Hundreds of landscape companies have participated in the Working Smarter Training Challenge. Through this year-long training series, each has found ways to improve systems and processes—in the shop, in the field, and even in the office.
On the numbers every month. “We’re tracking things like job hours and other important financial information month to month now, whereas we used to look at it about once a quarter or every other month at best,” says John Reffel of JLS Landscape & Sprinkler in Sedalia, CO. “When you get busy producing jobs, it’s easy to brush this to the side. But you can’t.”
Weekly Working Smarter breakfast meetings make “reviewing financial data” part of a routine schedule that never gets brushed to the side anymore. “Weekly meetings keep everyone on our management team up to date,” Reffel relates.
The JLS team is also paying much closer attention to overhead, comparing monthly figures to the same timeframe of the previous year. “We’re also looking at year-to-date numbers,” Reffel points out. Staying on top of these numbers keeps managers and crew leaders abreast of where the company stands in comparison to the budget, so any adjustments can be recommended and implemented as needed.
Tools you can use. Timberline Landscaping in Colorado Springs, CO, is also working smarter in the discipline of financial reporting. “Many contractors go out and buy software, but the application of that software to its fullest potential is what matters,” company president Tim Emick relates.
All irrigation techs have been given laptops so they can take care of paperwork in the field and bill customers immediately. This has drastically cut down on the time admin support has to spend re-entering data.
“We also decided that we had to do a better job of running reports from our software system for both myself and my managers,” Emick says. “When we took the time to really investigate what the system could do for us, we realized that several reports could be set up to run automatically.
“A ‘work in progress’ report runs every Monday morning, which helps us quickly identify jobs that have been completed but not yet billed. Our admin person then follows up on these accounts.
“The ‘maintenance task codes’ report helps us manage things like mowing operations to ensure that man-hours are staying within budget for each job. We generate this report every Tuesday night so I can review it Wednesday morning.
“When we close out jobs, a report is sent to our vice president in charge of operations so he can make sure costs are not being assigned to those jobs any longer."