Need to change, but HOW?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Envy Lawn Service, Feb 22, 2004.

  1. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,062

    OK, I need to change this year. But the problem is I'm not sure how. Last year was my rookie full time season. Early on the rain started, and it seems like it never ended all year it rained so much. I had a full schedule and along the way some dropped off. But with the rain I never missed them. The POINT is that the only time I was home was if it was dark or pouring rain!

    For years before, much of my former business work I could do at home. So I was able to integrate a large part of my wage earning time with family time. I was really able to watch my daughter grow up, ya know? At the begining and towards the end of the financial services business, I was swamped with work, hair pulling stress and long hours away from home. But for the most part I was only away from home for the part time LCO gig or for meetings and appointments that had to be carried out in person.

    For me and my family it was a sudden night & day change as soon as the season began. I can't even lie, suddenly being away from my family like that was the hardest thing I've EVER done. I mean I love this business, but I love my family too. It hurt to be gone so much and what bothered me more is knowing when I was there, but I was so tired I really wasn't......

    Now there is a new kink.... my baby girl will turn 5 this summer. So she will start school this August. Last season at least I was able to see her at lunch, dinner and dark thirty. But if I stay on the same course this year, come August I'll hardly see her at all. I'll be gone before she wakes in the morning and it's likely she'll be asleep before I get home.

    So I have to change somehow. Somehow I've got to be home more. But at the same time I also want to achieve more profit this season.

    Honestly, I don't know what to do..... :confused: :(
     
  2. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Posts: 2,585

    Many of us worked insane hours all of last year because it NEVER stopped raining.
    The first thing you need to do is make damn sure you are as efficient as possible. I thought I was until I went over the day to day work log for every day last year. Consider working a couple longer days and plan Mondays off...if you can. I feel your pain as the first year I needed an extra case of Geritol to keep me going.

    Because we work basically 9 months for a 12 month salary, we do work long hours in season but it shouldn;t bury us if we plan efficiently. Little things add up as you look at effciency. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make the biz sucessful and at the same time, have a personal life. Without a personal life, the amount of money we make is irrelevant. good luck and hang in there
     
  3. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,062

    GarPa,

    Yeah, efficiency is where it's at. That's for sure! After a while last season I was able to reschedule everything where it worked much better for me. That paid off well for me.

    My days are broken into two parts. From sunrise until lunch I do the long, time consuming commercial stuff. I can work longer without breaks during the cooler morning hours. Plus, generally speaking, I don't have to deal with the evening thunderstorm threat. I don't have to worry about those stopping me in the middle of the big jobs as much. This gives me a little more insurance that the big dollars are earned pretty early in the day and I found it was a whole lot easier to make up a few small account rain delays than it was to have to go back on those jobs.

    This portion that I am speaking of takes up no less than Mon, Tue & Wed mornings in good conditions. Then Thursday mornings are open for any delays on those or extra services. Hopefully by Friday morning all of those are done and any evening rain delays can be made up by lunch or more additional services can be done. Saturday morning is supposed to be reserved for me to attend my daughter's dance classes.

    From lunch to sunset Mon-Fri is for the smaller stuff. The quicker jobs and windshield time breaks between during the hotter hours more prone to evening thunderstorms and rain outs. Saturday afternoon, after lunch service equipment. All day Sunday, REST, but often it's a regular work day.

    Immediately, I can see the evening windshield time as lost wages or lost time from home and family. But you have to understand a few things about that. Originally I welcomed the windshield time for my own benefit. I have diabetes and I have to be careful not to over do it. So in the beginning, I was in favor of the longer work day with good breaks v/s the packed tight days. But as some accounts fell by the wayside, the holes in my evening routes have grown.

    I know I need to convert some of that windshield time into profits, some needs to be applied to shorten my works days and just enough to conserve my health needs to remain for breaks. But again the Million Dollar Question is HOW???
     
