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The Hardscape Heart Attack

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by Captains Landscape, Oct 13, 2007.

  1. Captains Landscape

    Captains Landscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 333

    After this season, I'm thinking of expanding to 2 crews. Ive heard a lot of your posts on this topic, and I was wondering if anyone made the transition? I don't see how it will work specific to hardscaping. After all, I am the one who sees the customers ideas, style, expectations, personality, etc. I really feel like if I'm not on the job, it couldn't get done the way the customer expects. I don't think this is a reflection on the ability of my crew at all, its just the simple fact that my foreman didn't sit with the customer for 2 weeks during the idea and bidding process. Yet I'm not at the point where I can send my foreman out to do the estimate and consultations. For those of you that made the transition how did it work? Do you spend the day bouncing back and fourth to job sites?
  2. tthomass

    tthomass LawnSite Gold Member
    from N. VA
    Messages: 3,498

    Wouldn't the plan be more to put yourself into sales and managing? Get the job, hand over the specs/plan to the foreman and while they are constructing you're selling the next job? Maybe getting them material if need be, checking in to see that everything is going smoothly and timely etc.
  3. Captains Landscape

    Captains Landscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 333

    Have you tried that? Or do you own/operate?
  4. tthomass

    tthomass LawnSite Gold Member
    from N. VA
    Messages: 3,498

    I own/operate. Coming this spring I will be taking steps towards that. Same guy has been with me from the start and I will be putting more responsibility on his shoulders.

    I am the primary at everything.....being that I'm best.....at masonry, designing, installs, details and I can 'operate' equipment vs use it. He is stronger in some area then others. I may go into the job and be on site during final prep, let him handle the demo and clean up. Walk through a few jobs to insure the what is on the plan is what is happening......arranging plants for example.

    I want/need to pull myself out of being on the jobsite for 2 days a week to allow myself more time for estimating, sales and paper work. Or even gathering material and delivery. Then, when the time comes, pull myself out of the field and doing sales/managing. Hire a true mason/foreman with labor and start a 2nd crew. Two is plenty for me, three max. Stay small, stay productive and stay in control of the business aspects. This time next year, I hope to have Blue #2 coming together.

    The guy I want to hire as a foreman/mason will hopefully come on this spring. He kind of got blown up by a road side bomb recently, took and lick'n and keeps on tick'n you could say. F'n terrorist b*tches...
  5. Captains Landscape

    Captains Landscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 333

    That sounds well thought out. I guess I'm looking for a system to follow. I know I will need to implement one when my crew becomes self-sufficient. A way to get change orders to the crew, daily log sheets, plan lay outs in advance. I did know if anyone has a solid proven system? It seems like you never do the same thing twice with hardscapes, I'm always making adjustments according to the customer.
  6. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    I think majority of us on here are in the same boat. My guys can run a job without me being there, but I don't let them start or finish a job without me onsite. I can honestly say that 1/2 the problem is me. Like stated I'm the one that consulted the client, I'm the one everything falls on when things go wrong. It's just being able to take the next step and letting go. The old "meaure twice, cut once" saying comes into my mind especially with hardscapes. It's alot easier to dig up some trees and replant them if they weren't installed correctly, then to rip out an entire flag patio if it was set at the wrong pitch.
  7. PlatinumLandCon

    PlatinumLandCon LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,315

    One thing that everyone can attest to is the fact that employee productivity drops significantly once you're not around. One way to keep productivity up is setting goals for each day's tasks and a penalty if they aren't met (have to work saturday/stay late) and give a bonus if they're done faster (either $$ bonus or other perk).
    If your crew can finish a few days ahead of schedule consistently on projects, $100 here and $100 there (or a case of beer on Friday) will seem like a small amount to pay out in a bonus form but it will really make employees loyal and motivated to work fast.

    Another way to ease the transition is develop systems for EVERYTHING. Read "E-Myth Revisited" by Michael Gerber and you'll understand what I mean. Run your business like a franchise and it'll take care of itself.

    Thats just my view on the situation, speaking from business experience not hardscape experience.
  8. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,602

    Adding a crew = growth.

    With Growth - Comes 'Growing Pains'.

    Watch your finances.

    Your workers comp will double. You FICA taxes will double. And so on.

    OK, now you're thinkin - "duh, DVS - thats common sense you babbeling idiot".

    And yes it is! But, I have seen other contractors fall behind on paying their withholding taxes and FICA, simply from growing, including myself (3 years ago).

    It's nice to chat about "production", "quality of craftsmanship", yada yada yada - but we also need plan for the financial aspects :)

    We always hear the term "growing pains". And this is one facit of growing pains you could endure if you do not properly plan.

  9. Hiwire

    Hiwire LawnSite Member
    Messages: 47

    A good estimater/designer can translate what he and the customer discussed in to a plan and in a short time get the installer up to speed. Once the job begins the installer will be working along side the customer during many parts of the job. I have been working as a foreman for the same company for 24 years. Over the years it became appearant that the more time that the estimater/designer spends on the job site, the more confused the job becomes with input from him/her conflicting with what the customer REALLY wants. If you have truly good help and they have good people skills, being able to work with the customer and give them what they want, not just doing "good work", there should be no reason for you to be there holding his hand during the actual install. At our company, once the contract is signed, many times the next time the customer has contact with office people it is to ay their bill after the job is complete. They can make better use of their time by doing more estimates and having the next job ready for me to start instead of standing over us slowing the process down. Good luck in finding an employee that is not only good at the actual install but can understand what it is that the customer wants and needs as the project progresses. I think people like that are worth their weight in gold to a company.
  10. etwman

    etwman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,548

    I agree with Ray fully. A company will never grow to its fullest potential if the owner is in the field full time or even at all for that matter. Adding additional crews is a big trigger to pull. What it really comes down to is finding those key foreman and truly paying them for what they are worth. Other than our NY project I haven't been on a jobsite in 3 years. I would bet 40% of our projects I have never seen completed other than by pictures off a photo card.

    The key to going to 2nd, 3rd crews and seeing a company grow is to find top notch leadership based foreman. Once they are in place empower them, support them and elevate them, but limit being on the jobsite yourself. These key players are out there, its your job to find them. If you can't find them then your not offering them enough. This can come both financially and in the work environment you provide.

    If you can't afford to offer them these two items listed above then your probably not charging enough for your services to offset this expense.

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