What Are You Willing To Sacrifice For Your Business?

Jonathan shares what is important in his life and explains why the sacrifice for your business does not have to be your entire personal life.

This past weekend I got to spend an awesome weekend with a bunch of great, great people that are part of Academy. These are guys and gals that are just doing awesome stuff in their businesses and they’re excited about making their businesses better. I’m just incredibly grateful for getting to hang out with some really awesome people.

There’s a point to this video. We spent a weekend in Vegas. There was no agenda. It was a surprise trip for everybody in Academy. About a third of Academy attended. We have about 100 people in Academy. Actually just a little less than a third attended. Many brought their spouses.

We basically had no agenda. There was no business agenda. We just hung out. We had some great food. I think I got back to my room at 3:30 one night and 5:30 the other night. We were just hanging out talking. Talking about personal stuff, and business stuff, and growing the company, and problems, and everything that you could possibly imagine that goes on inside a business and in personally building a business. It was awesome. Guys played golf and we went on an awesome ATV adventure.

The point of this is, it just reminded me how incredibly important this stuff is. I’m really grateful that I got to hang out with some great people, and I’m really grateful that Academy is filled with awesome people. Hopefully it’s encouraging to you possibly to hear this, and that is that it’s not all about business. The purpose of business is to facilitate a personal life. It’s so easy to get caught up in doing nothing but work. I’ve been completely guilty of that. I’ve done a couple of things right, and probably should give a lot of the credit to my wife in pushing me in the right direction. But, let me tell you what I did right and then let me tell you what I did wrong. Hopefully it’ll give you a couple of ideas and maybe a little bit of encouragement. Again, this was all sparked because of an awesome weekend in Vegas.

What I think I’ve done right, and you have to know that I’ve built more than just Service Autopilot and more than CitiTurf. I’ve been a part of several other companies and I’ve worked ridiculously hard. I’ve been through some pretty serious ups and downs and I’ve been through some really tight money situations. But in all of it, from the day I left the software company I worked for way back, I’ve always, unless I’m traveling, almost always had dinner with my family at around 6:30 every night.

I’ve got two boys and a wife. Now obviously, even before the boys were around, I still had dinner with my wife. But now, and as the boys get older, we have dinner every night as a family. I never, almost never work on a Friday night or a Saturday night. Generally my wife and I go out or we go out as a family. But there were many, many times when we couldn’t afford to go do a lot but we could still do something as a family. I didn’t work on Friday or Saturday nights. Generally I never work on Sundays. Now, I have worked a ton of Sundays after the family goes to bed. That’s been super common. I’ve been trying to eliminate that recently, I’d say in the last year where I don’t even go back to work. When I say go back to work I mean at the house on a Sunday.

If I could encourage you to do anything, I’ve been what I believe to be fairly successful, and I’ve done it without sacrificing time with my family, and that basically means from dinner time until the time my boys go to bed. I’ve not sacrificed that. I’ve not sacrificed Fridays or Saturday nights. And, I’ve not really sacrificed Sundays and I’ve been able to get here.

Now, what have I sacrificed? I’ve missed quite a few kids games. I’ve definitely missed a lot of kids practices. I have taken fewer vacations or long weekends. I’ve worked probably too many Saturdays. I do believe that I needed to do a lot of that because you just simply have to work really hard to get somewhere and get somewhere big. But at the same time, I’ll bet if I had given up more Saturdays and I’ll bet if I’d taken a few extra long weekends that my wife would’ve liked to have taken, I’ll bet if I’d done a few more things like that my businesses would be just as good as they are. There would be zero noticeable difference. I believe that.

If I could encourage you to do anything, don’t sacrifice too much. You have to sacrifice, but don’t give up some of that stuff that’s really important. I have to tell you, I’m thankful that I didn’t, and I’m trying to get better at what I have given up. The reason why I don’t think it’s going to mess with your life in any way is that you’ve got to have time to recharge. So Vegas, and that’s what made me think to record this video, is an opportunity for many to recharge and get re-excited about their business leadership.

