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domain311
06-01-2010, 08:25 PM
Been in business for about 12 years-was part time for the first few years or so. The past 7-8 years we have had consistent growth of about 20-30% per year. Last year we were up almost 20% in a crappy economy. This past April was our biggest month out of any month, ever....and May's gross just beat April's by almost 25%. So long story short, I need help! :dizzy:

Right now we have 6 guys working 80+ hours per week and 2-3 working about 40-50 hours per week. I really don't know my hours but I can tell you I am up before 5am everyday and still working on the computer when I get home in the evening. My job consists of managing my crews, scheduling, estimating, billing, contracts, customer service, etc., etc.... at this point I need another me.

I have some help-part time (maybe 8 hours a week)-for office help, but she doesnt have much experience yet and I really havent had even a breath to show her what I need. I don't even know what I need sometimes it seems! :confused: I've been so involved in every little detail that I don't even know where to begin to show someone how we do what we do. For example, I send emails all the time for my clients for pricing on whatever it is they're requesting...sometimes we do the work based on that and sometimes we do it based on time and materials.

Soooo, I guess my question is...where do I begin? What help should I look to hire first? Someone who can manage the crews for the day or quality control-someone to check all of our (I certainly don't do this but wish I could) accounts each week? Someone who does estimating and billing? Someone for scheduling? I don't know the answer but I do know that if I continue at the pace I've been going-on my own-I will start to lose clients as I simply cannot keep up. I do want to continue to grow as well.

Any and all help is appreciated!

Az Gardener
06-01-2010, 09:34 PM
I always like to delegate the job I dislike the most. That's a pretty simplistic answer though. Whatever you let go of it will have ramifications. You have to decide what you can let go of with the least impact to the company. I hate to tell you that building a stable business is hard enough when you start with a plan. When your trying to hire and implement systems both at the same time it is very difficult.

I would probably start with field help, if your guys are really working 80 per week the overtime savings alone will provide enough cash to hire your office person which I would do next about a week later. Don't skimp here pony up the Benjamen's and get a good office manager. They will keep the cash coming in and low cash flow will be the most likely thing to kill your business.

I know your flying by the seat of your pants here but try and be consistent with your hiring process. Ask the same questions in the same order, write answers down as all the applicants will blend together an hour after they leave, check references, and trust your gut but verify. Stay in control don't let a prospective new hire dominate the interview by asking a million questions and telling stories about their band.

I like to start by telling them about our company, the position I am hiring for, wages advancement opportunities, and general stuff about work hours, payday etc. This way they can relax and answer your questions without getting off track. I have a check of list I go through as I interview then I have a list of questions with space to write in the short version of their answers.

If you have never done it before it wouldn't hurt to do some role playing to be comfortable. Whatever you do don't put an add in with your cell you will never get anything done.

bohiaa
06-02-2010, 12:06 AM
Must be a Joke post...

1st post, working 6 guys 80 + hrs a week ?

my friend the over time would kill ya...

anythign over 40 is time and a half.

domain311
06-02-2010, 01:07 PM
Must be a Joke post...

1st post, working 6 guys 80 + hrs a week ?

my friend the over time would kill ya...

anythign over 40 is time and a half.


I wish I were kidding. I have nothing to gain here by making up stories.

big acres
06-02-2010, 01:53 PM
I agree with most of what AZ gardener says.

You need to take your top foreman and create a new position of Lawn operations manager. Train him on how to route and schedule and make it his responsibility to get the crews out each day and ensure the work is done and qaulity is kept up. Hopefully the next guy on his crew can step up his game and take over as foreman. You might be able to phase him in by having him do some of this supervisory stuff while in the field. He could go out with the crews on big days or to help them catch up when behind.

This would leave you with more time to work with your office manager to get the office running smoothly.

Az Gardener
06-02-2010, 07:36 PM
No disrespect here big acres but I have to disagree, although it is the typical approach in our and most industries. Your best foreman is doing a great job for you and bringing in the cash so you want to break that machine up, pull him away from that and move someone up into his position... Then you have 3 people learning new positions. office person, foreman and new foreman.

I would prefer to hire someone with management experience or even train someone new to do the supply b/s then your foreman keeps producing for you and the smooth running team keeps running smoothly.

As owners we often jump to the conclusion that everyone is like us and wants to move up. That is not always the case in fact its more likely not the case, few people crave new responsibilities, most are content to work their day and go home and forget about it until the next day.

I would also hire an experienced office manager that will teach you things about running the office. Lets face it what most of us know about running an office we learned by default. Are we really the ones to be training our office managers :confused:

Just a different prospective.

wbw
06-02-2010, 08:01 PM
No disrespect here big acres but I have to disagree, although it is the typical approach in our and most industries. Your best foreman is doing a great job for you and bringing in the cash so you want to break that machine up, pull him away from that and move someone up into his position... Then you have 3 people learning new positions. office person, foreman and new foreman.

I would prefer to hire someone with management experience or even train someone new to do the supply b/s then your foreman keeps producing for you and the smooth running team keeps running smoothly.

As owners we often jump to the conclusion that everyone is like us and wants to move up. That is not always the case in fact its more likely not the case, few people crave new responsibilities, most are content to work their day and go home and forget about it until the next day.

