My Plumber Might Be Missing Out On Big Profits. Are You?

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.

How Can I Get My Techs And Crews To Improve Their Quality Level

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.

Taking Care Of Your Team Is Smart 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.

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.

Why The Gurus Are Wrong About Employee Difficulties

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.

Should Employee Smoking Be Allowed On The Job Site?

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.

Do I Have to Pay My Employees for Travel Time?

This question’s from Kenny. “When I pay hourly employees, do I have to pay for travel time?”

“When I pay my employees by the hour, should I be paying them for their travel time between jobs?  Do I need to pay them for the ride time between jobs? Exactly what should be included when I’m paying them by the hour?”

My perspective on this is that when you’re paying by the hour, you’re paying for every moment that they work. If you want to be within the law, you’re paying from the moment they show up at your office. You are paying them to drive to the clients’ properties as well as while they are maintaining the properties. And then, you’re paying them at the end of the day to ride back in your truck and unloading your truck. The moment they clock in to the moment they clock out, they’re getting paid.

You’ll see a model in the commercial world where they will write contracts with their employees or contractors, however they set it up, and they will pay for performing the job and not driving. I’m not sure how that fits within the law, but you will see that in the commercial side.

In this commercial model, there will be a driver of each truck and that driver is on the clock from the moment he arrives at the facility to the moment he returns to the facility to unload at the end of the day. But, the individuals in the truck with him are only being paid for any work performed at the shop and job time. They’re not being paid for drive time because their agreement stipulates that they should drive their own cars to every job and they’ll be paid for performing each of those jobs. They can hitch a free ride in the truck if they’d like, but it’s not paid time.

Before you go down a road and follow that type of model, you better be certain you’re double checking that will hold up in your state. You also need to double check that your employment agreements are written correctly and that they will hold up. I can tell you from my experiences in the cleaning industry when I used to own a company with some other partners that there were other companies that were competitors of ours that for years and years had certain payment practices of employees. When one employee became unhappy and sued them, it resulted in settlements for lots of employees.

Something creative around payroll might work out for you for 5 years but that doesn’t mean that when you do get hit, that you won’t have to make up for the many years of underpaying your employees. They don’t just slap your hands with a fine and ask you to do it right from now on. You get a fine and then have to pay a lot of back pay in payroll and taxes! Before you go down a road like that, be very cautious.

If you want to go down a road where you’re paying more for performance, then I would look at an alternative to payroll, meaning an alternative to hourly pay. I would look at piecemeal. I’d look at pay by the job, and then there’s plenty of things to consider even when you do that. You have to keep in mind overtime laws and a whole lot of other things. If you’re going to do something creative outside of just paying straight hourly time, you want to get counsel from somebody that really knows the laws in your state, to be certain that you can sleep each night and not have to worry about someday when you get hit with some big amount of money that puts you out of business. Good luck.

I Run a Two Man Crew, Should I Hire Someone to Replace Me?

The question is, “This will be my 3rd season in business. I run a two man crew. I’m wondering if I need to step away to sell and market and hire someone to replace me?”

Absolutely. Yes. With that question, there is no other reason in my mind to be in business but to give yourself a little bit of leverage. Now, if you desire to be the guy doing all the work and run a 2-man crew, if that’s what you like and that makes you happy, fantastic. From your message, I’m pretty certain, it’s not the case. You need to start this path, as soon as you can. I’m going to answer your question but I would recommend that you go over to the website, howtogrowyourbusinessfast.com. Put in your name and email address and the website will send you 2 videos.

One is of a talk I gave with Planet. It was a webinar about how to get off the track and basically get out of the field. I think it was about an hour. Then, I also gave a talk at GIE in 2013 and it’s a little bit geared towards bigger companies but there is a bunch of stuff in there that you could take away and that’s an hour and a half long talk that I gave. I would highly recommend that you take those 2 resources and figure out how to get out of the field.

Now, let’s say you go hire somebody to take over your position and now you’re free. What are you going to do and what’s your plan of action?

I think a lot of people stay in the role of running the crew because they can’t get their head around, exactly what, why, and how to grow this business. If you can’t answer that question, then you keep saying, “I’m not quite ready yet, I’ll do it next year.” You procrastinate because you don’t know what to do. How do you solve a potential procrastination problem? You need a plan. What’s the plan? If you free yourself up, how are you going to bring in new business? What are you going to do? Are you going to knock on doors, put out door hangers? What is it? Are you going to  talk on the telephone?

