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.
Now is the time to take a look at your business and figure out how to hire the right people to elevate your company to the next level.
If you’re running a little bit bigger organization, I think the question you want to be thinking about right now is, “Who could we hire next year, or by the end of this year that would be business changing in the next calendar year? This person’s going to cost some money, but if we could find this person and they could bring an entirely new set of knowledge, experience, understanding to our business, take a ton of stuff off my shoulders, take a ton of stuff off some of my really talented team members so that they could move onto other things and this person could show us new ways to do things that we’re doing now, possibly incorrectly or not as efficiently or optimally as possible. What might that do for our business?”
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.
Set yourself apart from your competitors and win the sale…
I experienced really good selling recently, and I wanted to share the experience with you because I think it can be applied to your business and my business. It’s a really great lesson to remember. We’re putting together our 2nd annual Service Autopilot Conference. It will be in November. We’ve pretty much finalized everything at this point.
About a month ago we were finalizing the hotel that we were going to hold the event at, and it’s an expensive proposition. We’re signing a contract with the hotel for about $125,000 to put on this event. We went, 5 or 6 of us, and we toured the final 3 hotels that we had decided will work for us.
One of those hotels is pictured on my screen. You can see it in the back, it’s the Anatole Hilton in Dallas. We went and they did a first class job. As soon as we walked in the door they had several people waiting for us, and then they ushered us into the hotel and took us to one of the 6 restaurants. They had desserts and drinks and all kinds of things set out for us. The lady that was essentially running the show, and she had 5 or 6 people there with her to help answer questions, she was asking us all kinds of questions about what we cared about, what were our top concerns, what kind of problems did we have last year at our conference at a different hotel, on and on. She was fact seeking. She was looking for selling points, all while we enjoyed drinks and dessert. After that, they did a fantastic job showing us the property.
Somewhere in the course of that conversation, it was mentioned by John, my business partner … In one of the auditoriums that we looked at there were some candies sitting in a little bowl on one of the tables, and he made an offhanded remarkable about “Oh, this is a great hotel, this is my favorite candy.” That was it. We spent a couple hours with them. They gave us gifts on the way out, and that was it. We went on to the next hotel.
About 2 hours after we got back to our office, and our office is a good ways, it’s, I don’t know, 10 or 15 miles away from this Hilton, a courier came to our office with this big bag that you can see on my screen, and a thank you card. They filled this bag with tons of these candies that John loves, and they delivered it with a thank you note. You can see Ashley was running the show on this one, that’s why her name’s on it, but then you can look inside the card and you can see that she wrote a card to us, and was thoughtful enough to send these candies.
We were really happy with the hotel, but we also have 2 other really good contenders, and almost immediately it was like “We want to do business with them.” It completely re-framed how we were thinking about them and where they stacked up in the line-up of the final 3. Like, “If they do this trying to make the sale, what might they be like when we actually do business with them? Maybe they should get the contract.” It was dramatic how through the rest of the day the way we talked about them as compared to the 2 other hotels changed.
Why I wanted to share this with you is what is it that we as business owners and as salespeople can do to change the way our potential customer looks at us? What are these like things? This cost them 20, 30 bucks in courier fees, some candy and a few minutes. Nothing, something really small. That would even be worth it if your sale was only a 1000 bucks; in this case it’s 125,000 dollars. Even if it’s a small sale, that’s hardly any money to spend to really put yourself in a position where there’s a high probability that you’ll win that deal. It’s really smart business, and she did a really smart job of paying attention and probing for what our needs were so that she could answer objections and put herself in a position to win the business.
The other thing I’ll mention, I think I’ve said it before, is over the years at Service Autopilot we’ve received tons of cards. I’ve received a bunch of, and other people have received a bunch of gift cards to local restaurants. We’ve received catered-in lunch to our company from our clients. A lot of clients have sent us all kinds of gifts and said thank you. The clients that do that are known by our team and they’re remembered by our team. Our support team and our training team almost feel differently and see them differently because they become more human, it becomes more personal. Of our thousands of customers that we have here at Service Autopilot, those that actually do things like that, they suddenly stand out. Our whole team knows who they are. That’s a really great lesson. How can we as owners and salespeople do that so that we stand out among the pack?
I hope this helps and I hope you can find a way to apply it to your business.
Watch this video to find out how taking care of your team helps your service business.