The elite trip that we’ve got coming in July for Academy, exactly the same thing. It’s going to be all fun and adventure. The mastermind groups that I’m in, the business adventure stuff that I do, the vacations I do with my family and my wife, all of that stuff, the activities that I do outside of work, they all re-energize me, recharge me, get me excited about work. Again, the purpose of business, and there’s only one purpose of business, and that is to create an awesome, awesome personal life. Business is there to facilitate an adventure, a personal life, a strong family, all of that. The purpose of business is not just to have a bigger business.

I hope some of that will give you some ideas and encouragement. If I could leave you with anything, don’t sacrifice everything to build your business. If you have to, build your business a little bit slower, but don’t give up all that other stuff. I’m so thankful that I haven’t. But again, I’ve already given up quite a bit, and much of it was probably completely unnecessary. Don’t forget to go have adventures and have a lot of fun.

How Do You See Your Life After You Sell Your Company?

Your life after you sell your business may not be all that you imagine. Here is why…

Recently I recorded several videos about selling your company and it is something that I’ve thought about for years from different experiences I’ve had in business. This goes all the way back to mid 2000 in terms of experience in selling your business and thinking about it. It is a topic that I am very aware of and it is a topic that affects both the very small business owner and the multi-million dollar business owner because in both cases you are thinking about it. Many times it is the dream of both, the small guy and the big guy. The little guy a lot of times is in the middle of being frustrated and burned out and dreams of the day he can walk away from their business. The bigger guy might have those exact same dreams, because as you get bigger, your problems don’t necessarily go away. You just have different problems.

I think that it is an important topic to think about no matter where you are in business even when you are small. The reason for that is, as you build your company, if you are building just to sell, you build your company completely different and you work on your business in a completely different way. You are more worried about building top line revenue and growing profit as fast as you can whereas, in my opinion, if you are building your company to keep it, you are more worried about culture and people and procedures and systems and things of that sort. Not that you don’t worry about those things when you are building your company to sell it because all of those things help you get your company sold at maximize price. Yet you just think about things at a different level.

You want to make sure when you are going to keep your company, that you are still going to want this thing in 5 or 10 years. Whereas when you are building it to sell it, you might mentally let certain things go and say, “I don’t care. That’s going to sort of be the next person’s problem.”

I said all of that to lead into a point. I was talking with someone that I am friends with that is very successful, has built multiple very successful businesses, and is at a point where he can take off for 1 or 2 months at a time easily. I am not at that point anymore because I have Service Autopilot. I couldn’t be gone for 2 months. Whereas, this individual can and what he has observed from being gone for quite a period of time is it gets pretty boring because all of your best friends still have jobs. They are still working and you can’t just call them out there in the middle of their life. They can’t necessarily just take off and travel. They might have kids or maybe you have kids and your kids are going through school and your kids have sports.

What he has observed and even other individuals have said the same thing. The idea of selling and walking away, not really having much to do sounds wonderful but, the reality of it is, once you do that, what do you do? Who do you do it with? Everybody else still has a job and everybody else is still working and not everybody else can get away.

I say all of this because I think back in the beginning, you need to know whether you are building to sell or building to keep. You may change your mind but you at least need to know up front because if you are building it to sell, then you are going to do things differently than if you are building it to keep. And what if eventually you have the realization that you know what, maybe selling isn’t as great as I thought it would be. Maybe I should focus more on building a great company, one that can run itself. Maybe I should focus a little bit more on solving some of these problems in my business instead of ignoring them because I think they are going to become somebody else’s problems down the road.

My point of the video is to consider, and maybe try to look at if you were to sell the company, meaning that you are not going to work as hard on building a great company that you’ll own in 10 years. If you are building it to just sell it, what will you do when you actually sell the company? And, if there is a way that you can experience that and find out for yourself, I think that might change your attitude on selling. The other thing about this is I have known a number of people that have sold their companies and become very bored very quickly and in most cases they’ve sold their company and within a couple of years were disappointed that they had. Even though they made a lot of money, they miss being in the game, they miss having the friendships, they miss being challenged and they miss all of that.