Just because your freed up, it  doesn’t mean that anything magical is going to happen. You’ve got to know what you’re going to do. It might just be that over the winter, you’re going to get a great website put together. You may plan to start working on your SEO or pay per click or content marketing. If you don’t know what any of that means, do some Google searches. You figure out what the door hanger is going to look like. Maybe you put together a gift card or referral program to garner a new business. Watch my videos and learn about marketing and think of let’s say, 3 ways that you’re going to get new clients. Get that stuff all worked out over the winter and then you start doing it.

Be ridiculously specific with your plan. Don’t just say, I’m going to put out door hangers. No, you have to know which neighborhoods you want to hit, on which day, and how many. You might do 500 in one neighborhood on one day and 500 more to a different neighborhood on the next.

You need to have all of this in place so that when you hire somebody, you don’t get overwhelmed or distracted. Spend the time now to think through exactly what it means to put out door hangers, exactly what it means to get a website up and running, exactly what it means to knock on a door and sell certain things or go knock on all of your existing client’s doors and try to sell them something else. Again, be ridiculously specific where you know step by step what to do. Almost to the point that you could hand it to a friend or business partner or employee and they would look at it and have a pretty good idea of exactly what to do if they were going to do.

If you do that, you’ll overcome the biggest hurdle to growing and getting started. You’ll have an action plan. Once you get out of the business and start doing this and practicing this because it’s a new role, you won’t have to do that anymore.

I’m just saying do that first so that you guarantee yourself a level of success when you do hire somebody to replace you. The very simple answer that I could have answered in 10 seconds is a yes. If you don’t take the action I described to go with, the yes of getting out in the field, then you may not be overly successful. You’ve got to make sure that when you get free, almost all of your time is devoted to selling and marketing activities. If you free yourself up and 80% of your time is devoted to inconsequential things like maintenance and other miscellaneous things, and 20% is devoted to sales and marketing, you might as well have stayed in your old role of doing work and then just work extra hours to do sales and marketing.

If you do it right, you absolutely want to get off that truck and you want to do it now, not next year. Good luck.

How To Hire Office Employees

Are you ready to hire office employees?

Hiring your first office person is critical to growing your landscape maintenance company and making more money.

Watch the video above to learn tips and tricks to hire your first office employee.

 

Mike is looking for hiring advice on how to find and hire his first office person at his lawn care company. He says, “Hey Jonathan. This year has been going really good and really smooth, and thanks to your software, we might even see some growth.”

This is an incredibly important topic, and almost everybody I meet is waiting far too long to do this.

By the way, Mike is probably one of our first 50 clients at Service Autopilot. He’s been with us for years, and has given us some really awesome advice and direction for the system. Mike is somebody that we’ve worked with for a long period of time. He’s been through everything with us on the system, since he goes back to day one.

Mike says, “I believe I’m at a point next year that I need to hire an office person, thanks to SA. How do you believe is best to take on an office person with fair compensation? If they are working from a virtual office, how do you keep tabs on them? What would your plan be for hiring that first office person?”

Again, great question.

I have dealt with Mike quite a bit over time. And, just from knowing Mike, I know what he’s capable of, which is probably true for so many of us…he shouldn’t be doing these types of activities. That’s my perspective. He should be spending his time on more important things.

I have hosted several round tables where I speak to owners of small businesses. We spend several days working on their businesses, and if they do not already have an office person, I usually advice them to hire one as soon as they return home. The guys that do it, universally come back and say, “Thank you, I did it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s changed everything.”

Our very first office hire, when I started my lawn care company, was a stay at home mom that also home schooled her boys. She still works for us and does a totally fantastic job. If you get the right person, you don’t have to worry about managing them. Many of these people are experienced and skilled and are simply unable to join the traditional work force. But, they can be an asset to your landscape company, and in exchange for the freedom of working from home, are usually willing to work for a little less.

That being said, my favored approach is to have people work from the office. Because we are so big on customer service, I like to have everyone here so that we can all work together. I like the culture and the environment of having everyone together.

I have been really fortunate in this area. You need to hire quality people. You need a person that just has something innate inside of them. You need someone that can empathize and wants to deliver quality. This of course is harder than it sounds. If someone doesn’t work out, you have to let them go quickly. You might just have to do a little trial and error.

To do that, you might start out looking at Craigslist. I just put an ad up on Craigslist for just $25. If you have nothing to lose, there’s a lot of people looking. I would also use word of mouth. The home schooling thing is huge and there are a lot of people out there that home school. I tend to think that you’ll get a different kind of person. A person that is willing to stay home to home school their kids, is a different type of person by nature.