A question that I received recently is, “Have you found that offering perks to your employees helps to offset the low pay scale common to labor positions?”
Absolutely. What I have found is that the better you treat your team and the little things that you do for the team, though you might not always get a thank you for those things, they add up.
A lot of companies just aren’t that great to work for and they’re not that fun to work for, and their culture isn’t very good. It’s hard to create a culture out in the field, but you can do the little things for your team. You can surprise them with things. You can bring in food. You can arrange different activities.
There’s stuff you can do. Just simply treating people nice and with respect and not cussing at them and having empathy and understanding for the things they’re going through, and then helping them do extra things like find an apartment or get a checking account or whatever. There’s lots of little things you can do. If you just generally care about people, and you care about your team and the people that you hire that are part of your management, and if your core office team also care about others, then you’ll take good care of your people. That is how you keep people.
In my opinion, investing the extra money to surprise them with things … maybe not TVs and things like that, but food and snacks and maybe some surprise gifts or little bonuses, or a gift card, things of that sort, when they work really hard and they go over and above. Our weather’s been a nightmare and they do extra for the team or the company. You can think of a million different ways that you can just generally be of assistance and care about the team and help the team. That stuff adds up.
Then they refer you. Your team refers you and helps you find new employees. They stick around longer. They have a generally happier attitude out in the field. They’re more likely to smile at your clients. It just adds up.
In my opinion, yes. Every cent you spend to take better care of someone else, to take better care of your team and give them a better life, it’s a smart way to run your company.
In this video, Jonathan describes the three main roles you take on in your job as CEO.
It’s January and this is the month you set the tone for the rest of your year. If you nail this month and you nail this year, it sets you up for the next 5 years. If you are running a larger company, something that I’ve struggled with and I’m still working on to this day, is to remind myself of what I’m about to tell you. I hope it’s valuable for you because it’s incredibly valuable for me when I actually live what I’m about to tell you. I try to do it every single day.
Your job as the owner, as the entrepreneur, as the individual running a larger company, one that does a few million and up gross revenue, is to recruit the very, very best people you can possibly recruit on to your team. You want to spend a lot of time in this area.
Your next job is to make sure you filter out and get rid of everybody that is a drain on the company and anyone that hurts the culture and the morale of the company. You are in the employee management business. You are recruiting the best. You’re getting rid of the under-performers that hurt the team.
Then, your job is to remove the bottlenecks for your team. You’re supposed to make life easier for them, help them stay efficient, help them work fast, help them progress in their area of expertise in whatever it is they provide and do for the company. You want to set the strategy for the company. You want to make sure that everybody in the company is working that plan.
You have the big vision. Where are you going in 5 years? You set the strategy. You make sure everybody’s working that plan and then you remove bottlenecks for your team. That means you might have to get contractors involved. It might mean you have to hire another employee. It might mean you need to fire an employee. It might mean that you need to help an employee get educated in a certain area but you’re there to remove their bottlenecks.
Your typical day looks more like coaching and critiquing, giving advice and feedback, and redirecting and assisting more than anything else. When you reach that point, you’re living the life of what a CEO should be doing. You’re not doing all the work. You’re more delegating and coaching and advising.
Your job is to think and lead. If you’re doing that then you’re achieving what you need to be doing to get your company to the 5 million, to the 10 million, to the 20 million dollar mark. None of it’s easy. I struggle with all of this. I did it better at CitiTurf than I’ve done it at Service Autopilot probably because I’m a little more passionate about Service Autopilot. I’ve stayed in the thick of everything longer than I should’ve and so I’m talking to myself just as much as I’m talking to you.
I hope this gives you some encouragement to really focus on that in January, February, March and the rest of this year. If you’re still a smaller company, work as fast as you can to get yourself into that position and that’s when everything really starts to accelerate inside your company.
See past employee difficulties to build a stronger, more stable company.
When I started studying marketing, a number of the individuals that I really started learning from early on, I would read their material and go to a seminar or conference and they would talk about marketing and other business topics. Over the years, I’ve heard this theme across many, you could call them internet gurus, marketing gurus, whatever the case may be. The theme is that employees are bad. Employees are terrible. You don’t want employees. Build a business that doesn’t require employees.