I would also hire an experienced office manager that will teach you things about running the office. Lets face it what most of us know about running an office we learned by default. Are we really the ones to be training our office managers :confused:

Just a different prospective.

Dead on target AZ. As usual.

big acres
06-03-2010, 12:18 AM
Great points AZ... BUT one factor you have to consider is that the new supervisory position will be viewed as higher up the ladder than the top foreman position. I don't think this company is big enough to slip in an outsider ahead of the foreman without the potential for some bitterness. Some might say "TS I'm the boss and it's my decision", but it could cost you your best man.

If the foreman is worth his salt and has truly been working on behalf of the company, I wouldn't blame him. Other than the owner, who else would be better to oversee overall quality and efficiency than the top producer, who, in between getting the crews out and in, can float between crews to train, check quality, help when behind, etc...?

Regarding the office manager, you are right. We have an awesome manager and she has done wonders for us with her experience... though we have 40+ employees. I have to wonder if the OP is simply looking for data entry, basic invoicing, and phone work so that with his newly created extra time he can run more numbers himself, do more sale, etc...?

Just my take on this size company... I do not own a company however, but I have been through the growing pains.

PS. Just reread your post and that you considered that he wouldn't want to move up. I think it's good for moral if all employees see a couple guys move up. If he doesn't want it, then you could consider another qualified employee or going outside.

Stillwater
06-03-2010, 05:15 AM
So useing national average per man rates, your invoicing over 42,000 a month thats not even includeing your 2 part timers, presuming you have no excessive business debt or equipment payments you should be able to higher anyone to do anything you want them to do. this is quiet simple, Identify (exactly what is preventing you) from doing what you need to be doing and either move a guy up or higher someone to do that task simple when you really think of it.

The reason some have questioned the seriousness of your post is the fact your paying 80 hours at time in a half to six guys. I am tempted to comment on that but Their are no polite words to describe that. why are you doing this? how do you justify that type of bleeding.

domain311
06-03-2010, 11:11 AM
So useing national average per man rates, your invoicing over 42,000 a month thats not even includeing your 2 part timers, presuming you have no excessive business debt or equipment payments you should be able to higher anyone to do anything you want them to do. this is quiet simple, Identify (exactly what is preventing you) from doing what you need to be doing and either move a guy up or higher someone to do that task simple when you really think of it.

The reason some have questioned the seriousness of your post is the fact your paying 80 hours at time in a half to six guys. I am tempted to comment on that but Their are no polite words to describe that. why are you doing this? how do you justify that type of bleeding.

Well-its simply been so much growth so fast that I got caught. I do not have enough trucks to even have 12 guys right now for 40 hours instead of 6 guys for 80. Thats one problem. To put things into perspective in early March I was worried about hiring the 4th guys back too early-I thought we might not need 4 guys full time, early on in March, only 3. Now here I am not getting it done in time with 9.

I came to this board for a reason-I need help, advice, guidance...whatever you want to call it. I have the work, I just need to get everything straight still to get it done efficiently while keeping quality top notch.

Its also so up and down in this business sometimes. Once mid July comes it slows down a lot for us usually-so I only have about 6 more weeks of sweating and then its usually a cake walk from there. If there is one thing I hate its hiring all this extra help to only let them go a few months later-in my opinion its best to keep the same guys as long as possible-I think most would agree.

snowman55
06-03-2010, 01:38 PM
I agree AZ its simplistic but 1st determine what you enjoy most but more importantly what you are best at. I hired our cust service and office mgr 1st. why? I hate it and I am the best at making operations run smooth and efficient. Hire an office manager she will (if good) tell you what you need. answer your calls put out small fires and free you up more than you can imagine. then go from there.

domain311
06-05-2010, 06:18 PM
It would be great if I can have someone schedule and run the crews. But in order to do that, it seems that I would almost need that same person to do the meeting with customers-existing or new-with new sales or extra work for existing clients. If my person is doing the sales and meeting clients to go over their needs, then that is the person who knows who needs what. If I personally go and sell new or extra work, then I have to go and show someone else or my crews after I sell it-which to me defeats the whole purpose of me trying to have someone run the crews or schedule things. Make sense? Any thoughts on that? Thanks for the input thus far...

Az Gardener
06-05-2010, 08:50 PM
Documentation and Systems, If your going to grow you can't rely on memory and verbal relay to transfer information. Creating forms will give you a more professional image as well as provide continuity for your team. They always know where to look for information and you can think of all the information you want to collect while you are creating the form. This will assure that all pertinent information is collected while you are having your meeting with the client.

domain311
06-05-2010, 10:26 PM
Documentation and Systems, If your going to grow you can't rely on memory and verbal relay to transfer information. Creating forms will give you a more professional image as well as provide continuity for your team. They always know where to look for information and you can think of all the information you want to collect while you are creating the form. This will assure that all pertinent information is collected while you are having your meeting with the client.

Thanks...Well, I do write everything down and make lists for the guys to do for the day...but some things I feel just need to also be gone over in person and in more detail. Usually if you don't, I find a detail may be missed-however minor it may be.

Depends on the job of course...if its "trimming all the privet" or "mulch all the beds" that's pretty easy. If its something like "remove the hollies at front door and replace with boxwoods that are in planters on the lawn. Seed lawn under planters after removing old planters-plant remaining boxwood around A/C units after removing Euonymus. Remove all wild brush and roses from SE corner, transplant the Rose of Sharon on right side 4 feet over from its existing spot and seed bare area"...I know that will be a little difficult for some if not most workers to understand and someone needs to be there to advise first.

Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying?

MarkintheGarden
06-05-2010, 11:54 PM
Domain311, I do not know if I should envy you or pity you!

I am also going through growing pains, but not so drastic.

From what you have written, my guess is that what you need most is administrative help.
The danger here is that you have so much going on at all times it is too easy to get in to a situation where everybody is working everywhere, all the time, but it is not adding up to a stable, profitable operation.

I know how you feel about hiring seasonal help, just remember, is better to have been hired and let go, than to have never been hired. Just tell them up front.

I cannot imagine that having employees log 80 hours a week is anything but disaster. A human being's production drops after so many hours, the overtime (as has been mentioned), HEALTH and SAFETY considerations! Business owners can work around the clock because we have the motivation and passion to maintain the energy and focus.
Allowing employees to work those kind of hours is downright foolish, maybe an OSHA violation, and probably not even legal.

Take a close look at what work is most profitable and what work and clients seem most promising for the future and specialize more. You may be taking work that you would be better off without, and you may be bidding your services too low.

Always promote from within when it is a reasonable option.

Az Gardener
06-06-2010, 06:38 PM
Thanks...Well, I do write everything down and make lists for the guys to do for the day...but some things I feel just need to also be gone over in person and in more detail. Usually if you don't, I find a detail may be missed-however minor it may be.

Depends on the job of course...if its "trimming all the privet" or "mulch all the beds" that's pretty easy. If its something like "remove the hollies at front door and replace with boxwoods that are in planters on the lawn. Seed lawn under planters after removing old planters-plant remaining boxwood around A/C units after removing Euonymus. Remove all wild brush and roses from SE corner, transplant the Rose of Sharon on right side 4 feet over from its existing spot and seed bare area"...I know that will be a little difficult for some if not most workers to understand and someone needs to be there to advise first.

Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying?

No your right on and if your employees can't understand simple directions like that you might try pictures or smarter employees that will cost you more money but save you some headaches.

I might also suggest using bullets to outline your directions.

Remove the hollies at front door and replace with Boxwoods that are in planters on the lawn.
Seed lawn under planters after removing old planters
Remove Euonymus.
Plant remaining boxwood around A/C units
Remove all wild brush and roses from SE corner.
Relocate the Rose of Sharon on right side over 4 feet from its existing spot and seed bare area".


You may need to give your directions and wording more thought but anyone who knows plant varaities and can read should be able to follow those directions.

domain311
06-06-2010, 06:55 PM
No your right on and if your employees can't understand simple directions like that you might try pictures or smarter employees that will cost you more money but save you some headaches.

I might also suggest using bullets to outline your directions.

Remove the hollies at front door and replace with Boxwoods that are in planters on the lawn.
Seed lawn under planters after removing old planters
Remove Euonymus.
Plant remaining boxwood around A/C units
Remove all wild brush and roses from SE corner.
Relocate the Rose of Sharon on right side over 4 feet from its existing spot and seed bare area".


You may need to give your directions and wording more thought but anyone who knows plant varaities and can read should be able to follow those directions.

Gotcha-

I do exactly that actually. I have sheets with the each crew I am sending where, using their exact names as sometimes it varies. Under their names I have bulllets just like that with the property they're going to and what they are to do there. I just wrote that quickly in my post to give an example of how it may seem confusing.

I think I have that part down...but yeah, the part about "smarter" employees or ones that can identify plants...that's where we have the problem. I also can't honestly say I would feel comfortable sending one of my crews right now to a job like that, where they are to remove big shrubs that are right at the front door. I've seen too many mistakes in the past and you never know...I'd have to say at least a good foreman (that I went over the job with prior) would need to go over that with the crew or the person that went over it with the client would supervise it.

There were also some Nepeta that needed transplanting that would have been very difficult to explain where to put they as they were to go in different parts of the property.

Not trying to say it absolutely can't be done...but with that method I can also see errors happening along the way. Kinda like how when the customer wants to meet with you and show you something because it would be too difficult to do over email or a phone call.

OrganicsMaine
06-06-2010, 09:27 PM
Thanks...Well, I do write everything down and make lists for the guys to do for the day...but some things I feel just need to also be gone over in person and in more detail. Usually if you don't, I find a detail may be missed-however minor it may be.

Depends on the job of course...if its "trimming all the privet" or "mulch all the beds" that's pretty easy. If its something like "remove the hollies at front door and replace with boxwoods that are in planters on the lawn. Seed lawn under planters after removing old planters-plant remaining boxwood around A/C units after removing Euonymus. Remove all wild brush and roses from SE corner, transplant the Rose of Sharon on right side 4 feet over from its existing spot and seed bare area"...I know that will be a little difficult for some if not most workers to understand and someone needs to be there to advise first.

Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying?