You might even put the word out at local churches to see if anyone in their congregation is looking for work. I have not done that, but that may be an effective way to find employees.

Next, you really need to consider your personality in all of this. Can you handle not seeing somebody at the office?

Can you handle not knowing exactly what they’re doing. If that’s going to eat you up and bother you, and you’re going to have to micromanage them, it’s not going to work out. You might as well setup an office environment. You have to really think about who you are. This doesn’t work for everybody.

If your first hire feels a little risky, you might consider a part time position, and then see where that goes.

When I got my very first office, it was only a 10X30 office that I rented for $400/$450 a month. It was just something I found to work out of since it was too hard for me to work at home with my kids when they were little.

That was how I started. Then, as we grew, we got a bigger office. There are some inexpensive ways that you could go about getting started with this, even if you want to bring somebody into your office and have them from day one work from your office. But, really think about part time if this is a big concern for you.

One of the activities that most often necessitates having somebody on your team as soon as possible is that the phone is not getting answered when it rings. The calls are rolling to voicemail.

If you hire someone that works from home to work the phones, I have found that having them track their time does not work. It is a nightmare to have them track their time on calls. What we did is provide platonic headsets for about $390 and agreed to pay them for 30-40 hours per week. This, of course, comes after they have worked with you and have earned a little trust with you.

Also, sit down and make a list of all of the things you need them to do. Are they going to answer phones, prep mailers and door hangers, write hand written thank you notes to new clients? What are the to dos that they can take care of? Prioritize them and that then becomes their job description. On this very first person you’re hiring, when they join your team, you’re able to say here’s the expectation. I’m hiring you to do this.

If you catch any hesitation when you give them their expectations, don’t hire them. Keep looking.

Make this list for you. It’ll give you confidence. It will assure you that you have plenty for them to do. It will also lay out for them what you expect and will give you a means to measure whether or not they are performing at the agreed upon expectations.

You can work through that list to get them back on course. They know what you expect. That’s what people want.

At Service Autopilot, we do something called agile development. It’s how we manage projects and such. Within agile development, there’s a concept called scrum.

Daily scrum is basically where you meet with each person on your team for a very short period of time daily. There are three basic questions that make up a scrum. This will apply to managing your first employee, especially if they are going to work from home.

The three questions are: 1. What did I get done today? 2. What do I need help with? 3. What do I plan to do tomorrow? They can send you the answers to these three questions every day.

That’s a way that you could have some level of accountability with this individual. It will give you a  means to measure their progress and will give your a feeling for what’s going on. You will get to build a level of trust.

You have to be sure and prioritize their daily tasks. It is extremely difficult for a person to have to switch their focus from project mode to answering phone calls. If you need a marketing letter proofread immediately, for example, give them a time frame that they are allowed to miss phone calls to complete this task.

I wanted to point that out because I see this as a real challenge. It’s easy for us to say that their number one priority is to answer the phones but, by the way, I need these other five things done today.

It’s very difficult to give this individual projects that require a lot of brain power and thought to complete while answering phones. If you’re going to do that, you have to have some flexibility and have a random project list for them to work on as they can get to it.

You can also give them a certain time of day that may not get a lot of calls to put their phone on hold to allow them to work on projects.

There are, however, a lot of menial, brainless tasks that can be completed while working the phones. They can be stuffing, stamping, and hand writing addresses on envelopes.

Think through all of this stuff. It is an important thing that I have learned.

Service Autopilot, or other business management systems work, can be delegated to other people. The owner should not be doing that unless it is the scheduling. It is the life blood of your business and you have to be super careful with that. Only well trained employees should take that scheduling.

I think that the way you start with this is, you have them take phone calls and charge credit cards. Have them update phone numbers and do things like that. Then, they can create tickets or to-dos for you so that you can edit the schedule as needed.

Unique maybe to Service Autopilot, Mike, is that they could log waiting list items. If the client needs to get bush trimming done in two weeks, they can just put that into the waiting list. Anything that’s not a waiting list item that needs to be scheduled on a specific day, they can create a to-do or ticket for that. You can then handle those.

The key here, again this is not just Service Autopilot, to any business system, is that when you sweep through and do those things, have them sit with you. They can start to learn how to do that in the system. This will get them well trained so that they can start doing that themselves.

This is an activity that you should absolutely hand to your team but make sure you’ve spent the time to really train them. Invest a bit in this area to make sure they’re really up to speed on that.

I’d highly recommend tracking all of your phone calls. I think that’s a big deal and is ridiculously valuable. We track every single phone call, every single to-do in our company. It’s a big deal.

