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Business direction

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Pond guy, Aug 2, 2001.

  1. Pond guy

    Pond guy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 9

    My wife and I operate our own lawn care co., but have been doing landscape projects for a couple of years (we've been in business for 6 yrs)We specialize in natural water gardens. Any way, this upcoming season we will be advertised in 'Landscaping' section of the yellow pages because we love doing landscaping way more than cutting grass! I would like to grow my business in landscaping as a company that provides good service and quality work without alot of employees, maybe just 2 or 3. My cry for help is in direction for us. I'm so busy mowing all the grass that I can't work ON my business, I'm working IN it. I guess I'm looking for a consultant or someone along those lines to help steer us in the right direction. Does anyone have some ideas for us? We have a ton of potential and jobs lined up, but I have to make them wait so I can get all the grass cut first! PLEASE HELP:cry:
  2. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,073


    As a designer, I know a lot of contractors in your exact situation.

    They all have the same problem, in that they want to do the construction work, but have to still keep the lawn care side of their business moving.

    It is a very difficult situation, that must be addressed in order to run both a mowing crew and construction crew.

    The biggest obstacle I see is that they do not have a qualified foreman to take care of their mowing while they are out doing construction. The second problem, then, is that they have to leave their construction projects to go mow/handle a mowing customer and then have no one on the construction side to run the job.

    A no win situation.

    My best advice, is first get your mowing crew a GOOD foreman who can handle all those little problems first. If you can't have a mowing crew leave all day without calling you every hour with a problem, then you will not be able to run a construction crew along with it.

    Second of all, you will need a good 'second-hand' man on your construction crew. If you are thinking that you will be able to start a second crew for construction and be able to leave that crew during the day, think again.

    I would start off by first getting you mowing operation to be a independent entity, self sufficient. You should be able to send them out in the morning and not have to worry about them till they return at the end of the day.

    Also, equipment and people are going to be a problem. If you hav to use the same equipment and share trucks for both crews, it is going to lead to problems.

    The way I see it, you almost have to look at as setting up a whole new business, independent from the lawns.

    You nailed it by saying you feel like you are working IN and not ON your business.

    My best advice is to start working on finding KEY employees, one to run maintenance, one to run construction. Then, that will free you up to run YOUR business, and not to have the business running YOU. To me, getting the right people is the starting block.

    Big companies succeed because they have BUYING power. Not buying power in the sense of money to spend on equipment, but power in the sense that they can attract more employees and offer skilled people more incentives to stay. I can't stress it enough how important it is to get the right people and keep them.

    Hope to be of some help,

  3. Pond guy

    Pond guy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 9

    Thanks alot Steveair, you gave me a starting point and some things to think about. Anyone else that wants to reply, please do. Pond guy
  4. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Posts: 1,579

    Steveair is right... Find a key person that can run the mowing end of it and I do mean ALL of it. From pricing to running a crew to dealing with customers.

    We have four construction crews and 2 maintenance crews.. They are run as two separate companys. They each have there own trucks and equipment. There are separate budgets to meet etc etc.

    Once you have that down pat you will find out there are other problems with this. Eg.. Our maintenace employees are paid slightly less ( and if you think employees don't discuss this with each other, you are wrong) another eg... this past weekend we had about 4 inches of rain ...landscape crews were shut down for a few days with the exception of a few guys doing odd jobs and tree farm work... maintenance crews never missed a beat and got a full week in... this weekend is a long weekend here (civic holiday) Maintenace crews are off... construction crews are working.

    See what I am getting at?
  5. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,073

    I like this topic, and will say a little more. Surprised other guys haven't jumped in more on this one.

    Currently, I am doing drawings/design for a small company consisting of one mowing crew (1 foreman, 3 laborers), and one construction crew consisting of 1 foreman(the owner) and two laborers (no english, spanish).

    He is really struggling right now.

    His down falls are this:

    1. His lawn foreman is not taking on the work load and as I would say it, is not 'steping up to the plate' of taking control of the division. What this means, is that the owner is still running around everyday, taking care of all of the little 'things' that occur, like dealing directly with homeowners INSISTING that HE be there personally for EVERY LITTLE CONCERN that they have. His foreman, quite frankly, just doesn't have the background for customer relations (a key role) and he is stuck in that rut still. He even still has to take 1 to 2 days a week himself, and jump onto the lawn maintenance side to mow all day. He is an excellant mower, but there are other things that HE MUST be doing at this point in his company.