My opinion....you need to take a few days and meet with a consultant. Not sure where you are but SCORE is a good group that could help you out on the cheap. That would be step one. Step 2...if you are doing that type of work...plant removal/replacement/transplanting, you should have at least one person on staff that is strong in that area....other than you. So if you say move the Rose of Sharon over 4 feet, with an experienced person, you could then say "take a look at where it is and be sure it looks right". Also, I highly recommend looking into the various management software programs out there and what about a virtual office? There are services out there that will answer the phone etc. Do you take credit cards? What about automating your billing/payment system? There are a lot of ways that you could streamline your operation, but you have to make the time to do it. In reality, you need to get yourself out of the field as quickly as possible...that includes running around as support staff to keep things going. Put a system in place so that you don't have to meet crew "a" with the gas can they forgot, and then over to crew "e" with a load of compost that they are waiting for while you are dropping off that gas can.

If you are running 6 guys 80 hours/week, you could probably hire 4 more that work 40 hrs/week, and get the same production out of 400mhrs (10 guys @ 40hr) straight time as you currently are with 240mhrs straight time plus another 240mhrs OT. You will be WAY ahead in no time. I would say that by the time the guys hit 60 hours, their production rates are cut in half, and probably in half again by the time they hit 75 hours. There is just too many negatives related to running guys that hard week in and week out.

Good luck!

domain311
06-06-2010, 10:07 PM
My opinion....you need to take a few days and meet with a consultant. Not sure where you are but SCORE is a good group that could help you out on the cheap. That would be step one. Step 2...if you are doing that type of work...plant removal/replacement/transplanting, you should have at least one person on staff that is strong in that area....other than you. So if you say move the Rose of Sharon over 4 feet, with an experienced person, you could then say "take a look at where it is and be sure it looks right". Also, I highly recommend looking into the various management software programs out there and what about a virtual office? There are services out there that will answer the phone etc. Do you take credit cards? What about automating your billing/payment system? There are a lot of ways that you could streamline your operation, but you have to make the time to do it. In reality, you need to get yourself out of the field as quickly as possible...that includes running around as support staff to keep things going. Put a system in place so that you don't have to meet crew "a" with the gas can they forgot, and then over to crew "e" with a load of compost that they are waiting for while you are dropping off that gas can.

If you are running 6 guys 80 hours/week, you could probably hire 4 more that work 40 hrs/week, and get the same production out of 400mhrs (10 guys @ 40hr) straight time as you currently are with 240mhrs straight time plus another 240mhrs OT. You will be WAY ahead in no time. I would say that by the time the guys hit 60 hours, their production rates are cut in half, and probably in half again by the time they hit 75 hours. There is just too many negatives related to running guys that hard week in and week out.

Good luck!

Thanks...that makes sense...and I love the part about the gas can they forgot haha.

Personally, I do very little to none of the actual "labor" any more (I did replace a couple of mist heads on Friday because it had to get done and no one else was available to do it) but its the running around and managing that is still killing me at the moment. The past couple of weeks now its been 8-9 guys managing plus 2 flower girls and their jobs. With everything else, I can't even think about answering any new calls at the moment, so unfortunately, I haven't returned some.

What is SCORE? I would absolutely be eager to be pointed in the right direction with someone that could come in as a consultant. We do everything from mowing a lawn to cattle grate installation...I try to stay diverse to get the work and a lot of customers like to one stop shop. We started with irrigation service and installation in the beginning of 2009 as well. It seems to be working as we are growing fast now....but the last thing I want to happen is for the quality to start sliding because I can't keep on top of it all.

Another thing to keep in mind for us...where I work its about 10 months out of the year but its also very seasonal. In about 5 weeks or so (after the 4th) we will slow up quite a bit-it will be more "normal". By slow I still mean a good 50 or so hours a week with the same amount of guys. So what I'm getting at its so up and down sometimes that I've had a hard time making decisions with hiring because I dont want to get stuck with too many people. When I describe my business to people I say its 3 months of hell. April, May and June....the rest is pretty easy. A lot of people have summer homes here and they come here for the summer to party, relax, vacation, whatever you want to call it...and they want what they want and they have the money to pay for it.

We do take credit cards but there are a lot of different variables and things changing all the time on most bills...thats something I need to get more organized with also-even just keeping track of what all the crews are doing. They are supposed to write everything down... Some people also pay us for the entire year up front-I give them a 7% discount if they choose to do so.

And the software you spoke of...any links for what you are referring to? Or links for that score thing? Thanks again. Honestly...lately this has been stressing me out more than it ever has before and I really need to dig deep to find some answers cause all the issues keep piling up. Its what I want and what I wanted when I first started...but I definitely need some help at this point-it just caught up to me real quick out of nowhere this year.

domain311
06-06-2010, 10:11 PM
ok found the score thing you were talking about....will read about that

OrganicsMaine
06-06-2010, 10:27 PM
www.score.org. Can't remember exactly what the acronym stands for, but the last two are Retired Executives. Basically, for a donation, you will meet with a retired business person that can help you, and they are somewhat local, depending on where you are.

Service Autopilot is a nice system that I am looking at implementing. I am currently no where near your level of craziness, but I was at one time and learned a number of good lessons. If you need help short term, go to a temp agency, or maybe you hire 2-3 people. Once you hire enough to handle the spring rush, you should be freed up enough to sell work for the summer months to cover the hours. Quality people are key, if you are paying someone $15-20/hr, but you have to run around behind them and keep them organized....that is do more than give them a route sheet every morning, then you need a better employee. You have to have people that you can turn loose, knowing that they will get the job done with quality and efficiency.