I think your new employees can also do basic accounting for you. They should be able to receive check payments and log them, charge credit cards, give clients their account balance, send invoices by email, and print out statements and mail them.

Those are just a few of the activities that your new hire can do. I would think about those ideas and pointers. And Mike, if you need more, just shoot me back a message and I’ll record another video. Thanks.

1 Man vs 2 Man Mowing Crews – Which is Better?

Watch this video and learn how to decide if you should run 1 man, 2 man, or 3 man lawn mowing crews.

This question is from Joshua.

“I’m getting to the point where I need to expand. I have about 45 residential lawns and five commercial accounts. I am wondering if I should invest in better equipment like 32 inch Scags and just run one man crews. With my current density, I can get about 10 to 12 lawns done a day by myself or 15 with a helper using 21 inch mowers.

Please help me understand the pros and cons of this. I always see single man crews with fertilization but never in lawn maintenance. I know a guy in my city who does 75 by himself because he has the right equipment and density. It seems like the money I save in labor would well cover the equipment cost. No accountability and morale would be an x-factor, but it seems like one man crews are more efficient and a better way to go. Your thoughts?”

My thought is no. You should not do one man crews. I’m certain of that. I do not think one man crews are the way to go. I think you should consider two man crews. I actually run three man crews at our company for residential, but I totally see why two man crews are better.

Here are some things to consider. You could build out a new crew with one man, but I don’t think the angle is to run one man crews. The reason for that is, if you just look at human behavior and how we operate, there’s a level of accountability that’s created with a team.

This is even for us as owners. If you happen to have a business partner, your business partner brings a level of accountability to what you get done, what you do, at least if you have any desire to be a performer and hold up your side of the deal within that business. You’re going to work a little bit harder and you’re going to do a little bit more because you’ve got a business partner.

If you have one person working by himself, short of being measured into job costing and GPS data, really they don’t have anybody to hold them accountable. The guy could make an excuse for being late, for example, the customer came out to talk to him. They don’t use that excuse if you have two people on the job.

Also, I think there’s some value in simply having somebody to work with. Working in isolation is not that exciting. Now, if you put two guys together that hate each other, that’s worse. But, if you put two guys together that work well together and sort of thrive off each other, they can motivate each other when they are tired.

When you think about stuff like that, teams are better. I really believe in the team concept in general. I think teams need to be small. I believe in teams outside of just talking about lawn mowing, lawn care, or landscape crews. I just don’t think a one person crew holds up over time. You may see a spike in the beginning and some benefit in the beginning but they don’t hold up.

I also believe that you can get very close to the same level of efficiency with a two man crew. For example, if one guy can do 10 properties, two guys should be able to do about 20. That’s my belief.

The third guy is where I think you start to see less efficiency and less production value. I think two tends to be the magic number, depending on what you’re doing. If you run a scenario where you actually mow and trim bushes and pull weeds and do a number of different things all at the same property, then I think you can get more efficiency out of three guys.

I also think if trained and managed properly, you can get efficiency out of three guys because you can have that third guy do extra things. If you have super tight density, the third guy can move on to the next lawn and just roll his mower, or take his weed eater or whatever down to the next property versus sitting in the truck.

Your business will evolve. What might work today, won’t work in five years or might not still be the best and most efficient approach. Think about these things.

It doesn’t matter if you have one guy or four guys on the property. At the end of the day, equipment matters. You could have one guy and give him the wrong equipment, he’s not going to be productive.

Equipment, doesn’t in my mind, play a factor here. Whether you have one guy or fifty guys, you still have to give them the most efficient equipment. Equipment is a non-factor in this conversation, in my mind.

Also, a lot of times you might look around at most marketplaces, there’s a tremendous number of guys out there that are the owners doing the work. The owner may get 75 jobs done a day, but he has different motivation than a guy that’s getting paid by the hour, maybe even by the job.

The owner has to do this if he wants to feed his five month old baby and his wife and keep up with the rent. He also in most cases can’t just walk away from this thing tomorrow and get another job down the street. That wouldn’t be in the best interest of him and his family.

Whereas, a guy that you’re paying x number of dollars an hour, or by the yard or whatever, he’s got all these options in many cases. He doesn’t have the pressure that the guy that owns the business has. For example, if he slacks off tomorrow, he could probably go get another job in this industry. There’s a great need for people.

I’m simply saying that the business owner is completely invested in his business. You probably won’t find another guy to hire to do those same 75 yards. If you do, he may not be able to maintain that number after 3 years and he is tired and burned out. Will that hold up over time is my question. I don’t think you want to build your business assuming that an employee can accomplish as much as an owner, where all the weight is on that guy’s shoulders.

