Here are my top five tips for helping other landscape companies manage their crews:
1. Systems are key
In the early stages of a landscape maintenance company, management systems rarely extend beyond a pen and paper. Each day follows a similar routine: wake up, cut lawns on today’s schedule, come home, bill today’s houses, relax, and repeat the next day.
As your company grows, and five jobs a day become fifty, the pen and paper method will no longer be efficient. Soon, you’ll need time management, payroll, invoicing systems, routing software, and other tools to help manage the extra burden. The secret of any stable and profitable company is to set up the systems before they are desperately needed.
I learned this from my own mistake: I waited before establishing some of these systems, and the learning curve cost me valuable time and money. After learning this lesson for myself, I created an all-encompassing system management tool called Locqus, a free service that helps businesses manage sales, jobs, billing, and employees in the field. Whatever provider you use, take advantage of the off seasons to explore new systems that your company will need as it grows.
2. Keep preventive maintenance consistent
When I was in the inaugural seasons of my landscaping company, I avoided preventive maintenance far too often. The longer you wait, the more maintenance can affect your business. Things will get busy and when you put off the oil change or brake check, a simple replacement of a part will likely end up costing three times as much money and time to fix.
Scheduling maintenance regularly and sticking to it rigidly will greatly help keep costs down and equipment running the way it should.
Too often, small fixes turn into full engine meltdowns due to a skipped oil check or simple repair. Be consistent.
3. Hire the right people
Your first hire is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. He or she will be the first building block of solid, reliable workers upon which to build your company. By doubling your staff, you are increasing your productivity and your risk. Once you begin expanding, managing your company gets a little trickier. How can it not?
You are no longer the one doing all of the work, and you must trust your team to execute and continue to build the business. Each new hire is important in making sure you build a team of like-minded people who mesh well together. A few bad hires can drive the quality and reputation of your landscaping company down if you let it. Cultivate and grow the right people within your company.
4. Keep it manageable
This is yet another piece of common sense that I ignored far too often when I first started my landscape company. It’s easy when you’re starting out and looking to grow, to become a ‘yes’ man just for the extra work and money. Stick to the jobs you know and can handle comfortably. Taking on a few big tree jobs when you are a lawn care company is not just out of your league, but misrepresents your company’s abilities. Keep your operation honest and hardworking, and the growth will follow.
5. Have fun
This tip seems simple, but is easily forgotten. As you grow and the responsibility of managing your company expands with it, landscaping can begin to feel overwhelming.
Stress can be a killer in any industry, but when things get tough, try to remember the beginning. Keep in mind why you got into the business in the first place. Remember to step outdoors; take time to enjoy the sunny day, or sleep in an extra hour on a rainy day. Life is too short to forget that work is supposed to be enjoyable.
Overall, I always say that the most important tip in managing your landscape crew is knowing the limits of yourself and your company. Unexpected turns will challenge you every day, but staying dedicated is important as you deal with the day-to-day adventures of running a landscape business. Focus, determination, and setting up the correct systems have helped my company continue to thrive, and can certainly help yours, too.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Proctor is co-founder of Locqus, a free, online platform and mobile app that provides small businesses with a big company experience through streamlined, easy-touse tracking and management services. Based in Detroit, Proctor balances his time between his local landscaping company and Locqus. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Michigan/Dearborn.