Visiting your clients' homes

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by JimLewis, Jan 11, 2001.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,842

    I am directing this question primarily to those of you who have say a large residential client base (say 100-200+) and also have employee crews doing the maintenance;

    Do you make an effort to work with the crews at every property from time to time?

    Reason I ask is I read in another thread a guy said he would rotate and work with one crew per week so that he eventually saw every client every few weeks. He listed the advantages of doing this.

    This got me thinking.

    I agree, this has some great advantages and definitely builds a closer personal relationship with your clients. No doubt it helps business.

    But I do not do it. And I started thinking about why. And if it was a good idea. And if it was duplicatable as your business grew.

    There are several reasons why I haven't done this. For one, I have personally mowed more lawns in the last several years than I ever want to mow in my life. I am sick to death of it. I don't even mow my own lawn. One of my crews does that.

    Secondly, I never wanted to mow lawns in the first place. My goal first and foremost was to run a big company. It just started as a between jobs thing then I realized that "Hey! I could make good money doing this!" I always saw my mowing time as a stepping stone, but not something I'd continue forever. I call it being ambitiously lazy. I am just ambitious enough to create a situation where I could be lazy sometimes and still get paid well for it.

    Third, at least in the spring and summer, I don't have time to mow lawns. I give a average of 5 estimates per day. I answer maybe 15 calls per day, and I stop by and oversee several job sites per day. This is above and beyond the time I spend in the office. If I spent time on a mowing crew we would never grow. I feel my time is best spent doing what I do.

    Fourth, I am not sure how long I could keep this up if I did want to do it. I mean, eventually when I reach 300 clients, there is no way I could work at every house. At some point it seems you have to delegate these things to crew leaders or foreman.

    And finally, it seems that for landscape maintenance at least, my crews leaders do a very good job at dealing with the clients and their landscapes. I rarely get complaints and they seem to be doing well when I stop by to check on a property.

    I guess I should add that I DO stop by my clients houses whenever I am in there area. That means that I do take a look at their yards on a regular basis. I just don't make a point to go work at every house on a regular basis.

    Anyway, I just wanted to see what others did and why.







    [Edited by jimlewis on 01-11-2001 at 04:42 AM]
     
  2. Green Finger

    Green Finger LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 839

    Jim,


    Truly is sounds like your cup is running over. And you have a pretty good operation going on.

    I would only go out with the crews if I had down time or there was a problem with the crew. If I didn't have down time, I wouldn't be able to go out with the crews.

    You have a very positive advantage going in your favor. It sounds like you have very competent, and loyal crew managers. That's a plus.

    Everything is system, Everyone has a role. You guys are doing it and reaping the rewards. That is what you are growing at the rate you are growing. More contractors need to incorporate this sysytem (only with good people). I think you have accepted the fact that you can't do everything.

    If you are feeling a little out of touch with your customers send them a personal news letter or make random calls.

    You are at a point where everything is clicking. So if it's working and clicking right. Keep up the good work.
     
  3. thefarmer4

    thefarmer4 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 71

    I agree with green finger.
    You can't do everything and be everywhere.
    Spending time manageing the business is always time well spent.

    In my situation I hope to eventually hire someone to do some of the jobs that you currently do.

    Mostly because I enjoy doing the work and not the administration. Its good to know your streghths and weakness, and your like and dislikes and form your business aroud that.

    Not many people would hire someone to run their business while they do the labor, but I believe many would benefit from it if they could get past their own ego's.

    I'm not directing the last statement at you, It's just a general idea I have been wanting to get out in the open.

    It's sounds to me like you have a good handle on your business.
     
  4. Stinger

    Stinger LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 252

    Jim: If it ain't broke then don't fix it. Sounds like your set up is running fairly smooth for the size of your operation. It's not totally impossible to be removed from clients and still have that customer communication and feedback. Try using a brief survey by mail or phone. Keep it simple with six or seven questions. Contact the client during early spring so you can reply and fix any complaints by summer. Use feedback to help encourage or correct employees actions. We also send out a seasonal newsletter that informs, educates, and offers a drawing for free services. This helps to keep customers in the loop.