The other thing that I think you need to think about is as the business scales, asset utilization becomes a challenge. If you’re going to run one man crews, you have to agree with me first and foremost that you could actually make a two man crew almost as efficient as a one man crew.

If you can buy into that, then asset utilization is an absolute consideration. For every additional crew that you start, you have to buy another truck, another truck, and more insurance. With that, you have greater risk. Meaning, for every additional truck you put on the road, there’s a higher probability that somebody’s going to have an accident or something will go wrong that may harm the business.

You start to think about things like that. How can you reduce the number of trucks on the road? How can you reduce the number of trucks you have to buy? How can you reduce the number of pieces of equipment you have to buy? And on, and on, and on.

Then, you start to realize that a two man or three man crew starts to make a little bit of sense. In my company, I think we’re at 40 trucks or something like that. I don’t know the exact number. Let’s say I had to go to all one man crews. Does that mean I need 120 trucks and 120 pieces of equipment?

Well that would be crazy and I’m not going to do that. I need some asset utilization because there’s a lot of hidden cost that comes with each additional truck and each set of equipment that I put on the road. I need to utilize my assets as efficiently as possible.

Also, I believe that one of the absolute biggest hindrances in growing any business is money. It’s cash flow. If you are ready to add another crew but you don’t have the money to buy a truck, the equipment, or all the other things that come with that, then it’s going to slow down the growth of your business. Asset utilization becomes critical as the business starts to scale.

Also I’m going to leave you with this one. If you build your business around one man crews, then you have the real risk of when one of your guys quits. You have a little less risk when you have two or three guys on a crew because if one guy doesn’t show, the other two can carry the slack. Maybe they finish at 6:00 normally, but now they finish at 9:00. But, at least the work got done. Or, maybe they don’t complete the jobs that night, but you take a couple properties from that crew and you spread them out among other crews. The work can still get done.

From the standpoint of service autopilot, the software company that I have, one of the things that I notice is that we have a set of customers that seem to have a level of peace in their life and in their business. Then we have a set of customers that the world is burning down around them every single day.

Everything is a disaster and the world is going to end at any given moment. That’s the basic take I have on how a group of our clients live their life. I understand it and I get it. The difference is, in most cases, how they manage their business. If you organize your business in such a way that you look at all the potential bottlenecks, you look at all the potential failure points and you say, how do I mitigate this risk, how do I eliminate this risk, that brings a level of calmness to your company and it brings a level of calmness to your life.

The reason I just said that to you is, imagine that you create your business around a lot of one man crews. Things happen all the time. When guys don’t show up, it screws with everything. Now you’re really screwing with your business. If you don’t have a guy show up, you’re scrambling and everything is a mess.

You have to reroute everything. You jeopardize customer service. And now, you’re screwing with your other employees because you’re having them take on the extra jobs. You’re having everybody scramble to help you get out of this bind which then makes your employees’ lives miserable as well. Everything they do for you becomes a burden because they are constantly helping you put out one more fire in your business because you’re not on top of your game.

Contrast that to a guy that has multiple crews with multiple people with backup people in place. If a guy doesn’t show, that’s ok because you have a backup plan. You already know what you’re going to do.

I guess that’s maybe one of the best arguments for not having a one man crew. What I see are, most successful clients have their stuff together. They have thought ahead and solved the potential problems. They’ve created backup plans.

When things go bad, and they go bad every single day, they can make quick changes and the world doesn’t fall apart on them. They don’t become stressed out. I think if you went with the one man crew, you’d create that. I think you’d constantly be in the state of scramble.

For that reason alone, don’t go with the one man crew. Go with two, and eventually you can reconsider everything and look at three. The way to do that to run a test. You measure it, you track times, you see how you perform, how much money you make per day per man when you’re doing a two man crew. Then, throw in a third man and see how they do.

Don’t just assume that they’re going to do everything right. Get out there and see what they are doing. Teach them how to be efficient. Take a look at density. If you sold a couple more yards, would that solve the efficiency problem the three man crew was facing?

You go through this set of questions and try to figure out why you can’t make three man as efficient as two, and you see if you can solve it.

If eventually you’ve asked yourself a series of 15 questions and nothing you’ve tried fixed the problem of efficiency, then you know.

Everything is a test. Everything is a trial. As your business evolves, you have to retest everything and that’s a lot of work. It’s hard but that’s how you create a highly profitable business. Two men, don’t go with one. Eventually test three and see if it works for your company. Periodically reevaluate as your company completely changes as you grown over time. Good luck.