This is two fold. One, try to figure out for yourself exactly what you’d really do if you sold this thing and you had 3, 5, 6 months a year to do nothing. What exactly would you be doing in your life? Is that really something you want? And two, once you have that answer, what might you change within your business, the way you are doing things, or the problems you are not solving, to make it a company that you do love that you will want to keep 10 years from now.

Six Excuses Holding You Back From Building A Successful Business

Watch this video to learn the top 6 excuses holding you back from building a successful business and living your dream.

My goal in this video is to get you to question all of your go-to excuses of why you can’t do something. We’ve all got them. I’ve got them, you’ve got them, we’ve all got them. They can range everywhere from getting started in the business, to breaking past a million, to reaching ten million.

Everybody’s got them at different places, and we’re all telling ourselves stories about why something can’t be done. Let me run through some examples here that I hear all the time.

One of the top ones is the economy. “Oh, the economy’s not good, or the economy’s bad, or the economy’s good right now, but it’s too good, so I’m pretty sure that soon it’s going to go bad again, so this wouldn’t be a good time.”

I was a partner in a company I didn’t start in the early 2000s, right after the big bubble burst in technology. That company is around today. It’s an 8-figure company and it’s extremely successful. We started that company during a time when the economy had totally fallen apart and it worked. Service Autopilot was started during a time that we were just starting to recover from the 2008 fiasco. I would describe Service Autopilot as successful and becoming very successful.

“Corporations and big companies, they’re too difficult to deal with.” “I don’t like commercial work because they pay on 30-day terms.” Back to the example of the company in the early 2000s. We were dealing with huge, huge companies in the United States, in some cases, public companies. My business partner had a very clever idea to, when it was time to re-negotiate the contract, to say, “Instead of us taking a price increase this year, we will forgo the price increase but you will pay us weekly. You’ll pay us one week in advance, so every week we will get a check from you.” They took it. We ended up getting that deal with several other very large corporations. They historically don’t work that way.

Another one is, and this is a big one right now for those in California, “There just isn’t any water, so there’s nothing I can do. My business is sort of over. I’m out of luck. I’m screwed.” If you’re a business owner, your job is to react and avoid. I feel for you; I get it. Coming into this year in Texas, we were very concerned about what our water situation would be. I’m really fortunate right now that in Dallas, we’re getting a lot of rain. In my mind, I was thinking, “Okay, what are we gonna do? Are we going to diversify in other services this year?” If I had to and I had a smaller company, I’d pick up and move my company.

If that was the thing that I was passionate about, that industry was the one I was passionate about being in and I didn’t have a very big business, I’d move it. If I had a decent-sized business, I’d diversify into other services where they’re not so water-dependent. It’s a nightmare, it’s terrible, it’s hard, it’s painful, but there’s an option. We’ve always got an option. Trust me, I’ve told myself many times that this is going to be a disaster. But there’s always an option.

The other go-to excuse is, “I don’t have any money. I’ll just have to wait til I have more.” I would argue that you’ll probably never have a lot more money, especially if you’re working for somebody or you’re not making some drastic lifestyle change to start saving more money based on the money you’re making now. In that case, I recommend just getting out there and making your first thousand bucks and doing it on the side. Just start. That’s such a common excuse of “I’ll do it next year when I have more money.” That never, ever happens. You wake up one day and you never started your business.

My favorite, which I have uttered many times myself is, “There’s just not any good employees out there. We can’t find anybody good.” To that, I would say, really? There are really a lot of great people out there. Yes, labor is my number one problem in my business. It’s the hardest problem. It’s the biggest bottleneck. It’s the reason we’re not twice as big. It doesn’t mean there’s not good people out there. It doesn’t mean you can’t find them. There are lots of ways to find them. We have found them. I have the exact same struggles here at Service Autopilot to find people as I do at CitiTurf, because finding awesome developers and finding great customer service people, finding great sales guys, it’s really, really hard. They’re not just sitting out there posting on Craigslist or watching Craigslist waiting for me. But they’re out there. You’ve got to just do more, try harder, and be different than everybody else to go find them.