My biggest lesson was that I needed to hire better people to take the load off my shoulders and allow me to refine my systems(that I didn't have!) and work on and not in my business. You need a strong office manager to take the calls and assign work....small stuff that should be handled by your foremen....even if it means they have to double back the next morning to take care of something that was broken or forgotten. You need to be selling work for the summer now, and spending time getting your systems in place.

Go to www.score.org and www.serviceautopilot.com:)

ChiTownAmateur
06-10-2010, 07:16 PM
My recommendation is general, simple but important.

You need to hire either a #2 guy who learns to run the entire show like you or you should hire an administrative assistant who does critically important -- but easily teachable -- portions of the work.

Either way, I highly recommend having either one sign a non-compete. They cannot go work for any other lawn care company within a 100 miile radius for a period of 1 year after they stop working for you...no matter what. They quit, they are fired, whatever, that is the cost of becoming your assistant.

If you do it that way, you take away some of the concerns that you train someone to then leave and start their own business or steal your knowledge.

An outside guy who becomes your shadow for a while can make your job much easier and much better. Send him/her to meet with clients and they become your trusted assistant and are paid well.

Going that route creates 2 of you...one that can focus on doing the job just like you do now (the other guy), and then you...who can worry about hiring more people, training the crews properly and looking for new opportunities for the company and managing your best customers

If you hire an admin you need to have a list of duties for this person. Each duty should be something you can teach easily. By having them do it, you are spending less because their hourly rate is lower than what your time is worth.

IDEALLY...you will hire both of these people.

The order in which you do, and the timing are very important.
Think about all of this for a while, I would personally not change anything for the next 5 weeks until it slows down. At that point you can better assess what you want.

It's your business. You can make it into whatever you want. The critical question to ask yourself is, what DO I WANT TO BE DOING....and WHAT MUST BE MANAGED BY ME NO MATTER WHAT.

Take on WHAT MUST BE MANAGED BY ME and then add as much as you reasonably think you can from DO WHAT I WANT TO BE DOING and that will help you decide who to hire first.

Slower season would seem an ideal time for you to take a new manager under your wing. Make it clear how important the job is to you -- and to him. And that if he decides to do it, he will be paid more and be given responsibility. The small price is his loyalty, he can't leave and work for a competitor for a year if he accepts. He won't mind if he believes that doing well will create a career for him with stability (#2 guy in a growing and solid company). Some day you might even consider giving him a small piece if he proves himself worthy. Then he stays for life.

of course none of this is in stone modify to your style and situation

MarkintheGarden
06-10-2010, 09:12 PM
Chitown, I agree with almost everything you said, especially, the last part about grooming a manager to be a partner.

I disagree about the non compete clause. Non compete clauses sour the relationship between employer and employee, judges often will not enforce them, and who has time to sue their former employees for taking a job. For these and several other reasons, I would never ask an employee or even a partner to sign a non compete agreement.

ChiTownAmateur
06-11-2010, 02:59 PM
Chitown, I agree with almost everything you said, especially, the last part about grooming a manager to be a partner.

I disagree about the non compete clause. Non compete clauses sour the relationship between employer and employee, judges often will not enforce them, and who has time to sue their former employees for taking a job. For these and several other reasons, I would never ask an employee or even a partner to sign a non compete agreement.

Good and valid points MIG. A non-compete will not solve everything and does have the potential to cause some friction.

He has to protect his business imo. To the admin I would doubt it's an issue at all because most admins aren't looking for a specific industry....i.e. if she is let go from the lawn care place she'll probably take another admin job in any industry. So I think most admins wouldn't even think twice and would sign...it's a huge benefit for the owner's piece of mind and a warning shot to the employee that the information is serious business. It's more a deterrent than an actionable document imo.

The manager is being given a special opportunity. Usually the training stops at a certain point but this person is being groomed to run the business as the #2 guy. IMO it's just too easy, no matter how loyal this person may have been, to change and work for someone else who will pay more, or take it on his own and use the expertise learned. it's a big decision for both parties. And it doesn't mean down the road if the guy is made some kind of partner that they can't rip it up.

The radius could be smaller, say 25 miles if that is the area this guy's business covers. Then the manager could work for someone else but he couldn't compete directly against his old boss for a year...really not unreasonable imo.

These are merely suggestions anyway, one guy's opinion. I'm not nearly as familiar with this industry as the rest of you guys, but I am very familiar with running a business and managing people.

Noncompetes are often difficult to enforce but the deterrent power of a non-compete is it's greatest power. In almost every case if you call an employer who has hired someone under a non-compete they will let that person go if for not other reasons that 1) the employee lied or omitted that when they were hired, possibly costing the company a lot of wasted $$ or 2) for fear of a potential lawsuit...which could attempt to collect damages against the company that hired someone under a non-compete

ChiTownAmateur
06-11-2010, 03:02 PM
I will also add that there is a difference between a non-compete and a confidentiality clause.

The admin probably needs more of a confidentiality agreement than a non-compete...agree to not share the data with anybody for a period of time. The non-compete proabably wouldn't be an issue either with an admin, but it may not really be necessary.

A manager imo needs both, cannot share information and cannot work for a direct competitor.

MarkintheGarden
06-11-2010, 04:40 PM
I will also add that there is a difference between a non-compete and a confidentiality clause.


