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Story of a Landscaping Business and Their Challenges

By Mike Henstridge

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This is the story of a typical client in the landscaping business. You know it wasn’t the process, but the tools they used that created challenges in their landscaping business. When they listed their top three pain points, they realized that not that many things needed to be changed. The crews out there were performing really well and the overall quality was great. They still had the knowledge and motivation to outperform when it came to landscaping.

The problem was they were starting to struggle with overall efficiency. More and more time was required to manage the crews as the company grew from 3 crews to 30 and they saw their costs per crew skyrocket.

GETTING THE CREWS OUT THE DOOR

Every day, the crew members would start their day from the office. Since everything was on paper, the crews had to come into the office and collect their work orders for the day. The business used to be very regular, crew leaders even had their daily schedules memorized. But it all changed when the company began to scale and more customers kept coming in. Schedules started changing and crews multiplying so they had to be able to react faster. That resulted in crews checking in each morning. A time clock was introduced and it made crews drive to the office. It was a big mess. They lost money every time the crews drove to the office and every minute they spent there. Even the crews hated it because of all the paperwork they had to fill out. They specifically hated being interrupted mid day when trying to finish a site. It was typically something that the managers missed every morning.

EVER CHANGING EXCEL SCHEDULE AND THE DRY ERASE WHITEBOARD

Another major issue this company faced, was keeping up with the changes and add-on work. While they enjoyed the fact, that the crews were able to sell more work, they systematically kept missing invoices. Higher volumes meant, that most days started having changes and more items that needed to be invoiced. Things started to fall in between the cracks, papers got lost, invoices were missed. Johnny’s crews were busier than ever, but it didn’t show in the numbers. Johnny felt he didn’t have to tools to change it. More excel spreadsheets and whiteboards just didn’t cut it anymore. His process was great, but the tools were not.

His managers were busy all day long. Trying to keep up with changes and trying their best to keep everything organized. A sick day would ruin everything, not necessarily because the crews didn’t know what to do, but because each manager had their own way to keep up whats going on and how to process work orders. More invoices were delayed and many missed. On a good month, Johnny sent out about 350 invoices on average, but the cycle was too long. Sometimes invoices went out 4 to 5 weeks after the job was completed. His money was tied to the process. He had to change it and fast.

INFORMATION FLOW AND THE PAPER

The company had a ton of paper. Crews going out had work orders, time sheets, material lists, accident reports, etc… This used to work ok, but when the company grew, so did the costs. They started needing more and more office staff to handle everything. Sometimes they felt they were in the paper process business and not landscaping. There was less and less time to do what everyone loved to do, serve the customers and their properties. Quality started to suffer and items were getting missed. This had to change.

Paper is a flexible tool for many cases, but in this particular landscaping company, they had to retouch the information many times until an invoice went out. Keying in the same data over and over again was frustrating, created errors, and was slow. The same paper process meant, that each crew was spending more and more time reporting and making sure everything was documented. Once a week they would bring the stack of paper to the office for billing and payroll, hoping not to have lost any of the details. The flexibility of paper became a nightmare. The handwriting was hard to read, missing items, materials or missing customer billing details made them call back to crew leaders and eventually miss invoices. Sometimes they ordered materials, which never got connected to a customer job. In their mind, the process they were running, was perfect. All they had to change was to get rid of the paper and start using better tools to make things more automated and key in items once.