Maybe there’s too much competition. To that one, I would say that I wouldn’t even enter a business that doesn’t have a ton of competition. I wouldn’t go into a market that doesn’t have competition. Competition proves that there’s a hungry crowd of people that want to buy what you’ve got, that want it desperately and they need it. I believe I can come into a market and provide better customer service, do better marketing, implement better technology, and train my team at a different level than everybody else. Competition doesn’t scare me. In fact, I think competition is a sign that I want to be in that market. Don’t let competition scare you, just know that whether you’re growing in a new market or expanding into a new market, or growing in your existing market with a lot of competition, you’ve just got to be better and different. If you are, you can win that game.

The last one I’ll use, “It’s impossible to build a big business. That was possible 10 and 20 years ago, but today, with all the taxes and the political system and the guy in office right now, I don’t like him, and there’s too many laws and too many regulations. Now there’s Obamacare. This is impossible. I can’t build a company in this. It’s just not what it was.” There are a bazillion people all around us building companies. There’s a lot of people being really successful in all kinds of industries, and they just deal with all that stuff. They figure it out, they figure out how to maneuver and succeed and be successful. That’s what our job is as a business owner. Our job is to find the problems and solve them. That’s how we make money, and that’s how we build great companies.

I just made up a couple examples of go-to excuses to get your brain turning. I’ve got them and I still have them. You’ve got them, we’ve all got them, and they’re hindering us at some level. What are they? Find those things and find solutions to them. Get them out of your life. You’ll be all the more successful and I’ll be all the more successful because of it.

What Is The Importance Of Strategic Business Planning?

In order to grow a super successful company, you must understand the importance of strategic business planning and goal setting.

This month’s Service Autopilot Academy session is about strategic planning and goal setting. Every month we cover a topic to implement in your business. Most months we’re giving you a system like door hangers, or post cards, or web marketing, or review system. We’re giving you employee ads and something to implement in your business.

This month it’s a little more conceptual. I’ve got a point here, and it’s strategic planning and goal setting. I’m working on this and I’m getting a little concerned thinking, “Gosh, I hope that everybody in Academy sees the value in this, because I’m not necessarily handing them a door hanger per se. I’m concerned. Will this be a let down to them?”

I’m recording the video because I’m working on Academy right now, but when I think about this and the reason we’re doing this, I feel that goal setting and strategic planning is actually one of the absolute most important things to be doing in your business. For example, if you don’t do this, everything else you’re doing is busy work. The way you win against everybody else is having a better plan and then executing that plan. Time, setting aside time to actually think and say, “Okay, what is that next action that I should be working on?”

Think about this, you’re running a bigger company, you have a payroll of two million dollars a year. Are you directing your two million dollars a year in payroll in the right direction? If I’ve got two million in payroll and you’ve got two million in payroll, and I’m moving mine in a better direction, we’re working on the bigger and better projects. In this case I’m not talking about an installation project, I’m talking about marketing projects, web projects, employee hiring projects, processes in our company. If my company has spent more brain power thinking through it and saying, “Where is the future of the market going? What’s important? What are our risks? Where’s technology going? Where’s marketing going? What should we be doing?”

I’m thinking those things through and then I’m taking my list of five million things we could do and I’m saying, “These are the top ten priorities,” and then I’m divvying those out to the most appropriate people on my team and we’re focused and working, and we’re reporting in goals and accomplishments every week, and we’re making forward progress. If you’re taking your two million dollars in labor and employee expense and you’re sort of just working on whatever pops up on your plate, whatever that next fire is, whatever that next thing is, you happen to read a book that said you should be doing social media. Then you go to a conference and they say, “Whoa, you need to be doing this email marketing thing,” and now you’re off on that thing. I’ve lived that life of bouncing around.

