Watch this video and learn from Jonathan’s experience what size lawn crew to use and why.
What size lawn crew do you use and why have you always done it that way?
To answer the question, it’s important to know that we’re about 95% residential and 5% commercial. We started as commercial and shifted to residential. Along the way, we have tried all kinds of different crew sizes. It’s also important to know that we know who our ideal client is and what the size of their property is. We only go after the kind of client that is our ideal and we ignore everything else in our market.
We have everything in our market from small commercial to very large commercial; from very small residential, 7,000 gross square feet and less, all the way up to multi-acre residential properties and estates. It’s also critical to understand that what we have found best works for us, and it’s different for every company, is that each tech and each crew are charged with their own activity.
Mowing crews mow, trimming crews trim, spray techs spray, pest control does pest control, irrigators do irrigation. They don’t cross over. They’re trained in their area of expertise. That’s really important to know. When we go mow, we send our mowing teams in. And, when it’s time to prune the brushes or shrubs, a different crew comes in. There are some efficiencies lost from doing it that way, but we believe from testing and trying things that there are huge efficiencies gained. That’s important to understand to understand my answer.
For residential mowing crews, the ideal for us is three based on property size. We have tried four and we didn’t gain much. We’ve run four at times when we’re in what I’d describe as an emergency due to weather. You do get more done, but the efficiency isn’t there and your per man hour, your hourly man rate comes down. We have also tested two. Two is actually more efficient than three for smaller residential, but then you get into a new issue and that is asset utilization…trucks, equipment and such. Then you have insurance and safety risk, opportunity costs, and all these other factors to consider.
For us, at this size, three is better than two because of management, the way we pay, and all these other factors. If I was starting over and I was a small business again, then two is what I would run. I would run two man mowing crews. Again, you have to understand what kind of business we are and what market we’re serving and know that we go after the clients that we want, not the properties that are available to us. We are able to say we want properties of this size and not properties of another size. If our crews had to maintain acreage, one acre plus properties, and then they spend the other half of their day mowing properties under 15,000 square feet, the business wouldn’t work out so well.
If our irrigators had to do certain activities for one half of the day and a different activity for the rest of the day, that would completely change the decisions that we make. We’ve not always done it this way. We started out as commercial. On most of our original commercial accounts we were running four man crews. Then we realized that it made more sense on our warehouse properties that required a different service level to just run a two man crew.
We had a Scag, maybe a 61 inch rider, a 21 inch mower, a couple of weed eaters, and we realized that it’s more efficient to take some equipment off the truck and send just two men out to do this. On our bigger commercial properties we have found four man crews made more sense. We never did commercial properties that took more than a full day. Our biggest properties would be a one day job with four men on the job.
It’s a different animal when you are dealing with commercial properties that could require 16 to 20 people on the job site. That’s not what I’m talking about. We tend to cater more towards the smaller properties. As a result, our crew size can be smaller.
For bush trimming, we’ve tested everything from two men all the way to four men. Two without question generates the most production, the most profitability. Production was the wrong word to use, you can get more pure production of four people versus two, but when you look at what matters, which is how much money you’re generating per man hour, two is more efficient. Sometimes we have to sacrifice the margin to get all the work done and add a third person, but at the end of the day, two is more efficient.
That’s not where we started. That was a realization in the last three years or so, and that’s where we’re at now.
For spray techs, commercial or residential, it depends. When you are out spraying commercial properties, pulling a lot of hose, it oftentimes makes sense to put two men on that job. When you’re doing small residential, one man is perfectly acceptable as a spray tech. The same is with pest control. Irrigation oftentimes we find that one man makes perfect sense, but for many reasons a lot of times, we run a two man team for irrigation. Again, it depends on if are we doing commercial or residential, what’s going on, what’s happening, and what’s our backlog? Backlog has a lot to do with how big the crew is that we’re running right now.
In a perfect world, we would have completely consistent demand, meaning that our backlog would never grow too large. That would allow us to constantly maintain that sweet spot of profit margin, meaning that we’re running the perfect crew size. But at times we are forced to go against what we know is best and add an additional person to an irrigation crew, to a lawn care crew, to a maintenance crew, just because we have to deal with demand. We have to keep our level of customer service.
Profit is sacrificed a bit, but we continue to maintain our reputation and continue to maintain the level of customer service that we’ve promised our clients. These are example considerations. And yes, it has absolutely evolved over the years, and it will continue to evolve as our company continues to evolve.
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.
This video explains why using the right lawn care equipment can maximize your potential and bring in more profit.
This morning as you think about your business, are you putting the right equipment on the right properties? When you bid the job, are you bidding it taking into account the right production costs because you’re using the correct equipment? Are you selling work that’s bigger than you should be doing right now because you don’t have the appropriate equipment?
Learn from Jonathan’s experience and watch this video to hear his top time management tip that has helped him in life and in business.
Hey, good morning! Actually it’s morning for me, I’m not sure what time it is for you. I’m leaving for the office, and I’m going to give you my number one management tip, that for whatever reason, took me a while to figure out. After you’re done watching this, put your number one time management tip down in the bottom in the comments, so that others can see it. I’m also going to add my top three. I’m going to add two more of my top tips for what I’ve learned over the years for managing my time and being ultra productive.
I’ve been pretty good for a long time about eating a really healthy breakfast to start my day. I think if you’re trying to get in shape or be fit, then setting the tone for your day with a good breakfast helps. If you start out with a crappy meal, you’re more likely to eat a crappy meal for your second and third meal. I have been, for a long time, religious about eating a really health meal in the morning.
That’s not my number one tip. I would combine it with what I’m about to say. My number one tip is to start your day with some form of exercise before you do anything. Before you do email, before you get on the computer and do work. That’s the routine that works for me. I’ve been one that’s always fought a morning workout, because I feel like I get a harder, better workout in the afternoon or the evening, than in the morning. What I’ve learned, and I’ve been now doing this since January of this year, I’ve switched my routine to the morning.
I’m more consistent. Throughout the day, I feel better. I have more energy, and I just feel happier. Not that I’m generally an unhappy person, but I feel happier starting my day this way, versus waiting till the end of the day. Also, when I waited till night time, I noticed that … I’ve always fought trying to get to bed early. I’ve historically stayed up till 2 o’clock, or later, in the morning and worked late. In trying to change those routines, I’ve never been able to. I think partly because I’d work out at night. I’d say for about the first four months of this new routine of starting out in the morning, I had a hard time, because my body just wasn’t used to it. At this point, I look forward every day to starting my day with a workout.
I literally do it seven days a week. That might mean two or three days of the week I’m not lifting weights, or running, or something that’s heavy interval training, I might just be walking for 30 minutes to an hour listening to an audio book. At least seven days, or better said, seven days a week, I am doing something first thing in the morning every single day of the week. There’s of course, been exceptions, but for the most part I get some form of exercise every day. The reason I think it’s the most important time management tip is, it’s the foundation of everything. Your energy, how you feel, your optimism, your outlook, and so I want to start with the absolute best foundation possible. That’s a workout and eating really healthy.
That’s what works for me, and it sets the tone for everything else in my life. What works for you? What’s your number one? If you could only keep one behavior in your life, what is that number one thing? Put it in the comments so we can all learn from you. Thanks a lot.
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.
Is the cool lawn mower a friend recommended, the best mower for my lawn care business?
When I was at GIE in Louisville, Kentucky, I was reminded that you really don’t want to buy the cool lawn mower. What I mean by that is, walking through GIE, I’m reminded how many different brands there are and how many manufacturers there are selling walk-behinds and riders. There are Skagg and Toro and Exmark and those are just my local brands.
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.
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.