Jeff Sebert is the owner of Chicago-area Sebert Landscaping. The company operates five branches and a nursery, employs roughly 300 people, and has annual revenues just over $25 million. Visit www.sebert.com for more information.
Financial expert Frank Ross has worked with hundreds of landscape company owners over his 40 plus-year career in the Green Industry. One of those contractors was Jeff Sebert of Sebert Landscaping. Sebert now shares what he characterizes as "the best things he ever learned from Frank." Sebert’s insights are then supplemented with commentary from Frank Ross (FR).
Can you access the numbers you need? A lot of the key numbers I needed in order to better manage my business could not be found with our accountant. When we were doing around $1.5 million a year, I knew this had to change. Companies of that size, and especially the owners of those companies, are under enormous pressure and wear several different hats. Hiring a guy like Frank Ross would allow me to take a step back from operations, and really look deeper into the company from a numbers perspective.
FR – It’s not that an accountant doesn’t have the numbers you need. It’s just that an accountant is, generally speaking, a historian. But an entrepreneur isn’t just interested in historical data. In fact, an entrepreneur is more interested in what will happen tomorrow. So, I want to take the historical data to develop a trend line, which will help me figure out how to navigate through the minefield of competitive business.
Are you willing to share your numbers? I think “fear” is the single biggest reason landscape company owners are unwilling to share their financial information with employees. The first thing you have to realize is that you must overcome this fear. If you want your employees to act like business-minded people, who you can entrust to make day-to-day decisions on your behalf, you have to share this information so they can be that much better at what they’re doing.
FR – Learning financial management is kind of like learning another language; it doesn’t happen overnight. So you have to commit to it. Then, when you do “master the language,” you might not like some of the things you see. Thus, you’re not anxious to share the information with your employees. But good contractors understand that in order to improve the financial health of a business, you have to involve your employees. You have to train them on financial management so they, too, can learn the language. The more people who are in the boat with you, rowing in the same direction, the more powerful and dynamic that boat will be.
Do you maintain good records? There’s a much greater demand today to maintain your financial records in an appropriate manner. If you’re going to ask a bank to loan you money, the bank will want to see your financials. When you show them, the numbers have to be easy to decipher. You simply have to be spot on with your financials.
You also have to be able to demonstrate that you are operating your business based on a desired return on investment. In other words, you have a plan to make money. Seven or eight years ago, it might have been acceptable to perform at a 5% return. Today, the typical bank won’t look at you very strongly unless you’re returning at least 8%.
How quickly are you on your numbers? Finally, it’s important to get financial data in a much more timely fashion. I like to see our numbers within 10 days of closing a month. Then we can make the necessary corrections going forward. Two or three months after the fact is just too late these days.
By utilizing a unique training methodology known as A Better Way 2 Learn, financial expert Frank Ross can be present at all of your company’s financial meetings—for a fraction of the investment.