Employees are looking at virtually every aspect of the company. “We’ve found out that our crews were running into problems where certain equipment they needed for a job wasn’t available,” Campbell relates. “Sometimes we had too many jobs scheduled on a certain day. As owners we’re not perfect, and you have to be willing to ask your team for help.”
A big white board now hangs in the office. It is used to communicate maintenance issues, equipment problems, meeting reminders, etc. Employees are instructed to check the board every morning.
Estimators now get crews started out on jobs—at the actual jobsites. This is designed to help eliminate those little components of a project that are mis-understood or completely missed.
Filling out job sheets—completely and coherently—has also become standard work. “I tell our crew leaders, ‘Someone who knows nothing about landscaping needs to be able to understand what you wrote,’” Campbell says. She’s now set some standards as to how things are to be reported. A mock job sheet is used as an example, highlighting sections that are often missed such as customer phone number, fertilizer quantity, the equipment that’s used and drive time.
Increase efficiency. Like TLC Total Lawn Care, Colorado Stoneworks wants to improve its evening shutdown and morning startup times. Campbell says her team has concluded that better preparation for the coming morning is the key. For instance, trucks are now backed in at night so they can simple drive out in the morning.
Another area of focus is comebacks. “You have to do things right the first time,” Campbell says. “It sounds simple, but it’s huge. Employees need to understand the effects of comebacks, and they have to be held accountable. Having our crews complete tool checklists has helped a lot.” Positive feedback for a job well done is equally important. Incentives such as gift cards can go a long way.
Increase revenue. Colorado Stoneworks naturally wants to continue finding new customers. They’ve also come up with another strategy for increasing revenue: accurate pricing and billing.
Billing goes back to communication and making sure crews fill out job notes accurately so customers are billed correctly. On the topic of pricing, “We are in the process of really scrutinizing our flat rates,” Campbell tells. “We have to make sure we’re charging enough.”
Crews now have a “time in/time out” sheet they fill in throughout the day. Campbell says this has helped her identify some areas where they weren’t charging enough. Plus, it has helped employees understand how important it is to keep good records in the field. “When employees make the connection that what we pay them is based on what we bill, and what we bill is based on what they report to us, all of a sudden they think paperwork is important. It’s been great.”
Landscape America in Wrentham, MA
Doug McDuff joined the Working Smarter Training Challenge for the very reason most contractors do: to figure out how to reduce waste in his company. “We just weren’t hitting the man-hours we were bidding,” McDuff says. “And now is not a time to be raising prices.”
The Landscape America staff has put job processes under the microscope, but even more important has been communication between salesman and crew chief. “We can’t bill two additional hours because a salesman had to drive a tool out to a jobsite,” McDuff relates.
Here is the typical scenario Landscape America is trying to eliminate: Salesman sells a job; job is scheduled but put on back burner; a month later the project is started, but the foreman forgets something the salesman told him, or forgets about a tool they’re going to need.
“Now we have a quick meeting every morning,” McDuff says. “The foremen have logs where they take notes, each making a punch list for the day. Then they tell us what they need to get it all done. This in itself is solving a lot of our problems.”
Downsizing crews has helped solve some other problems. Landscape America switched from three-man crews to two-man on residential accounts. “We determined that a two-man crew can bring in $800 a day,” McDuff says. “But a three-man crew can’t bring in $1,200. It became pretty clear to us that three-man crews aren’t a good idea.”