Your Job as CEO

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.

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 Find, Hire and Retain Seasonal Workers


Question: How To Find, Hire and Retain Seasonal Employees (Seasonal Workers) for your Lawn Care, Landscape, Tree Care or Irrigation Service Company.

Brett asks… the question is about hiring employees and keeping them during the off-season. Is question is: for a small company, where can I find talented and motivated employees? I have had the worst of luck so far, and the quality of work is causing me to worry more about the men in the field and growing the company. I feel like a babysitter and I don’t know where to turn. Also, how do you retain quality employees with a long off-season?

I would start with looking at the best employees that you’ve had. Of those that you have now or you’ve in the past, who are the ones that you wish you could have five more or 10 more of? Then, of those employees, think about what’s unique about them. Here’s what I mean by this. Where do they live? Do they go to church? If so, where do they go to church? Where do they shop? Where do they cash their checks? What are they interested in? What is it that you can identify about this group that there’s some commonality?

As an example, if you were to figure out that some of my very best guys live on a certain part of town in this apartment complex, for example, or maybe they live in this general area and most of them shop at Wal-Mart in this general area, well, this is an example. It’s not a perfect example, but it’s an example of now how you start thinking about this. If that’s where they gather and that’s where they are, you have to go to them. You have to go to them and advertise. You have to go them and ask people that you run across: hey, are you looking for work? Your job is to figure out who you want first, where they are, and then go get them.

You can’t just put it out on Craigslist generally and hope they come to you. You’ve got to go find them. First, you have to identify, as I’ve probably said three times here, where are they?

I used to be a partner in a cleaning company, and we were cleaning all over the country. We’d take over a property. Someone would fly to that area, and we’d be taking over a big property that we would clean every night, all year long. We would have someone go find people to staff that property. They would have to fly in and they’d have to find 3 to 10 to 20 people, and they’d have to find them within a couple of days. We would go to McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, different places, and we would say, do you have anybody that’s looking for work? Do you have a family member, a friend, anybody that needs work? If so, here’s an opportunity.

By going and proactively asking and talking to people, we would put together a group of people that from that group, we’d try them out and eventually hire some number of the people. That concept can be used at exactly the same way here, except you’re not having to fly somewhere and do it. You know your local market. You can ask your guys questions and figure out the commonalities, and then you go find them, and you go talk to them; you go advertise to them; and you also should consider your vendors, your vendors that you buy things from. They know the people in the industry. Maybe you can find people from them, through them. You need to get out and go to these people.

As to the question of retention, and clearly to get the best people you’ve got to pay … you’ve got to price your work correctly so that you can pay above average wages, and you’ve got to take really good care of them. If you think about taking care of clients and getting clients to spread the word about you, well, you have to do great things and have great customer service. The same is true for your team. If you want your team to go out and tell other people they should come work for you, you’ve got to be good to your team. You have to create a culture and an environment where people want to work for you and they go out and tell their friends, hey, you should come and work here. This is a great company.

Those are all factors that go into the success of hiring people and getting people to come and work for you. Maybe you need to offer bonuses. If you’ll find someone that I hire, I’ll give you X amount of money in cash.

As to retention, there is no easy magic bullet here. You could get involved in H-2B visa which that program has its own set of problems, and then you can bring seasonal workers into the country for nine months a year, but there are challenges with that. You either have to find somewhere for your people to go work at another company that provides offseason work or off-seasonal work that corresponds with yours so that when you’re done with your team, they can go work for someone else and then come back to you. That’s not an easy undertaking.

An alternative might be that you expand your business into services that will keep you somewhat busy through the winter. Maybe at least for it brings in enough work that you can keep your core team, 50%, 60% of your employees together and that only 40% are at risk year after year. Maybe for those that go get another job in the winter, you go back to them in the next year wherever they’re working and you offer them a $400 bonus to come back to you.

There’s really no great answer when it comes to seasonal employees and having to lay them all for some amount of time and then get them back. There’s just really no magic bullet here. It comes down to being creative. It’s one of the big challenges of the business.

I gave several examples. How could you apply those examples and to be successful here? Good luck.