    As for working with my crews I believe in it 100%. That is what sets me apart from the competition. I may not cut grass all day everyday, but I am on site with one of my two maintenance crews. I juggle back and forth while doing most business in the truck. I have a laptop to print out estimates on the spot and the cell phone to return calls.
    When I have a minute or two sure I'll jump in and grab a blower or relive a man on the mower to go take a water brake. The guys seem to respect you more and work harder when the boss works too.
     
  5. Mueller Landscape Inc

    Mueller Landscape Inc LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 489

    Jim,

    It sounds like you have things going well for you. One thing that we do is mail out "How are we doing?" surveys every six months. It gives clients a chance to give you feedback. If you use scheduling software, you can schedule it right in the software. We use quotes from the survey and put them in our newsletter. (by permission) We always include a self-addressed stamped envelope as well as a follow-up letter.

    Jim, I'll bet that you are already doing something like this...:)

    John
    Mueller Landscape Co
     
  6. Bob Shoaff

    Bob Shoaff LawnSite Member
    Posts: 64

    I started up a newsletter and have had positive feedback on it. It gives me a good way to communicate to the customers and provide them with a little something they do not get with the standard fly by nighter. It is also an excellent marketing tool by announcing specials and seasonal services. Sometimes if you give a customer a little reminder or suggestion on a service they will bite. I love getting out and doing the work but I also enjoy getting out and meeting with potential clients and developing the business. I totally agree with everyone that if you surround yourself with good people in your business then you can have the time to grow. And besides, if you have bad employees I am sure the quality is not there either. It is hard to find good people but once you do they are worth taking care of.
     
  7. kutnkru

    kutnkru LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,662

    Okay! Okay! Okay!

    Its true! It was me who rotates with his crews. But I cant help it . I LOVE TO MOW!! - (rofl)

    In all fairness I was just trying to point out that when contractors are increasing their customer workload that too often I have seen the "original" clients get pushed so far to the back burner because they are trying to insure that the new ones sign on for next year, that the old ones can eventually slip thru the cracks.

    This was one way that we are able to keep constant relations open with clients. They never go more than say two weeks without KNOWING that the owner has been there. In our area in particular they are soooo conservative and can be such snobs, that if you start out your business being there, then you had BETTER find a way to get back to 'em periodically.

    If you offer Fert. as a service you could possibly make the rounds this way to avoid cutting. But as Jim has mentioned, if you DO NOT LOVE to mow, then dont. That too is okay. However, make sure that you keep in contact with your clients. And yes when you have foreman you should not have to travel with them, thats what THEY are paid for.

    Over the last two years I have spent three months of the season in SW Pennsylavania in '99, and and this past year was in NC for four. So yes you should be able to utilize your crews. As a side note I have a "partner" so the other boss was around when I wasn't if customers needed someone to contact.

    Hope this helps you sleep tonight Jim, I could see you were not looking forward to MORE mowing as you expanded your business -- LOL

    Just my .06
    Kris
     
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,842

    I have often thought about surveys. I always wanted to do them. I was thinking of offering like a $5 or $10 off of their monthly bill if they returned the survey. That way, I'd get most of them back.

    So far, I haven't done any yet. But for clients who I feel that I haven't had time to stop by often enough, I call them on the phone at night and talk to them live. Just check in and make sure everything's going well and see if they have any needs. People love it.

    I think I will do the survey thing. Thanks!
     
  9. Green Finger

    Green Finger LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 839

    Hey Jim,

    Pay me 10 bucks per survey. I'll make sure you get them all back.

    I'll even give you some of my surveys.

    10 * 200 customers = 1000.00

    Show me the surveys.
     
  10. Fantasy Lawns

    Fantasy Lawns LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,913

    We use a survey (besides timely payments ... if they pay on time they must be OK)each Spring a "New Season" letter is sent which reflects out expectations of the new year .... items of "extra" service they may be interested in .... and a quick "please check" the boxes survery

    Again in the Fall a "Thank You" note is drop .... which explains the past year ..... appreciation of timely payments ..... survey of the service this year recieved

    If you want a good return .... create the survey on a "postcard" format ..... that is post paid

    Also on site inspection & TRAINING is a never ending process
     

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