PDA

View Full Version : Question for the successfull LCO owners


tinman
05-11-2005, 10:05 PM
May sound stupid,,,but... How has running a business "slowed down for you"? In other words describe how things have become easier as you have gained more & more experience. I'm talking the business side of things. You always hear how "the game has slowed down for him" when talking about a great athlete. In other words he sees things b4 everyone else on the field or court.
What do you sucessful business owners see b4 others do? What was hard at first but easy now & why? What was hard to see while working full time in the field, but plain as day now that you mainly work in the office?

Thanks

Grass Masters
05-11-2005, 10:09 PM
May sound stupid,,,but... How has running a business "slowed down for you"? In other words describe how things have become easier as you have gained more & more experience. I'm talking the business side of things. You always hear how "the game has slowed down for him" when talking about a great athlete. In other words he sees things b4 everyone else on the field or court.
What do you sucessful business owners see b4 others do? What was hard at first but easy now & why? What was hard to see while working full time in the field, but plain as day now that you mainly work in the office?

Thanks


Number one thing is knowing when and where to bid on jobs and knwing how to bid. If you get that figured out life gets so easy

br549oicu8
05-12-2005, 08:56 AM
I lile to think we are successful. We have continued to grow every year for 25 years. The nice thing for us is to not HAVE TO add any jobs at this point. We only consider something that is virtually next door to an existing customer or a very high profile situation.
That is a far cry form many moons ago when I would grab anything at all.
This feels much better!!

DFW Area Landscaper
05-12-2005, 10:39 AM
++++What was hard to see while working full time in the field, but plain as day now that you mainly work in the office?++++

I just made the switch this spring from working on the crew to working in the office.

The biggest thing I am seeing now that I couldn't see before was dictating terms and how accepting reasonable people are to it. I think the biggest enabler for me is the fact that I don't do in person estimates. I quote prices over the phone. This has been, by far, the single most important thing I picked up from Justmowit. When you drive out to a customer's property to give them a free estimate, the customer knows you are investing time and resources to win their business and they have promised nothing.

In my opinion, the free on sight estimate is a tremendous sign of weakness.

Now that I am quoting prices over the phone, it's take it or leave it. The customers understand it. I am dictating credit cards. I am dictating skip policies. I am dictating price. I am dictating everything. And I can tell you with 110% certainty there is no way I could do that if I were on the customer's property talking to them face to face.

Almost no one ever haggles me on price and this used to happen all the time with on-sight estimates, especially with people who looked like they were from India. Now, even the people with Indian accents are signing up on my terms at the prices I quote.

I am also finding out that people will pay extra for the first cut if it's going to be extra work. I never had the guts to try this when I was on the crew. I would always do the first cut, no matter how bad it was, for the regular weekly price. Not any more. If the first cut is extra work, reasonable people understand this and will pay extra for it.

The second biggest thing I am realizing now is that some people just won't be happy no matter what you do. I call these people chronic complainers. Chronic complainers are few and far between (thank god). The chronic complainers would rather b!tch than be happy. The thing I've learned is that you shouldn't invest time trying to please a chronic complainer. They are going to fire you anyway. That's what they do. They realize the lawn mowing company is small and their business is important to us. They will fire another LCO and hire you. Then the complaints will start. They will b!tch and moan about everything as you bend over backwards to keep them on the schedule. Finally, when they haven't complained in over a month and they've even said something positive about your service, they will blind side you with a note or phone call..."We won't be needing your service anymore." Then they're on to the next LCO to get their azz kissed with their ridiculous complaints.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

GreenUtah
05-12-2005, 11:27 AM
Tinman, by stepping away from the daily field work, you will find yourself starting to notice the inefficiencies that your company has slipped into. Whether it's time monopolizing customers, mismatched equipment for the types of your accounts, customers spread too far apart, where ad dollars actually bring the types of clients you are after, etc. etc. Often companies during startup get so busy paddling the boat, that having someone steer gets forgotten. Having the time to steer your company, make good clear decisions and a solid plan for moving forward in the direction that is right for you is the greatest benefit. Looking down the road instead of just looking at what's under your feet now is what they are talking about when the "game slows down". Best of luck.

fga
05-12-2005, 11:46 AM
In my opinion, the free on sight estimate is a tremendous sign of weakness.

