Implement the right systems and spend less time working IN your business, more time working ON your business.
After his last meeting with Bill, Dan returned to work with his mind set on jumpstarting the spring hiring process.
Dan started right away. He sent out job advertisements and when the resumes started streaming in, he weeded out the wrong applicants with his new hiring process. After meeting with the final applicants that made it through to an interview, Dan selected a few to take part in a 3-week working interview. Now, in March, his new hires are busy going through training, learning the ins and outs of Danscaping, which brings Dan to his next step: systems planning. Now that Dan has set himself up with the right people, he needs to take what’s in his head and ensure his people are executing accordingly, on their own and without Dan having to hold their hands. Dan understands that systems free owners up so that they can grow their business and get the most out of their people what he didn’t understand was how to actually step away and start working ON rather than IN his business. When he mentioned this to Bill over a phone conversation one evening, Bill assured Dan he once faced the same problem.
“What did you do?” asks Dan.
“First of all you need to understand what good systems are and why you need them,” Bill explains. “Because, ultimately, good systems are what will allow you to step away from the daily grind and work ON your business.”
Dan nods, “I definitely agree with you on that. A big problem around here is that everyone has their own way of doing things, and the right hand never knows what the left hand is doing. That leads to mistakes, and I’m constantly spending my time trying to fix them.”
“Exactly,” Bill replies. “Systems and processes are critical because they enable individuals to communicate in complex and changing environments using the same expectations so that predictable, repeatable results can occur. Without processes everyone would do what they want, when they want, on their own schedule, and using their own methods. At the end of the day what you have is total chaos. There’s no organized structure – and there’s certainly no way you could successfully step away from working IN your business when systems and processes aren’t in place.”
“Point taken,” Dan says. “That’s me and my business.”
“You bet,” says Bill. “I like to look at it this way: all fire trucks are set up exactly the same and there’s a reason for it! So that each fireman, regardless of which department they belong to, knows where everything is,” Bill explains.
“They put everything back exactly the same way and maintain it to the highest standard. When staff is transferred to other fire stations no further training is required because all the processes are identical. There is only one way of doing things. And thank goodness, because when someone’s house is on fire the fireman is not wasting time running back to the shop because they forgot the hose!” Bill says with a chuckle.
“To maximize your profit and productivity this year, you must work toward implementing these three critical systems:”
1. Job Planning – Job Planners take the information from the estimator’s head and puts it into the hands of your crews. This is critical for profitable jobs. How can you expect your crews to come in on time, on budget, if they don’t understand completely how the estimator saw the job?
For design build projects, foremen need to know, at minimum:
•The man hours estimated
•The equipment included (this has a significant factor on the hours)
•The materials estimated – quantities, colors, measurements, etc.
For maintenance projects, foremen need to know, at minimum:
•Site maps/service instructions
•Hours estimated per site
A simple binder created for every job/route that includes designs or site maps, job specifications, copies of locates, blank timesheets and maps to the jobsite should be produced for every job or route. With the right information, your foreman can manage more work themselves. Less questions, less problems, and less waste – which will not only make their jobs easier, it will free you up to work more on your business.
Foremen should also be conducting daily meetings with their crews to discuss daily goals, order of operations, requirements, and problems/questions. To download a daily meeting agenda for your crews, go to www.landscapemanagementnetwork.com/samples.
2.Job Costing – Job costing is the landscaping equivalent of keeping score. If you’re not tracking actual hours and materials, then you’re just playing around. For you or your employees to take success seriously, you must have a job costing system. I recommend you use your accounting software. All the information you need to track job costs has to be entered into accounting. Job hours need to be entered for payroll, material costs have to be entered for vendor bill tracking – it’s just a matter of ensuring these costs are not only entered into accounting, but they’re also billed to the correct jobs. Entering this data into two distinct systems is time consuming and, ultimately, waste. If necessary, change your systems to suit your accounting software. It’s easier than trying to find a software that fits your system.
3.Organization Systems – Make a spot for everything. Label the spots. Organize your shops, truck and trailers just like the fire truck you think of. When everything has its place, it’s easy to train new people, it’s harder to “forget” or lose tools and equipment, and you know when it’s time to re-stock inventoried parts and materials. Every year, you lose hundreds of man hours working around poorly organized shops, trailers, and work areas. Solve these problems and you’ll not only save costs, but you’ll increase your opportunity for billable hours. Your company wins both ways.
Implement these systems and you’ll find parts of your business start to run themselves. And systems development is an ongoing and continuous process. Solve some problems with systems, and others will creep up. But don’t be discouraged. That’s life as a business owner. The more systems you implement, the easier running your business will become. And believe it or not, your employees will find their work easier too. Systems result in clear responsibilities which leads to better planning, better communication, less mistakes and less frustration. And when you really start picking up momentum, systems lead to better wages for everyone. And that’s what we’re all in this for….
“I’m always reluctant to delegate,” Dan says. “I constantly think no one else will be able to get the work done according to my high standards – or worse yet, I think the work won’t get done at all.”
Bill nods, “I get the fear of the unknown. But your fear is likely a self-fulfiling prophecy. Without systems, they won’t achieve to your standards – because they don’t know them. The only way to grow your business – and your own career for that matter – is by handing out higher levels of responsibility to your employees. After all, you need to start letting others help you work on your business too!
“Makes sense,” Dan notes, “But how do I make sure my employees take their responsibility seriously?”
“Once the systems are in place, you hold people accountable. All problems can likely be blamed on one of two things: no systems, or people who don’t follow systems. When you get your systems in place, then you only have people problems. Hold your people accountable to your systems. Good employees will thrive, bad employees will suffer, and you’ll know who your best assets are.”
Here’s another tip: hold regular meetings. Hold monthly meetings with your key employees to assess the state of the business. Are your jobs coming in on time/on budget? Are your sales on track to hit or beat your goals? Hold everyone accountable for systems that are falling off. Ask your foremen to evaluate their crew’s performance – which systems and processes are working for your guys? Which need to be changed?
As long as everything depends on you to run successfully, it’s extremely difficult to grow a (profitable) business. Systems for your business give your people clear responsibilities, and the information needed to carry them out successfully. And while your field crews increase their productivity, you can focus more on growing and/or improving your company.
*Danscaping is a fictional company
Mark Bradley is the president of The Beach Gardener and the Landscape Management Network. The Landscape Management Network is collection of systems built for green industry contractors, from budgeting and estimating, to hiring and training, to job planning, accounting/financial management and health and safety. For more information, check out the website at www.landscapemanagementnetwork.com.
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