    2. Poor office management. With all the added work of a construction crew, and all the time spent actually out in the field, mowing/repairing equipment/customer relations, etc. he has no time to get the billing done, get invoices done, call people back, go on estimates, etc. etc. He has a part time secretary (his girlfriend), but she does not have the time either and also doesn't quite have the skills/knowledge to keep up with the work load. At the point he is at, he really needs a full time office person who can get things done.

    3. Lack of a construction foreman....plain and simple, when you leave a construction job for a few hours to go on a estimate, etc, you can't expect 2 spanish laborers to get things done productively. If he can't be on the job all the time, things barely get done.

    4. Still inexperienced.........He has the knowledge, but is taking on jobs that may be too big for where he is at. When he brings me in on a design, I have problems because I know that if I go crazy and sell the people a big job, he may not be able to handle it. I can talk people into just about anything and have them believing that his company can do "ALL THIS" for them. The problem is, its not me doing the work, its him. Sometimes my pen gets too big for his crews to say the least.

    This is where I am finding my own market as a sort of a consultant. A lot of guys think that if they get a 'fancy drawing' and sell the job, they are home free. Then, the first day on the job, they are sitting there, scratching their heads, figuring out how they are going to do it. Even worse, they sit there, scratching their heads when PRICING the job out, and really get themselves into trouble.

    I would say 'ease' into construction at this point, first focusing on getting you lawn crew firmly established, next getting your office ready for the added work, then getting yourself 'financially' set (being able to purchase the equipment needed). For now, stay away from the big projects, and work smaller ones into your schedule where you find you have some time. Specializing in ponds may be great for this, as most jobs can be started in finished in a few days. Its the big projects, over 3 weeks, that can reak havoc on you if you don't have your self together. I've seen people run a easy 3 week job out for 3 months because they can't get there to ever work on it.

  6. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Posts: 1,625

    This almost makes the a business post but I'll leave it here, Help from office to the field, a good plan of attack will help you, to run installation crews and maintance I'd follow kris's and steverairs advice. You need to find people that can learn and take over each division. you need to be the director not the mule:)
  7. Andrew Hardscape

    Andrew Hardscape LawnSite Member
    Posts: 37

    Good Luck finding people to ooversee the maintenance crew and the install crew!

    We do strictly installation and I must say it is very time consuming. Lots of estimates, proposals, and landscape designs.. Then you have to present the design to the client, go back to office, make changes. Then do the work and as already mentioned the homeowner wants the owner to answer every question and or concern on the spot.

    If you're a small company in a market that can find decent employees, then go for it! However I found with the labor demand the way it is today, there was no way my company could offer both maintenance and construction, and still live up to our standards of quality.
  8. John Allin

    John Allin LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,489

    I think the reason more people are not posting on this thread, is that Steveair has it knocked.

    Insightful and articulate. Well done.

    Steveair... if you're looking to relocate, I might just have a spot for you.....
  9. Guido

    Guido LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,085

    To JA's post (exept I don't have a spot for you!) ;)

    Not much to add after those great posts.
  10. kutnkru

    kutnkru LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,662

    As for ways to try to keep a "Foreperson" motivated to keep that end of your biz in line and under control you could consider offering them a bonus of say 2% of the gross the first year and work up to 5% over the next few.

    Many people will say that we cannot keep good/great employees strictly by giving them money. If you offer them a piece of the action, this makes them a team player (they have a vested interest by this kind of bonus) and many times they will keep the others in line more attentively. This should also set personal goals for them to acheive within the corporate ladder.

    If he/she knows that they have a bonus based on percentages, then they will strive to see things are done correctly, and that your division grows properly. If you gain clients but quickly lose them , its $$$ out the window for not just YOU, but your "Foreperson". If they are able to gain clients, keep them happy, and still put a little extra coin into their pockets during/after the season, this will be a sign of personal acheivement for them.

    This will not only allow them to take pride in what they have accomplished for the Company that year, but they may also come up with some innovative ways and ideas to better the current regiment or expand it.

    Good Luck!

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