It has been a year since Green Industry PRO and JP Horizons first teamed up to help expose the concepts of Working Smarter to landscape contractors across the country. In that time several contractors have joined the Working Smarter Training Challenge. They’re finding ways to improve work processes, boost morale, drive out waste, reduce costs, improve customer service, and overall create more competitive companies.
Here’s a look at what three of those contractors have focused on over the past year.
TLC Total Lawn Care in Weslaco, TX
TLC topped the million-dollar mark for the first time in 2010, its 11th year in business. That’s why owner Gerry Bower felt it was necessary to join the Working Smarter Training Challenge this past November.
“I’m not from the Green Industry; I come from manufacturing,” Bower relates. “I understand that a successful business owner must surround himself with quality people who help cover his weaknesses. I also understand that as a company grows, the owner can’t influence his people as much because he’s simply not around them as often.”
TLC sees roughly 80% of its revenue come from maintenance-related services. “I need to create a company culture where employees feel some sense of ownership,” Bower says. “This is going to be very important as we continue to grow. I’m not the CEO anymore—I’m the CIO, chief inspirational officer. My employees have to do the rest.”
To implement Working Smarter in his company, Bower tapped office manager Elizabeth Castillo as training coordinator. She then invited employees at the crew chief level and higher to attend the voluntary weekly meetings. Bower is not invited to the meetings—which is fine by him. “Working Smarter is an ongoing discipline I want to be prevalent in my company, and I want it to be coming from my employees,” he points out.
After meeting for several months, the group amassed a two-page list of ways to improve the company. “Evening shutdown and morning startup” was at the top of the list. The Working Smarter team is now assembling a series of processes and checklists to help improve organization and reduce downtime in this area. These will become standard work that each crew must adopt.
Other items the Working Smarter team is looking to soon address include equipment abuse and unbillable downtime between properties. “No more getting to a jobsite but forgetting to bring a gas can,” Bower says.
The implementation of these new processes and checklists is just beginning. Thus, it’s still too early to quantify the improvements in terms of time and money. Bower is certain of one thing, though: Morale is up and the possibilities are endless.
“There is a common purpose among employees now—they’ve become like brothers and sisters,” Bower says. “The team is excited about the Friday Working Smarter meetings, and everyone is excited about making our company stronger. I’m proud of what they’re doing.”
Colorado Stoneworks Landscaping in Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Stoneworks has been steadily growing since it was founded in 2006. Specializing in maintenance for single family-residence property managers, the company is now up to four crews—and is facing a whole new set of challenges.
“We are young, we started from the ground up, and we’ve experienced our share of growing pains,” says co-owner Anne Campbell. “Now our growing pains have to do with properly managing employees, and making sure their idea of quality work matches ours.”
Campbell and her partners, husband Jonathan and Tannan Orr, joined the Working Smarter Training Challenge last September and immediately set their sights on three primary objectives.
Improve communication. Colorado Stoneworks involves each of its nine employees in the weekly Working Smarter meetings, which are mandatory. “We want to make sure our employees know that this is important to not just the company, but to them personally,” Campbell points out. “I’ve been impressed by how everyone has jumped right in to offer suggestions.”