40 hours per week. This, of course, comes after they have worked with you and have earned a little trust with you.

Also, sit down and make a list of all of the things you need them to do. Are they going to answer phones, prep mailers and door hangers, write hand written thank you notes to new clients? What are the to dos that they can take care of? Prioritize them and that then becomes their job description. On this very first person you’re hiring, when they join your team, you’re able to say here’s the expectation. I’m hiring you to do this.

If you catch any hesitation when you give them their expectations, don’t hire them. Keep looking.

Make this list for you. It’ll give you confidence. It will assure you that you have plenty for them to do. It will also lay out for them what you expect and will give you a means to measure whether or not they are performing at the agreed upon expectations.

You can work through that list to get them back on course. They know what you expect. That’s what people want.

At Service Autopilot, we do something called agile development. It’s how we manage projects and such. Within agile development, there’s a concept called scrum.

Daily scrum is basically where you meet with each person on your team for a very short period of time daily. There are three basic questions that make up a scrum. This will apply to managing your first employee, especially if they are going to work from home.

The three questions are: 1. What did I get done today? 2. What do I need help with? 3. What do I plan to do tomorrow? They can send you the answers to these three questions every day.

That’s a way that you could have some level of accountability with this individual. It will give you a  means to measure their progress and will give your a feeling for what’s going on. You will get to build a level of trust.

You have to be sure and prioritize their daily tasks. It is extremely difficult for a person to have to switch their focus from project mode to answering phone calls. If you need a marketing letter proofread immediately, for example, give them a time frame that they are allowed to miss phone calls to complete this task.

I wanted to point that out because I see this as a real challenge. It’s easy for us to say that their number one priority is to answer the phones but, by the way, I need these other five things done today.

It’s very difficult to give this individual projects that require a lot of brain power and thought to complete while answering phones. If you’re going to do that, you have to have some flexibility and have a random project list for them to work on as they can get to it.

You can also give them a certain time of day that may not get a lot of calls to put their phone on hold to allow them to work on projects.

There are, however, a lot of menial, brainless tasks that can be completed while working the phones. They can be stuffing, stamping, and hand writing addresses on envelopes.

Think through all of this stuff. It is an important thing that I have learned.

Service Autopilot, or other business management systems work, can be delegated to other people. The owner should not be doing that unless it is the scheduling. It is the life blood of your business and you have to be super careful with that. Only well trained employees should take that scheduling.

I think that the way you start with this is, you have them take phone calls and charge credit cards. Have them update phone numbers and do things like that. Then, they can create tickets or to-dos for you so that you can edit the schedule as needed.

Unique maybe to Service Autopilot, Mike, is that they could log waiting list items. If the client needs to get bush trimming done in two weeks, they can just put that into the waiting list. Anything that’s not a waiting list item that needs to be scheduled on a specific day, they can create a to-do or ticket for that. You can then handle those.

The key here, again this is not just Service Autopilot, to any business system, is that when you sweep through and do those things, have them sit with you. They can start to learn how to do that in the system. This will get them well trained so that they can start doing that themselves.

This is an activity that you should absolutely hand to your team but make sure you’ve spent the time to really train them. Invest a bit in this area to make sure they’re really up to speed on that.

I’d highly recommend tracking all of your phone calls. I think that’s a big deal and is ridiculously valuable. We track every single phone call, every single to-do in our company. It’s a big deal.

I think your new employees can also do basic accounting for you. They should be able to receive check payments and log them, charge credit cards, give clients their account balance, send invoices by email, and print out statements and mail them.

Those are just a few of the activities that your new hire can do. I would think about those ideas and pointers. And Mike, if you need more, just shoot me back a message and I’ll record another video. Thanks.