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.
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.
If you are wanting your crews to improve their quality out in the field, watch this video.
The question is, how can I get my techs and my crews to up their quality level?
I’ve heard different versions of this question many times. At the end of the day it all comes down to training. But, it’s also about communication. What I believe you want to be doing, is going over with your crews and your techs every single morning, any new notes that you’ve put on their route sheets or their mobiles.
I personally like the concept of standing out at the gate, at the yard, or however you operate, and as your crews leave your facility, I would assume if you’re a bigger company they’re staggered, you’re going over very quickly with any changes to the schedule. Anything that’s changed. Anything you need to tell them about, or your manager, or somebody’s doing this, and then they’re pointing out notes. Notes such as, “This client was unhappy about this last time.” “This client asked if you could please do this.” This client said, “While you’re there, could you please check on this?” You can do this very quick.
If you’ve done it right in your software system or from your software system on your printed route sheets or work orders, you can have this highlighted or notated, and you just run through it very quickly. This is a communication thing. You’ve got to literally talk to each of your techs, your teams, your crews about this. Just make sure it’s crystal clear. It only take a few extra minutes, but it results in a higher level of quality, what would be a better level of customer service, fewer redo’s, fewer call backs. It just saves money and it builds your reputation so that all of your marketing works so much better.
Then on top of that, I would highly recommend pictures. If there’s a problem, if there’s a complaint, or if there’s an accident, something safety related, there’s pictures taken of everything. Then those pictures are talked about. Depending on the software system you’re using, you can have that picture attached to a job so it shows up on the mobile. If you’re using mobiles or if they’re using paper, you could print out those pictures. Who cares if it costs you a little bit of extra money to print in color, because it’s worth so much more to you in terms of being great. Terms of doing a really good job with high quality and excellent customer service because again, that makes all of your marketing work so much better. It earns you so many referrals. A little bit of money spent on paper and ink to produce a much higher level of service, has so many major benefits in term of revenue and profits down stream. Print that stuff out stand out there and talk to them about it.
Meet them in the field. Show up at the job unexpected and point things out. Show up unexpected and walk the property with the team. Show up unexpected and show them how to do a better job performing whatever the service is. Show up unexpected with a tech and say, “Hey, last week when you diagnosed whatever brown spot and it wasn’t, it was actually grubs, here’s what you look for,” and you go through that stuff with the team.
It requires lots of training. Lots of in person communication. Lots of in field communication. Lots of showing up at the job site and getting your hands dirty and showing the team, “Here’s how we do it,” and setting that example. Then showing them best practices. Watching what they’re doing, analyzing and saying, “Hey, have you tried this? Hey, have you considered this? Maybe you can do it this way and you’ll save yourself some time and you’ll get home earlier. Maybe if you do it this way, the three times you had to go back to other jobs last week, could have been eliminated because you could have got it right the first time.”
You’re thinking through the actions that are happening with the team and you’re think of ways to take steps out of the process or add steps to the process to either improve and make them even better or to subtract, meaning take away things that are negative that they’re doing that again will make your quality, your customer service, and everything else so much better.
In the end, make your team a lot happier because they’re getting home faster, they’re not pissed that you just had them go back to a property again. All of these things go together, work together to build a really great company and to get your teams, your techs and your crews to do what it is that you want them to do.
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.
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.