If that’s what you’re doing because you haven’t sat down and created a strategic plan and set some goals for where you want your company to be and then backed into those goals with a plan, and then broken that plan down into action steps, and I have, I guarantee you I’ll win. You think about how Apple works, who dominates everybody and makes all the profit. They’re very, very focused. They have very specific plans. They have just a couple priorities that they’re focused on at any one moment. The entire company is marching in that direction. That’s powerful, and that’s what strategic planning and goal setting is. It’s not just conceptual, it’s not just a feel good, motivational kind of thing. It’s legitimately powerful and the best companies in the world are strategic. They know what they’re doing and they’re executing a plan.

If you haven’t ever tried it, if you haven’t ever just got away from your business for a day to think about, “Where do I want to go? Why and how?” I’d really recommend you give it a try. I’d recommend you buy a couple books on planning and strategy and see if it might reshape the entire future of your company. See if five years from now you might be way ahead of everybody you’re competing with because you moved in this direction, whereas all of your competitors were just letting life and business happen to them.

How To Make More Money in Your Lawn Care Business

Trying to figure out how you can make more money in your lawn care or landscape business?

It’s actually relatively simple to make more money but requires a lot of work.  The size of your lawn care, landscape, or irrigation company, or whatever it is you own, no matter what industry you’re in, will be limited by how much you know or by how much the individuals on your team know. There’s no way around it. The only way to get yourself to a million,  five million, or ten million dollars and greater, is to know what you need to know to operate at that bigger level.

What do you need to know from an employee management, from a coaching/training, from a hiring, from a marketing, from a sales standpoint, and about implementing processes and procedures? What do you have to know to get yourself to all those levels?

You’ve got to learn a certain amount to get yourself to, let’s say … let’s make up some numbers … a million dollars. Then, at a million dollars you start to have a little bit of money so that you can go hire some expertise in areas that you don’t have knowledge. The beauty of growing a bigger business is now everything’s not on your shoulders. You don’t have to know everything. In fact, it’s impossible to know everything.

Now, you start hiring expertise in areas where you may not be interested in that topic. Maybe you don’t love marketing, so you go hire an expert in marketing. They bring a whole new set of knowledge to your business. Then, as you get a little bit bigger, you hire somebody that’s an expert in finance, and you bring them in. You don’t have to know all of these things.

What you probably have to be exceptional at is learning how to manage, direct, and grow your team, how to hire, how to get bottlenecks out of your team, out of their way. But, you don’t have to know all the topics.

In the early days, you have to learn and know and study enough to get yourself to a certain level so that you have enough money to go hire the expertise that you need. Then, you have to always be smart enough to know how to manage that expertise and to know when they’re shooting straight with you or when they’re leading you down the wrong road.

The way you do this is through seminars, coaching, mentor groups and mastermind groups, and networking with the big trade organizations. You read books and buy courses. Whatever it is, there’s a lot of knowledge and information out there. Whatever it is, you can go get it and obtain and buy it and meet the people that already have it, that have already been down those roads. You and I have to do that to get ourselves to a certain level to have the money to go get the next level of expertise, to hire that expertise.

That’s the very elementary basic road map to make more money in your lawn business. Your business size, your net worth, and your take-home pay will be determined by how much you know.

Aim For The Top 20% Of Lawn Service Prices

Learn why your lawn service prices should fall in the top 20% of your market.

I get the question all the time: How much money should I be charging for my services? How should I price my services? I’m not going to directly answer that in this video but I do want to talk about a concept that I think is really important.

I have been studying marketing since around the end of 2005. When you start studying marketing, you get introduced to a lot of really interesting people and they obviously teach on subjects other than marketing.

I noticed that what a lot of the gurus in the marketing industry tend to teach is that you should price your services at the very very top of the market. You should be the highest priced provider in the market for whatever it is that you want to sell.