Now that I am quoting prices over the phone, it's take it or leave it. Later,
DFW Area Landscaper
DFW,
weakness? ;)
how could you accurately estimate a monthly service cost for a given property, without eyeballing it? you think a potential customer is going to tell you about the "little things" that might make their property cumbersome?
do you give a ball park figure then confirm upon arrival? if so, that's sort of a free estimate, as well as dragging woprkers, equipment, etc. to the site on wasted time,.. as opposed to a personal face to face estimate where if there is any time "wasted", its basically less then a hour or youur time directly on you.
i occasionally say "on average, for what you are describing, we generally charge xx, but i'd have to walk the property to finalize it." and i do this maybe 1 time a year.
also, for people who don't care about the property, they'd be more inclined to you're approach. if they genuinely care, they 'd like to walk you through it, asking for your opinions.
but that's just me. if your figures total up nice, more power to you. but i totally disaree with the weakness comment. some people own million dollar homes and expsensive landscape, over the phone consultations just won't work in these situations.
if you can get away with charging a small technical fee, great, but in this day and age with the abundance of companies out there, you'd be the minority.

DFW Area Landscaper
05-12-2005, 12:50 PM
FGA,

All I know is, I tried and tried to get customers to give me credit cards last spring. I would even try to close them on it over the phone before I came out for a free estimate. I would say "I'll be glad to drive out and give you a price to mow the lawn, but I want to be clear about one thing: We do require that all of our customers place a valid credit card on file." They would always agree because I still had something they wanted: The free estimate. But when I'd show up for the estimate, they would start back peddling on the credit card issue. "Well, the price seems ok, but I'm not comfortable with the credit card thing. Is there a way you can bill me?" If I said "No", I'd walk away without the business. If agreed to bend, that would just be the beginning of the problems. Then they would expect other "bends" on scheduling, etc.

Since I've started quoting prices over the phone, if they commit to being ok with credit cards before I quote the price, and if they like the price, I get very little resistance. It's not 100%, but its a million times better than it was when I was driving out and meeting with them.

++++if they genuinely care, they 'd like to walk you through it, asking for your opinions.++++

I totally agree with this. The problem I have found is, if I am going to gain enough customers to make the business work without me actually being on the crew, I have to have a LOT of customers. This spring, if I had been trying to drive out to all the estimates, I simply wouldn't have had enough hours in the day. On busy days, I would do 15 to 20 estimates over the phone.

Another thing I'm noticing is that my close percentage isn't any worse since I stopped driving out to do the in-person estimate.

A huge problem with driving around to do free estimates is that you are susceptible to ill-intentioned people. I guarantee if you've done this long enough, a competitor has called you out for a free estimate so they can see how you price things and what terms you are requiring. There is also the mis-intentioned house wife who calls for an estimate before even discussing it with the husband. Then the husband vetos the entire idea only after you've invested an hour of your time. Then there are ill-intentioned people who only want one cut but won't admit that before you drive out. Then there are the the price shoppers who have no problem making four LCO's drive out for a free estimate so they can get the very rock bottom price. Lastly, there a lot of low end, bi-weekly customers, who make up a substantial portion of our revenue base. There is no way you could justify driving out for a free on-sight estimate to land a bi-weekly account that's gonna pay you $400.00 per year and have the right to cancel after only six cuts.

I figure an on-sight estimate, on average, was eating an hour of my time. And I always had to schedule them at a time when the customer would be home, so it was an hour of what should have been my free time. I found the non-face to face estimates were almost always a complete waste of time. In the end, before my back went out, if the customer wouldn't agree to meet me on the property, I wouldn't bother...the odds of success were that low.

