Struggling Transition

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by GodsMan, May 30, 2006.

  1. GodsMan

    GodsMan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 21

    I currently have a small LCO. I only have 2 full time employees and have several part time employees. I am primarily a maintenance contractor but am venturing inot quite a few landscape projects for my existing clientele. However, I am at a crossroads as to how to transition my position as Business manager and not only a technician. I believe that my priority is to run the business and deal with clients. How have you made the transition from Lawn Maintenance only to Landscape? When did you realize that you were called to more than just a techinician and called to grow and manage your service operation? I am struggling to make the transition and would like to here some of your stories.:dizzy:
  2. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    The first thing to understand is what exactly you are having trouble with. Almost without exception the problem is being able to manage your help. For some reason most landscapers in your position will deny this to themselves forever. Realize how many people you can manage and then shape your business around that. That is the key. Too many guys model their companies after all the ones that they see around them and usually wind up with enough equipment to do everything and still only have three guys working. That increases their overhead and decreases efficiency.

    Think about that.

    But, you probably don't think that is your case. No one else does either.
  3. GodsMan

    GodsMan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 21

    AGLA, Thanks for that rude awakening! That is exactly the key! I have been considering utilyzing sub contractors to complement our services. Do you believe that is a possible solution?:confused:
  4. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    You still have to manage the sub, but it might be easier than managing all of the individuals. You do have to add overhead to manage subs, so it has an effect on the cost to the client. Also, a lot of clients want a contractor who is not using subs. Those are 2 things that can lower your ability to get work over a contractor who is "one stop shopping".
  5. jwholden

    jwholden LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Messages: 218

    People are task oriented or people oriented, or a combination of both.

    Most contractors are task oriented, hence they start the business. They are great at completing tasks efficiently and tweaking every second of the day for maximum productivity.

    This focus on productivity causes contractors to be inconsiderate to employees because all they know are tasks. Often contractors treat people like machines that can be tuned like a carborator. On another site a member mentions treating people like robots when you describe how to complete a task. This works for entry level help, but no one wants to go through life as a robot!

    Do you motivate your staff by fear of a being disciplined or the thrill of acheiving a goal? Do you praise your staff more than discipline them? Do you ignore diffences in the way your staff completes a task as long as the end result is acceptable? Do you estimate jobs with realistic time frames or with everything going perfectly and your employees perfoming tasks at the same output as you? How often do you tell one of your staff members that you trust their judgement, and commend them on the decision they made?

    I made and continue to make all of the mistakes in the paragraph above. I am headed in a different direction.
  6. SWD

    SWD LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 988

    Some things to focus on where I have seen other lco's struggle with management issues.

    -Learn to delegate, you cannot do everything so stop trying!

    -Learn to properly communicate with your employees, they HAVE to be able to talk frankly with you about what is going on, the tasks you are asking them to perform and your expectations of their performance. To facilitate this you should have a preferred motto or saying and use it when training your crews. For instance mine is: Safety, Professionalism and Quality. I preach this endlessly and it works. We haven't had an equipment accident at all in five years, the crews know and understand their uniform/hygiene requirements as well as their continued mentoring by me in specific task knowledge,and the crews have really taken to performing each task to the nth degree.

    -Dress appropriately, I have collared shirts with the company's info only on the front, and much smaller than the crews. The customers and crews have subconscious reinforcement of your seriousness as a business professional.

    -Probably the most important - be open to new ideas and processes from your crew and customers. Strive to maintain an open mind as it will help others to view you as more approachable, however, I am not saying malleable.

    -Trust yourself. It is okay to look at what you are doing and see if you can improve upon it but I would not allow doubt to creep in. I wouldn't necessarily admit in front of the crew your doubts, actually not in front of the customers either. When you really cut all of the hype away, it does not take empirical knowledge for a great deal of this work so stay away from what you are uncomfortable with and jump all over what you are.

    I had a tough time running my own business as I thought I had to be in the field every day, with my fingers in every operation. When your solo or one or two employees you can do this. You can't when you are running three crews and trucks. I finally pulled back to a hands off approach. The crews are trained, the work adequately described, so off they go to work for my supervision. I'm often either not with them on these routine jobs, but I check every property once a week. The only time the crews know I'm in the field is on specialty, high end, high budget jobs.

    Sorry about the long post but business ownership is a continual learning process - it is never static.
  7. drsogr

    drsogr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,275

    Lots of good information here...thanks for the post.
  8. GodsMan

    GodsMan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 21

    :weightlifter: You guys are heavy weights. I am very thankful for the insight that you have provided. So often I get caught up in just performing as a technician that I lose sight of the forest through the trees. I cannot be all places at all times and be all things to all people. Alot of people see Landscapers as just ditch diggers and lawn mowers. People such as yourselves provide the proffesional image that I want to provide for my clients. What sites or books do you reccomend on the Business aspect of Landscaping?:usflag:

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