  4. TaylorLawn

    TaylorLawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 195

    Can you afford to pay someone to help you? It takes some time but just as the gentleman before me said, effeciency is the key, do not take on more than you can handle, because if you are not happy doing it, it is not worth it. I have had one employee for the past three years, and another who helps out part time, this guy is responsible enough to handle the accounts by himself if I need to take a few hours off or even a few days, and it has not hurt my profit at all, I just ran my add for another month, gained about ten more accounts, and all is fine............and those ten extra accounts are actually profitable, not just paying for the help......You have to be very careful though, make sure they are responsible and take care of your equipment etc.......They are few but if you are careful in your selection it can be a real time saver.......Eric
     
  5. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Posts: 2,585

    amen to that Eric....having some helpers, even if only part time, can make a world of difference in your sanity and physical well being
     
  6. Gr grass n Hi tides

    Gr grass n Hi tides LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,020

    The comments about efficiency are great. I culled my accounts and have cut that windsheild time down. I also realized I didn't have to say yes to every job even though I'm in the growing process. I choose what I want to take. My curve may be different than yours in the sense that I run part time; however, if it were not for lawncare I'd have an extremely difficult time making ends meet so my time and each dollar earned are every bit as important.

    Envy, your little one will be 5 yo just once in a lifetime. You can and will find the balance you need, but make that time with your family priority number one. Your business is flexible to an extent, I'm sure even if it doesn't seem to be. Sometimes it's hard to think outside the box when people get grooved into a routine. Just build what you have around your family and it will be impossible to go wrong. Alter your route, get help, possibly scale down, whatever it takes.

    I'm divorced, so for part of each week my children do not stay at home with me. You should nurture what you have because there is no promise of tomorrow for any of us. Things can change in an instant.

    Ben Franklin said, "how we spend our time is what we are."

    A couple of things you might be able to do if you don't already would be to visit your 5 yo at school during that mid-day stretch. You could maybe stop in and have lunch or enjoy the outdoor time the kids have at school. On the rainy days, go volunteer/sit in on class for the day. I do these things all of the time & love it.....and so do my girls. These times really help fill up the void when they're not home, plus you're supportive, involved, and positive, which means a lot. The way it works out, pretty much I do see my girls every day, every week. The way it should be, even if it's not for as much time as we would like. Just make the most of the time you do have. Cliche' maybe, but very true.

    Keep at it Envy, you will find ways to shape your week into what you need it to be. Thoughts and prayers are with you.
     
  7. pines

    pines LawnSite Member
    Posts: 148

    I understand how you feel. In the past five years I have gone through 3 buyouts/mergers from my existing employer. Talk about stressful!!! There have been many days that I didn't know if today was the day I got the pink slip. Finally I said enough. I need to start controlling my destiny. I started this past Fall with leaf removals and slid into Winter with minimal snow removals. I have done all of this while trying to maintain my existing job outside of landscaping and raising 5 kids from ages 9-2. One thing you didn't mention was your spouse. I have an angel sent from heaven and it is the differnce. In the back of my mind I like to keep a number of things in mind 1) I am providing for my 2) I am providing the opportunity (down the road) where I know I will be working with my kids. Summer jobs are guaranteed for them and this can/will be cherished time spent together. 3) Lastly, I would like to think that at least one of my children can grow into this business and take it to another level. I will by no means push this, but it was an opportunity that I was provided with growing up.....taking over the family business. When I can, I take my kids with me to run chores, meet clients etc. anything where I am with them and they can possibly recognize what I am doing to provide for them. That's how I think beyond the present and look to the future. Before you know it your little girl will be a teenager and you need to look at what can you do now to allow a shared experience in which both of you will win. Just my 2 cents.
     
  8. pcnservices

    pcnservices LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 614

    All the previous repliers said it all, and it sounds like it all boils down to EFFICIENCY.
    I was in the same situation as you are - work my butt off from dawn till dusk every day to try and get through all my work.
    My problem was I never had a proper schedule. Every night after work I had to sit and "thumsuck" tomorrow's to-do-list. I forgot some of the jobs people requested and at the end of the month I had to sit and make up all my invoices and I forgot half of what I did during the month and eventually never charged and got paid for it. I was NOT efficient in my operation.
    I then invested in a billing and scheduling software program and set it up. The program was setup in a logical way re. routing, scheduled services, service fees, clients, etc., etc. When scheduling the services I scheduled it in such a time frame that I can do the work in humanly achievable working hours and I was able to tell the client exactly when I will be there to do the job.
    At the end of each day I will sit in front of the computer for 15 minutes and "complete" the jobs that were done that day and it automaytically calculates my $$ earnings for that day. I now get paid for every minute of the day and for every little job I did. At the end of the month I generate my invoices and mail it.
    This program helped me to be more EFFICIENT, PROFITABLE and professional. I now do more lawns and I have more family time and time to do other stuff than before.
    My advise might not sound related, but I thought I wanted to share this with you as this was a big solution to part of my problem.
    Invest in a good billing and scheduling software program - it is the best money you'll invest in your business.