For many years it was sort of pounded into my head that employees are bad and terrible and no fun and employee difficulties will be the misery of your life. I think it’s a really dangerous way to think and that’s why I wanted to make this video. Because we often, in our business too, will have problems with different individuals and then we’ll say “Man, I can’t find any good employees! There’s not anybody out there that’s any good. They all cause me trouble”. You can think of all the different excuses that you have.
The reality of it is that when you build a great team with great people, and the only way to do that is to let quite a few people on your team go and to constantly be pruning the team, which is something that is not fun in any way. But, the only way to build a great team where you don’t end up with the attitude that you can’t find good people, nobody does a good job, and you dream of having no employees. The only way to get to the point where you don’t feel that way all the time is to constantly be getting the ones that cause you pain, that cause you trouble, that you’re constantly dealing with, that you’re constantly having to talk about, that you’re constantly having to have another meeting with, is to get them out of the business.
When you build a great team, then it’s great to have employees. They can move you forward personally. It’s great to get to work with exciting people that are moving themselves forward in life, that are growing and advancing their careers. Then it actually is great to have employees. If you read too many books and you listen to too many of the wrong people, and it’s some very, very smart people, it’ll be very easy to succumb to the idea that you want to just build a small business without people to make my life easier. That is absolutely incorrect.
Having the right people on your team and having a lot of the right people is exactly how you make your life easier ad better. When you get to work with great people, you’re just going to be happier and they can also help you build an organization. Not just so that it’s bigger to provide you more money, but so it’s bigger that it’s protected in that you have some layers within the company that if a couple key people leave, it doesn’t all fall apart.
The bigger you can build your business the better because it gives a safety net to your team, to you, and to your family. It gives you some people on the team that can cover each other so everybody can go take some vacations and take a break and get recovered mentally. Think in terms of building bigger. Don’t just focus on going small because it seems like it will be easier if you don’t have a bunch of employees that may be difficult. Because from my experience, that’s not the case. The real case is having the wrong employees and keeping them on your team. That’s what’s bad.
Follow this business owner tip to free up your time and keep your company moving forward.
I’m sure I’ve recorded several videos about this topic, and I know I’m repeating myself but, it’s an incredibly important message to hear. It’s one that I have to remind myself of, and if you saw my white board in my office, I have the numbers 10, 100, 1000 and 10,000 written on my white board to remind me that I need to be working on 1000 and 10,000 dollar an hour work.
Let me explain. I’m going to keep it really simple because this is critically important. It’s January. You’re setting the tone for the whole year.
If you’re doing a task that you can hire someone to do it for $10 an hour, then you’re only worth $10 an hour and you are now a massive bottleneck in your company. If you were the guy that could launch this company, start it, get it going, and could make it happen and keep it running, then you’re obviously not a schmuck. You obviously have some skills and abilities and you’re willing to learn and do what it takes to get your company and yourself to a certain level.
So why are you still doing $10 an hour work? You are much better.
I don’t mean that as a negative to somebody doing $10 an hour work. But, you have a bigger skill set and your company needs you to be doing that bigger skill set. You want to spend as much of your time as possible doing the really expensive high-dollar stuff.
The same is true of $20 an hour. If you could hire an irrigation tech for $20 an hour and I’m out there doing irrigation work, I’m only worth $20 an hour to my company. But what if I was working on a marketing campaign, or an employee procedure, or advertising campaign for getting more employees? That’s work that maybe you’re uniquely suited to do. When you’re doing irrigation work, or lawn work, or whatever, that you could hire somebody for 10, 15, 20 or even $25 an hour to do it, then that’s all your worth and you’re letting your company down. You’re not moving your company forward doing the 50 and 100 and $200 an hour work.
Consider putting a note on the desktop of your computer, or on your white board, and just write the numbers 10, 100 and 1000. Maybe you don’t yet know what $1000 an hour work looks like, but keep that in your mind in everything you’re doing. Look at that white board and say, “Okay where am I playing right now? Am I playing in the $10 an hour work category or the $100 an hour work category?”
If all of that is too much to imagine, then write $10, $20, $50, $100 and $200, smaller numbers, and ask yourself every time you’re doing something which type of job are you doing and try to get that smaller stuff off your plate and try get it to somebody else.
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.
To become a very high income earner, watch this video to learn what successful entrepreneurs do.