A manager imo needs both, cannot share information and cannot work for a direct competitor.

I do agree with all this ChiTown, mostly that the value of an agreement is that the parties involved have a motivation to do their part as agreed.

I have a friend who groomed a manager into a partner and let him operate the mowing and maintenance side of his business while he operated the tree work, design and install. Well somewhere along the way the manager would be partner jumped ship and took a lot of his business, and soured the whole operation with trash talking to employees and customers. He could take him to court but it probably is not worth it.

JohnnyRoyale
06-11-2010, 04:41 PM
I had the same problems a few years ago and I've briefly read through this thread and...

I first recommend you start with an Office Manager.

In my case she had industry experience and was a huge asset until we moved and she decided to retire-but thats another story. She basically took care of everything in the office, a/p, a/r, taxes, ordering material, all accounting, group benefit admin, payroll, answering the phone, housekeeping, co-ordinating sub contractor quotes, health and saftey BS,...I mean everything. She even did takeoffs, and gave me job costing on plant lists off commercial drawings, calculated areas for sod, pavers, lawn areas for maintenance etc.

When she had nothing going on she made calls to management companies to set up an appointment for me to go in and introduce the company or fire off some literature. It means alot to the client or a new client when they can put a face to the owner of the company.

It is for this reason I dont suggest you hire a manager or a sales manager. IMO, Nobody does a better job to sell a companies reputation than the owner. The type of clients we're after want the personal touch, and IMO, nobody can offer that better than me. I assume the resposiblity of Quality Control. As I am out on scheduled appointments throughout the day, I make my rounds through some of the maintenance properties and visit the landscape construction jobs at least once a day. I point out what I like and dont like, inform the foreman, or crew leader and move on.

Hire more help. Burning guys out the way you do does nobody any good. Employees want their family time too. I understand everyone wants things done yesterday, but its not possible all the time. Some of our landscape contruction clients wait 4 months for us. Hire students-they make great grunt labourers, with no long term commitments.

Hope this helps a bit. Good luck.

ChiTownAmateur
06-15-2010, 02:54 PM
JR I think that is really terrific advice and real experience talking there.

I am not in the business except to maintain my own home, and I agree 100% that if I was to hire a service I would want to meet with the guy in charge if at all possible.

One other bit of advice is to send cards to your customers. Not "we want more business cards..."

simple thank you cards. Unexpected. Not because of a problem. Simply a thank you out of the blue at least once a year. Hand written is even more impressive.

Happy 4th of July, even a Happy Thanksgiving or Happy New Year's card. These things will go a mile towards making you stand out beyond your work.

mow4cash
06-24-2010, 07:46 PM
I would spend more time looking for good help. Higher 6-10 more guys and buy more equipment. Take your best guys and have them run crews. You are way to overextended and it would probably be more beneficial to spend your time trying to find good help. Your number one priority should be keep the business you have and second to find good help so you can take on more business. By good help I mean people who are qualified for the duties you want done correctly. Its alot easier said then done though.

seabee24
06-25-2010, 10:11 PM
I would also look into getting better employees, at least a crew leader. My advice for dealing with your crews and job sites would be this. Take the crew leader up to the job 1-2 days before you are going to start it. walk him thru the job, and let him take the notes...he should be able to leave his crew for more than a few hours with out too many screw ups...if he cant you really need to fire everyone there. That way he knows exacly what to do...when you go up there have pictures already taken, maps already printed... let him take his own notes on them..give him the blue print..same thing...a red sharpy marker.

service autopilot rocks. took time to get use to, still not using all its features to its fullest extent, but 5 mins a day and all the billing, routing,schdualing is done. I have talked with the owner personally for many hours and he really does make changes with in the program to fit your business.

Make a schdual for yourself. from 7am-9am you get the guys out the door. form 9-10 you call suppliers, 10-12 return all your customers calls, 12-4 go inspect jobs, or meet with people/...then stick to that schdual as best as possible. its easy to get scatter brained...but if you force your self to sit at a desk for 4 hours you would be surpirsed what you can get done.

Look into 3rd party help, invoice mailing, phone answering. auto billing credit cards... for the low cost of all three of these i can save hours and hours every day. cheaper than an office assistant, (altho at some point they are nessesary)

I really try not to spend too much money on persons that are not "billable" in other words, its hard to bill for manager, office people, on staff mechanics.....now some of these you just have to have and cant do with out.

next time your guys run out of gas, tell them to get out there wallet and go to the gas station. i assume they all stood around waiting for you to show up with the can of fuel...so you paid them either way, they might as well go get it and not waste your time.

altho a better method would be to make a daily routine that makes it impossible to forget to get the gas can, or leave it on the trailer at all times...i have a fuel tank, my guys pump it full eveyr morning..i dont care if it needs 2 cups...the pump goes on and tanks are full.

domain311
07-10-2010, 07:05 PM
I just wanted to sincerely thank you all for your input on the subject...this is a great site and can obviously be very helpful to people just starting out or someone who has been in the business for years.