All I'm sayinig is, for me, the on-sight estimate doesn't work. The over the phone estimate has only back fired four times, where the price was just too low. When this happens, we do the first cut or two at the agreed upon price, then contact the customer and explain that the price is just too low. The new price will be $XX.xx. If they aren't ok with the price increase we will waive the six cut minimum and take them off the schedule immediately. Surprisingly, all four have agreed to the higher price. But out of 168 new customers this spring, I'd say four failures with the pricing system is pretty good.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Remsen1
05-12-2005, 01:46 PM
DFW, I am intrigued to say the least and I think your reasoning for phone estimates makes quite a bit of sense, but I was wondering if you NEVER do on-site face to face estimates. It makes sense to not do face to face estimates if the caller states that the lawn is half an acre, 2 trees in the front and 1 in the back, house is 40'x40'. Flowers in the front etc. etc. I want a bi-weekly cut, last mowed 1 week ago and it normally takes me 1.5 hours" I could totally understand saying to this caller, "The price will be $X." And let them take it or leave it. I think this kind of salemanship would actually be appealing to certain kinds of customers, ones who just need their grass cut and their weeds trimmed (net $400-$600/yr), but I am not certain that it would be appealing to the high end customers, people who have the resources and want to pay good money for superior lawn and landscape (potentially net $4,000-$6,000/yr).

I guess you make a good point, and I will take away this (cause I waste too much of my time doing estimates)... Make sure to do a good phone interview on the first conversation to scope the potential. High potential ($500 yard), high detail, worth the trip. Low potential (half acre $35 yard) not worth the trip, even if the customer thinks there is a lot of detail (most the time they are wrong, most yards are just another day on the job for us, I don't get surprised much anymore). Just leave a way out in case you get lied to or other extreme circumstances.

DFW Area Landscaper
05-12-2005, 02:00 PM
++++I was wondering if you NEVER do on-site face to face estimates++++

I'm very reluctant to do it. I've done it once this season with a guy who was interested in my "Maintain Everything Automatically" program, which is only advertised on my web site. The price starts at $2,000 per year and the entire year must be paid in advance. If they see that and they're still interested in the service, I will drive out if I have time. I've turned several of these down this spring because I just got the feeling the customer really just wanted someone to cut the grass. I am able to talk most of them into just calling us when the shrubs need trimming and signing up for the mowing service. As for the one customer I agreed to drive out and see for a free on-sight estimate, he was serious. His account is worth over $7,000 per year. But generally, I hate it when a customer asks about this product and I always try to talk them into our three primary products (mowing, lawn fert/weed cntrl & bed weed control) and then they can call us if/when the shrubs need trimming.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

mountain man
05-12-2005, 05:32 PM
Systems are the name of the game. We have systems for billing, pm, new accounts, call ins, crew productivity etc. This allows you from be reactive to being proactive.

One example would be people who call in. I would never dream of giving a firm quote over the phone without one of us seing the property, however, we have a system where we screen out half of our calls immediately. That way the appointments we go on our productive. While we are on these appointments they are normally reoccuring programs and we are often able to upsell as well.

Another examples is strongly encouraging credit cards. On the 10th of each month I know exactly what my deposit is going to be from the people that are on automatic bill pay. Cash flow management gets a lot easier with this. Also, it is alot easier to up sell when they don't have to write the check right now.

Crews have to turn in log/performance sheets daily. Included in these log sheets are client data, equipment data, tools / supplies needed etc. By having a record of each time the oil is changed or when Mrs Smith's shrubs need to be pruned, we can properly plan schedules accordingly. If we don't get a note that something wasn't completed out on the log sheet, we immediately know so that we can speak directly with the crew leader.

With all the administrative tools out there today - blackberrys, email, credit card programs, computer software, etc - there is no reason to not take advantage of them and be proactive in your system development. This allows for more productive time while you are working and more relaxing time while you are at home with your family!