    Good Luck
    PC
     
  9. dkeisala

    dkeisala LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 911

    I don't have kids so my experience comes from watching my father when I was a child. He worked for a large road construction company. Similar to what we do in that you work your butt off during the nice months and are basically laid off in winter. It wasn't necessarily how much time he spent with me but the fact the we did spend time with me. We may have been building fence, feeding cattle or cleaning out the chicken coop but the fact that we were spending time together and learning something was awesome to me. Anyhow, I know that amount of time vs. quality of time thing can seem like a cliche.

    There is also the saying to work smarter, not harder which I think is the premise of these replys. My nerves are typically shot by September and it's usually because I planned on spending the winter months putting necessary systems into place to organize and control the work flow but it never happened. This winter has been different.

    I too spent a great deal of money on scheduling, routing and productivity software this year. I've used, and still do, QuickBooks for years which is a great tool but didn't allow me to analyze my client base on an account by account basis. Now I have everything analyzed and all my account information at my fingertips. I now how much individual and total square footage we maintain. I know how much time it takes us to do the work we have to do. I know how many non-production hours we are working every week. Most importantly, I know which accounts are generating the highest profits. I can't say how much this has helped. For example, I found I had accounts where it would have probably been more profitable for me to pull up and hand the client five bucks rather than cut their lawn. Trying to juggle everything in your brain gets confusing, all of this stuff is what computers and software are for. Get your office organized and running efficiently first because this is the nerve center of your business, not your truck, trailer and equipment.

    A also agree that even a part-time employee could take a tremendous strain off of you. You could pick up some extra accounts to pay for the financial investment of an employee. Screen properly for this person and get someone you trust. Spend several weeks training the person and once you are both confident in their abilities you could take a couple hours off here, a half day there while your employee tends to some of the easier accounts. I only have one employee who has been with me going on two years now. Yes, it was a financial strain at first but I can't imagine trying to do it all myself anymore. He loves going out in the feild on his own from time to time and I love being able to tend to paper work, run errands, do a few estimates or just hang out and enjoy some free time.

    Lastly, starting a business requires tremendous sacrifice, both personal and financial. Everyone needs to understand this but often times don't. It is even more difficult for you because you had the previous luxury of working out of your home. I understand that you want to spend more time with your family but someone has to put food on the table, buy that pretty little dress, make the house payment and save for your retirement/her college. You have a financial services so I'm sure you understand this conceptually but putting it all into practice is another thing. The last thing I want to hear from a parent is "I didn't work hard and plan for my future because I was concerned with spending enough time with you". At 5 y/o, your little girl may have a hard time understanding the sacrifices you are making now your familys future but at 25 y/o, it may bring a proud tear to her eye. I also believe that hard work on a parents part instills a strong work ethic into their children. Look at the flip side of the coin, welfare parents breed welfare children. Are they better parents because they don't work but get to spend all of this free time with their kids? Your daughter stands to gain far more through this than you think. It appears you are focusing on the negative.

    It appears you have a deep sense of love and committment for your family and this is admirable. Balance this out with an organized office, some well defined systems to get the work down, focus on what it is you want your business to be, spend as much time with your family as possible and but most importantly, take care of yourself because none of this will be possible without you.
     
  10. lawnagent

    lawnagent LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 529

    I don't know what else to add. Except what I first thought of when I read this, was it sounded like you have been describing me and my situation. I have been struggling with the very same thing. I read a post of Jim Lewis from a couple of weeks back about staying solo vs hiring employees. He said duplication of yourself was the key to family time vs no time. By hiring employees, he was able to tale on more work, which gave him more profit. And he was much more able to take time off.
     

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