With that said...I also wanted to give a little update. We had about 10 employees working up until July 4th weekend. The past week I had 7 full time and one part time. This coming week I will probably cut back to 5 full time and one part time. April, May and June...especially May and June, are abolutely nuts for us-this year was exceptional with a lot more that came in than was expected. Anyhow, after the 4th, we always have a big slow down in work. We are pretty much done with all the first hedge cuttings, prepping, plantings, etc. Now, its just maintaining and usually some extra jobs here and there to keep us busy. We will probably have 5 guys averaging around 45 hours a week right now for the next couple of months...maybe a little more when we pick up slightly in the fall again. So my point is this...had I hired lets say another 5-8 guys to do the work quicker-I would have to lay off that many more right now. So I don't see that as an answer...I'll be honest, I feel bad enough letting one guy go...especially if they're good. Not only that, I think it would be pretty difficult to continually find good people for just 2-3 months in the beginning of the season.

I don't know for certain if this situation is somewhat isolated due to where we work...but I think it is. I don't believe that most companies throughout the country have this same type of cycle...not as drastic anyway. Its a given, every year...this is what happens....and its not only my company-other companies in this area have the same experience.

Thoughts?

Az Gardener
07-10-2010, 11:03 PM
I think had you staffed up and hired more people your bottom line would look much better not having to have paid all that overtime.

I can't speak for everyone but I would prefer to have 2-3 months of work and be laid off then to not have been employed at all. Ask anyone who is unemployed. As long as your honest up front we're all adults so there should be no hard feelings.

I can't see a winner here...
your crew killed themselves for months.
your clients had to wait.
you had to pay higher costs.
you exposed yourself to higher liability by working crews long hours.
you deprived unemployed people of work.
you failed to stock the pantry so to speak with employees for future work.

Its nice to have some folks out there that you have worked with to be able to go to if something happens with a current employee.

But hey that's just me :clapping: That's whats great about this country :usflag: we can do things how we want, you couldn't do that in France. Just food for thought, congrats on making it over the hump.

OrganicsMaine
07-11-2010, 08:30 AM
Not sure where you are, but I believe that no matter where you are there is summer work to be had, and if you had the extra help in the spring, you could have focused on selling work for summer and fall.

Its like having a piece of equipment, once you buy it, all of a sudden, you have many different uses for it.

Like above, just my opinion. God Bless the USA and my right to have one:usflag:

domain311
07-11-2010, 09:09 AM
Good points...but, it would have been easier said than done for this season. Mainly for the fact that I simply did not have immediate extra trucks, equipment, etc. available for another 5-6 guys. I have only 3 trucks-2 of which are dump trucks and one was my personal truck. Now, as it is, in May I ended up borrowing a friends car on and off while I let my personal truck go out on the job with the guys...until another personal car for myself came in that I got at the end of May. I did start looking for another dump truck-crew cabs-one slipped out right before was about to buy in May...then hadn't found another that suited what I wanted after that-there was only about a month left anyhow till the 4th so figured was no need to rush that at that point. I pretty much will only need 2 trucks for the rest of the season now...sometimes 3 maybe, but would be very exceptional if 4 are needed. I must also add that I personally do not rush to buy, buy, buy for the company because #1-you can get caught in a bad position if you do too much of this and work slows..and this is something I will not do-it has literally put people out of business. #2-I simply don't have tons of equity to just go and spend 100k or more for all the extra stuff I would have needed. I will say though that I am picking up an extra truck for irrigation, etc. this week that I found used for a good price...and will definitely be getting another dump truck before the start of next season. So that will be 5 for next years start-that should help.

As far as the many different uses for the equipment once you buy it...I do agree with that to a point. I find that true especially with our bobcat...we use that a lot more than I would have rented one. Its a fine balance though sometimes-buying equipment and expanding-just because you have the ability to do the work with extra machines, etc....doesn't mean the work will just come or always be there. You can't think that way or you can get screwed.

In a nutshell, we did about 70% of last years gross already by the end of June...and we still have 6 out of 9.5 months left. It came too quickly and I obviously had a difficult time trying to adjust...so I really need to be better prepared for it next season.

We work for mostly wealthy people in what people call "The Hamptons". It is always a big rush to get certain things done by a certain time and once they are all out here by the summer, we are usually done prepping and just maintaining. April and May generally consist of clean ups, mulching, flower bed/pot planting, etc. and June is getting all the huge privets done by the 4th. Once we are done with that, it is pretty simple until we start the privets again in another 6 weeks or so...we pick up again with that and then the normal lawn renovations, more planting projects, clean ups, etc. all the way until Christmas.

OrganicsMaine
07-11-2010, 11:55 AM
Good points...but, it would have been easier said than done for this season. Mainly for the fact that I simply did not have immediate extra trucks, equipment, etc. available for another 5-6 guys. I have only 3 trucks-2 of which are dump trucks and one was my personal truck. Now, as it is, in May I ended up borrowing a friends car on and off while I let my personal truck go out on the job with the guys...until another personal car for myself came in that I got at the end of May. I did start looking for another dump truck-crew cabs-one slipped out right before was about to buy in May...then hadn't found another that suited what I wanted after that-there was only about a month left anyhow till the 4th so figured was no need to rush that at that point. I pretty much will only need 2 trucks for the rest of the season now...sometimes 3 maybe, but would be very exceptional if 4 are needed. I must also add that I personally do not rush to buy, buy, buy for the company because #1-you can get caught in a bad position if you do too much of this and work slows..and this is something I will not do-it has literally put people out of business. #2-I simply don't have tons of equity to just go and spend 100k or more for all the extra stuff I would have needed. I will say though that I am picking up an extra truck for irrigation, etc. this week that I found used for a good price...and will definitely be getting another dump truck before the start of next season. So that will be 5 for next years start-that should help.