This might be a silly example, but I remember when I was a senior in high school, and I was trying to save a lot of money. I was mowing lawns back then, not the lawn care business I own now but, it was my first lawn care business. I remember I was subscribing to “Success” magazine, “Inc.” magazine, and “Entrepreneur” magazine, or something like that. Maybe I was subscribing to two, but I remember that I was going to get this third subscription to this magazine and I bet it cost $15, so I was trying to figure out which magazine I should cancel because I liked the two I was subscribing to.
It was so dumb in hindsight. I had a lot of money saved up at the time too, especially for a high school kid, but yet I wanted to conserve my money so I was willing to give up this $15 a year subscription and replace it with another one.
It’s a silly example, but I think it’s one that a lot of us do when it comes to education and knowledge. As I’ve become more successful, as I’ve been willing to spend more money to grow my ability and my education, I’ve observed that almost every single person I know that makes a lot of money and that owns a company that’s truly growing, they are almost all a part of a group of some kind, like a mastermind, a networking group, or some kind of a business group.
Now, I have some friends that are very successful that work for big companies like big multi-national companies that make tons of money that are an exception to this. But, I believe, they have been mentored up through their companies by internal people. Most of us entrepreneurs, businesspeople, we have nobody to talk to, nobody to go to, nobody understands what we’re going through.
I mean, there is nobody that will say to us, hey, here’s the next bottleneck that’s coming in your life. You better go figure this thing out now so that when that bottleneck appears, you can solve it. That’s why I think it’s incredible important to be part of these groups.
Where I’m going with this and why I gave the example of the magazine is, all the really good groups with the best people, the smartest people, and all the people you want to get to know, they’re all expensive. The free groups never last and they never work. The good ones are all expensive but I so believe in this. There’s no scenario where I would not be a part of a business group.
The challenge, it’s really difficult to figure out how you’re going to pay for it because what happens is you don’t get really successful and then join a business group. You can but, the reality is, you join some of these groups, you go to these conferences, and you buy the knowledge before you’re successful so that it will make you successful.
Let’s say you find something you could join for $400 a month and you’ll be surrounded by a lot of people that really could lift you up, motivate you, encourage you, and you’d learn a lot that you could take home and apply to your business. I want to share an idea of how to think about this because what happens is most individuals will get all excited, they’ll join something, they’ll get some success out of that thing, then they’ll get busy and then their excitement will fade.
Then they’ll say, wait, should I really be spending this money every month? Then one day, they’ll have this down day and they’ll say, you know what, I’m going to save some money. I’m going to exit that thing, and as a result, they miss out on all the future benefits of it.
Here’s how to mentally comfort yourself and pay for this thing so you don’t have to renegotiate with yourself every month if you should still continue doing it. Let’s say that this membership, this business group, this networking group you’re in costs $400 a month. My argument is, all that group has to do is help you sell an additional $1,000 a month in recurring work. That’s all it has to do.
Once it does that, it’s paid for forever and you never have to think about it again. The only reason you leave the group is if that group is no longer satisfying what you need and you move to another group. It’s a mistake, in my mind, to stop being part of a group altogether. Rather, I think you should, if you’re leaving one, you should go to the next one because it’s a common trait that I see with all very successful people.
The reason I say all you need to do is sell $1,000 worth of work is because if you think of how most jobs work, there’s 40% or less in labor costs, maybe 20% (this is a made-up number) variable costs such as fuel and some basic supplies and things like that, and then there’s about 40% that’s going to go into things like overhead and profit. Again, not perfect numbers, just an example.
I wouldn’t say to you that if it’s $400 a month, all you need to do is sell $400 in new work because that’s not true. You’ve got costs involved in performing that $400, in earning that $400. That’s why I say mentally if you can find $1,000 in recurring work that this thing you’re part of has helped you make, then mentally take it off the table. Quit renegotiating with yourself. Quit beating yourself up about the expense and realize that there are so many benefits to this thing and it’s paid for. The group helped you pay for it. It’s done. You don’t have to think about it anymore.
When you think about it that way, it’ll just simplify your thought process. It’ll be one less thing on your mental plate every month. It’s done, it’s taken care, and you’ll get all the benefit from now for years to come from being part of that thing. Again, all of the winners I know, all the people I know that make a lot of money, and to me $100,000 a year is not a lot of money, I’m talking a lot of money, they are all part of some type of a networking mastermind business type group.