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Mid To Big Operators...

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by SouthernFried, Apr 21, 2007.

  1. SouthernFried

    SouthernFried LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 273

    We are a mid-size full service company (3 mil/yr), and going through some growing pains.

    We have found ourselves in the position, the more money we make...the more we lose. Disorganization, as we struggle to keep up with demand, seems to be the order of the day. Still, we want to grow, and we are growing.

    However, we are finding things that worked for a smaller company...don't necessarily continue to work as you get bigger. Something has to change, and I'm finding it difficult to see the forrest for all the trees. I think change needs to start at the top as we reorganize to meet new challenges. I don't think this is a "growing too fast" problem, but more of a growing without a strategic plan problem.

    So, I'm interested in internal processes other companies of this size are employing. Such as:

    Tracking leads/sales calls.
    Tracking job processes and costing.
    Inventory control systems (irrigation parts, bulk materials, etc.)
    Internal communication between departments.
    Types of internal financial reports generated.
    Overall pricing and costing methods.
    Department Budget and tracking/analysis
    How much office staff do you use, and what do they do?
    What does your Company chart look like :)
    Do you use Job and/or information flow charts?

    Have you been in a similar situation? If so, how'd you get through to the "other side." Anyone ever hire a "landscape industry" consultant?.

    Just to let you know, our management is experienced (average over 20 yrs in industry), and most have business degrees. Been running CLIP software for over a decade as well as QB.

    Anyway, just thought I'd see if I could find some freindly (and inexpensive) advice from the forum :)

  2. Tim Wright

    Tim Wright LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,034

    Steve, I do not want to high jack your thread here, so if you perfer, you can PM your reply if you have one.

    I am a very small company, but I have purchased CLIP to do (help do) the things that you mentioned above. I am hoping to do the things that will keep me from re-inventing the wheel as I grow.

    How is CLIP working for you? Has it preformed as expected? Would you go the same route if you had to do it again?

    Thank you,

  3. arborrich1

    arborrich1 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 1

    :) hang in there
  4. green horizons

    green horizons LawnSite Member
    from zone 5
    Posts: 144

    As an owner I don't qualify to answer. But as an employee at a company that generated comparable sales, I might offer some insight. My focus there was strictly financial. Rarely did I communicate with field guys. The largest hiccup was administrative staff. Hands down, no exception, the "office" generated the most problems. Heck, admin. had the highest turnover rate. Eventually the company hired a consultant "team". Every meeting, the suggestions were the same, "higher prices, fewer employees". They were right. Higher prices stemmed outrageous growth and fewer employees created effeciency. Almost all employees trimmed were admin. or poor performing foreman. No, I was not a casualty, and this occurred nearly 15yrs. ago. Good Luck!
  5. SouthernFried

    SouthernFried LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 273

    Tim, np.

    We have been using CLIP since its inception. If CLIP software has a problem, we are usually one of the first to find out...and inform them. So, I think we sorta have a unique relationship with them. Overall CLIP is an excellent program. I would not call it a user friendly, or an intuitive type of program...but, once you've been using it awhile, the more you understand its capabilities, you'll find it has some excellent managment tools..."IF" you know how to correctly use it. Training is key here.

    We are looking at the "CLIP-TO-GO" add-on right now, which might take the place of our current GPS system with additional benefits. I'm not sure that it's in the cards tho. Just another thing to train everyone on, and I'm not sure our training for current procedures is up to snuff. Additional technologies can help, if implementation/training/etc. is there to support it. I don't think ours is right now.

    So, to answer your question (sorry...), overall, CLIP is great. Support is very good. Can be a little quirky tho if not managed correctly, and when you find a problem, let them know immediately and they will generate an update for it and send you the fix. We have managed to get to our size with minimal office staff because managers can do so much with it. Still, managers can only do so much, which takes me back to my original post...

    Green... I think the office IS where we are having our greatest problems right now. Procedures, processes, etc. However, I beleive we are understaffed and are not getting the "correct" information when and where it does the most good. I would sure like to see how companies our size, or bigger, have set up administrative and staff positions. How their offices work, so to speak. And your right, we are jacking up our prices big time...just because we can't keep up with demand. Hopefully, this will help cover inneficiences till we can correct them.

    If anyone knows of a "model" that is working, I would sure be interested. I am not above bribery either. Lunch, Dinner, tickets to Chuck-e-cheese. I may also be willing to fly someone to Texas, or fly myself to another location to get some insights.

    I'll bring tacos.

  6. cpel2004

    cpel2004 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,416

    From the outside looking in I think hiring a consultant that specializes in system and procedure management would be the best way to go. Your halfway there, you have identified the problem areas now you just need to manage it. Best of Luck.
  7. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    I think a system is what is always needed, a point-blank steps 1-2-3 this is how we do things. What I found worse than spending the time setting up the system was, as you say it, the ensuing disorganization.

    So I think you've kinda answered your own question, it's like me, the inside of my house is a total mess and I keep wondering what is the solution but the fact is I have to get over myself and get it done so that's what it boils down to, is you have to make the plan.

    The hours you spend doing it will pay for itself many times over.
    Maintenance every day, even backup machines need to be working.
    Parts organized, every thing has its place, keep on the guys about this until things improve, hammer here, wrench there, thank you.
    Running to the store to get one stupid oil filter? Ok, fine, get 4-5 this time. Yes, 5! Thank you.
    > Stock backup parts so you don't have to keep running back and forth.
    Example: Today (literally) my Z's Kawasaki had 33 hours on it, ooops, I forgot to do an oil change...
    Checked it, yup, kinda turning colors... Ok, no problem, I had oil and filter already here, blam, it's done.

    Scheduling and routing, every day, every truck - Tight, least distance and like ducks in a row, no doubling back: Each driver should have the route pictured in their mind before they leave the driveway, that's in addition to having it in writing someplace, cross them off as they go.

    I cut 11 lawns Saturday, ranging from 1/8th acre to a full acre in size.
    You can't beat some kind of a system, the hard part is coming up with it and putting it in place.
  8. Tony Clifton

    Tony Clifton LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 865

    SouthernFried, I would definately recommend bringing in a consultant, there are several "good" ones out there. We brought one aboard in January, he will fly in once a month and is basically an employee on our payroll, he is our CFO.
    The right consultant will help you get all of the things in place that you described above. Some of it is a slow process, over a year, other things you can set up relatively quickly. Our CFO does not actually set anything up for us, some things he will tell us we need to do, and more or less let us figure it out, and build it ourselves. We really have not gotten very far yet. He forces us to think and build but the systems we create we know inside/out because we are the ones that built them.
    Sales tracking is an easy one, (I think), inventory is another that is not overly difficult...at least the way we have them set up.
    The others will take time. How many meetings do you have a week with your key people? I will not be surprised if you say none. We were having meetings at least 2x per week and then 3 weeks ago we got slammed with work and have not had a meeting since. You know what we almost started to have an internal meltdown because of that. It is very important to have meetings, you should be having production, administrative and sales meetings at least once a week. I hope this helps,

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