As far as the many different uses for the equipment once you buy it...I do agree with that to a point. I find that true especially with our bobcat...we use that a lot more than I would have rented one. Its a fine balance though sometimes-buying equipment and expanding-just because you have the ability to do the work with extra machines, etc....doesn't mean the work will just come or always be there. You can't think that way or you can get screwed.

In a nutshell, we did about 70% of last years gross already by the end of June...and we still have 6 out of 9.5 months left. It came too quickly and I obviously had a difficult time trying to adjust...so I really need to be better prepared for it next season.

We work for mostly wealthy people in what people call "The Hamptons". It is always a big rush to get certain things done by a certain time and once they are all out here by the summer, we are usually done prepping and just maintaining. April and May generally consist of clean ups, mulching, flower bed/pot planting, etc. and June is getting all the huge privets done by the 4th. Once we are done with that, it is pretty simple until we start the privets again in another 6 weeks or so...we pick up again with that and then the normal lawn renovations, more planting projects, clean ups, etc. all the way until Christmas.

I also agree that you can't buy equipment just to buy it and hope that you can keep it busy. However, my thinking on the employee end of things is that if you have enough guys to free you up enough to sell more work, then you have struck that balance. We all have big spring rushes that need to be handled, and that is with more people or equipment, or both. Maybe your best option is to go through a temp agency for those heavy spring months, and then cut back now.

Sounds like you are over the hump and on your way, so good job!

domain311
07-11-2010, 12:36 PM
I also agree that you can't buy equipment just to buy it and hope that you can keep it busy. However, my thinking on the employee end of things is that if you have enough guys to free you up enough to sell more work, then you have struck that balance. We all have big spring rushes that need to be handled, and that is with more people or equipment, or both. Maybe your best option is to go through a temp agency for those heavy spring months, and then cut back now.

Sounds like you are over the hump and on your way, so good job!

Yeah...definitely need to plan better for next year and right now I have basically nine months to do so...and we are already working on it-with that I mean we are working on better office management to start.

And I'll tell ya one thing is for sure...I feel great being over "the hump"!

Az Gardener
07-11-2010, 01:00 PM
I really need to be better prepared for it next season. Ding Ding Ding we have a winner best quote of the thread

We work for mostly wealthy people in what people call "The Hamptons". It is always a big rush to get certain things done by a certain time and once they are all out here by the summer, we are usually done prepping and just maintaining. April and May generally consist of clean ups, mulching, flower bed/pot planting, etc. and June is getting all the huge privets done by the 4th. Once we are done with that, it is pretty simple until we start the privets again in another 6 weeks or so...we pick up again with that and then the normal lawn renovations, more planting projects, clean ups, etc. all the way until Christmas.

Sounds like we have the same clientele. Here are some things I have done to put off buying more trucks until its absolutely necessary.

If its clean ups and the clients are not in town work 2 sets of crews one main crew Tue-Fri 4-10s and another working Sat-Mon on the homes that people are not at. This takes a lot of organization but the payoff is outstanding if you can pull it off, yes there are many moving parts but it can be done.

Personal gardeners are good to use if the work requires a lot of hand work. No sense having 80-K worth of rig sitting at a house when all your using is 2-K worth of hedgers and blowers rakes and hand shovels for the majority of the job. Send a guy (or two) in his own pick up to the home to do the lions share of the work and send the crew by at the end of the day to pick up debris, mow grass etc. Again not the most simple way to do things but the pay off is outstanding.

Last thing, is big crews are impressive I used to run 5-6 man crews but production was terrible. I found 2 man crew will produce much more in 3 hours (6 man hours) than 6 men will in one hour. When you run the numbers on overtime and lost production I think you will find trucks are cheap especially in this market. I bet when things settle down and you are looking at your numbers you will find you paid more in OT than a years truck payments. To say nothing of lost production and lost opportunity because of work that was not willing to wait.

Speaking of the Hamptons have you seen that show "Royal Pains"on USA Network Thursdays, its set in the Hamtons. I watch just to see the landscapes. I do some nice homes but nothing on that scale.

domain311
09-05-2010, 12:41 PM
Last thing, is big crews are impressive I used to run 5-6 man crews but production was terrible. I found 2 man crew will produce much more in 3 hours (6 man hours) than 6 men will in one hour. When you run the numbers on overtime and lost production I think you will find trucks are cheap especially in this market. I bet when things settle down and you are looking at your numbers you will find you paid more in OT than a years truck payments. To say nothing of lost production and lost opportunity because of work that was not willing to wait.

Speaking of the Hamptons have you seen that show "Royal Pains"on USA Network Thursdays, its set in the Hamtons. I watch just to see the landscapes. I do some nice homes but nothing on that scale.

Gotta agree with that...have definitely seen the same myself...some times I need to get things done in a short period of time though and will have 6-8 guys on the job just to bust it out quick. But overall, unless if you are charging by the hour, it will end up costing more in labor usually just for the reason you stated.

Never actually seen that show...but its probably something I can laugh at I bet...cause there are some real pains :)

There are some crazy landscapes here though too...and potential for a lot of $$$ in work.