I don’t really agree with that for the service industry and for my service business. That’s the point I want to address. As you’re learning how to price your services and you are working your strategic plan to get to the price point that you want to be in the market and be able to sell a lot of work at that price point so that you can make a good amount of profit, what I believe you want to try to accomplish is you want to be in the top 20%.

If you were to look at the pricing in your marketplace, whatever the service is that you’re selling, look at 50 competitors and write down the cheapest price somebody in your market charges to provide that service, and then write down the highest price that someone in that market would charge to provide that service.

Let’s just use fertilization and weed control. If someone for a 5,000 square foot property would charge $25 to do fertilization and weed control at that property, and at top end of that market somebody would charge $75 to do that service. If you picture that on a whiteboard or on a chart, you want to be pricing in the top 20% of the market. If you were to plot all the lawn service prices for everybody in the market and you were to divide that into 20% chunks, you want to see what the pricing is at the top of that 20% chunk.

I don’t know what that would be in your market, but you want to slowly figure that out over time. You’re not going to figure it out when you first get in business. You’re not going to figure it out on day one. You figure it out over time and as you figure it out, you start to price at that price point.

Now obviously, your service quality, the quality of your people, your customer service, everything has to improve and grow and get better so that you can get those prices. But, I believe that the sweet spot is in that top 20%. Why is that? Because if you’re the highest priced provider in your business, you can’t really build a big business.

If you know me, then you know that my whole concept is to build a business big enough to have somebody that runs it for you. Then, you also have to have a couple of layers so that even if that main person leaves, it wouldn’t all end and you’d have to be the guy running it again.

You want to build a business big enough that you can afford to have people to run the company for you, and that takes a while to get to that point. To get there, if you are the highest priced provider in the market, it’s hard to get enough business, enough volume of business, to build a business big enough to do that.

If you’re too cheap in terms of pricing, you can never hire the right people, the best people. You always have equipment problems and truck problems and employee problems, and you can’t afford to market. You can’t afford to do anything, so then again, you can’t build that business.

That top 20% sweet spot to me is the point that gives you enough money to grow a great company that can run itself and that will allow you to take a lot of money out of the business, and it will allow you to build, again, a big enough business to accomplish everything that I just said.

Raise Lawn Care Prices 10%

Watch Jonathan’s video to learn why you should raise lawn care prices 10% and how to get your clients to agree to pay it.

If I’ve been guilty of anything in business, it’s been under-pricing, not asking for enough money, and questioning the prices that I’m asking for even after I think through how much I need to charge.

I’d recommend that you take a look at, or do a few Google searches, around the topics of if you can raise prices by X and lose X number of customers. For example, you might Google something like, raise prices 10% and lose customers. Just look around and do some reading.
Several years ago, I read some books on pricing and so I raised prices in my business. I had done some price increases before but generally I had been scared to do that. I’ll tell you right now, I’m still under-priced in everything we do.

A lot of times the reason we’re under-priced is because we don’t have the confidence to raise prices. Or, we are not communicating correctly to explain to our client exactly why the price that we’re charging is the price that we should be charging and why it delivers to them tremendous value. I think most of us make that mistake so you might check yourself and see if you have that same mindset as well.

Here’s the concept, and this number that I’m about to state will change so your profit margin will affect what I’m about to say.
If you raise lawn care prices 10%, you could theoretically lose 25% of all your customers and make the same amount of money at the end of the year in terms of take-home profits. Remember, take-home profits is all that matters. There’s been some studies in the service industry that say if you raise prices 10%, you can lose up to about 37% of your customers. That’s huge.

I am positive that if I raise my prices 10%, I would not lose 25% of my clients. If I lost 5%, think about how much additional profit that would make me in my business and think about how it would affect your business. If you could raise prices 10%, only lose 5% of your clients, how much more money would you make?

The point here isn’t to give you the exact answer. It’s to give you a concept that proves to be true every single time you dig into it. Do some Google searches to research this and it will give you additional confidence to price your services correctly.