What would you do differently?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by mike payne, Feb 21, 2002.

  1. mike payne

    mike payne LawnSite Member
    Messages: 75

    I am expanding my business this year. I have been a legal small time operator for two years. I am planning on putting on a second crew. I would like to draw upon your experience, I want to do it right at the start in stead of changing down the road. Thanks
  2. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    I'm confused by your thread title relative to your post - what would you do differently compared to what?

    Do you have specific questions about adding a crew? Otherwise, I'd say hire good people, buy them equipment, teach them what to do.
  3. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    If you're asking those who have added second or third crews, what would you differently having been through it once already? Then I'd say...

    Build the crew as you sell the jobs and can handle the customer service. Make sure you have the internal support systems in place, the policies and procedures within your company, to keep another 50 or 100 customers happy.

    Look at your turn over ratio of customers. Are they staying with you? If you're loosing 30% of your customers each year to attrition of one sort or another, maybe you should focus on keeping your current customers satisfied. If they are staying with you, and you want to grow, then add the second truck. Maybe they'll only cut one, two or three days a week. The other days you'll book extras or enhancements. The new crew has to be flexible... they won't be booked with cutting right away. It'll take some work on your part as well to schedule for the second crew all the odd jobs they'll be doing, but it's a way to grow without over extending yourself.

    When we started our second crew we started with equipment we mostly had, existing push lawn mowers, an extra edger, line trimmer and back packs. They cut three days a week, two men. The next year we added a trailer and a 36" walk behind. They were down to 1.5 days cutting with the added efficiency. When their current capacity is taken up, we'll add a 52" mower. Then they'll be back down to 3.5 days of cutting, and I'll sell 15 more jobs to fill their route.

    I wouldn't go out and buy all the equipment you'll need right away. Build your crew slowly as the sales come on and as you build long lasting relationships with your customers. You also have to make sure you have the labor to support the additional crew. You don't want to have two guys quit, and have no way to service the accounts.

    The more you grow the more you have to "Gerberize" your business. Think about developing systems... and apply them across the board. If you're simply adding customer and another crew without the frame work in which to do it, you're going to just add more fires you have to fight on a regular basis.
  4. AL Inc

    AL Inc LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,209

    Great advice above from Lawnlad, especially "Gerberizing" by developing systems. Michael Gerber is definitely worth reading. Make sure the men know what they have to get done and when, and make them accountable for what happens on their route. Also make sure you have a strong leader for the crew and take good care of him. I too, started my second crew with equipment I had-Pick-up, 5'X8' trailer, 36" mower, a line trimmer and a blower. Things still aren't perfect, but this has allowed me to grow and now I don't do much physical work. Lots of hours still, though. I'm free now to meet with clients and do estimates during the day, and keep an eye on my men. Taking the leap and starting the second crew was a big step but well worth it. Like Tony said above "to grow you have to let go". At first people were wondering where I was, but as long as the good work continues, they'll be O.K. In three seasons of running 2 crews, I might have lost 3 or 4 accounts because of my not always being there. These were the type where it was almost impossible to please them. The only real problem is the language barrier-everybody that works for me is from El Salvador. Both foremen speak english, but not perfectly. I don't know if they get nervous when a client speaks to them or what, but my clients have a hard time communicating with them. Now, both foremen have cell phones and will call me if a client needs something. Not a perfect system, but I'm learning. Good luck to you. Mike

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