From time to time, On the Level will feature experts in a particular field or specialty contracting service. Here, Mark Bradley of The Landscape Management Network – a member-based suite of software, tools, systems and education to help landscape contractors increase productivity and profits – identifies 10 ways to help strengthen your landscape business this year.
To help you shape up your business, we’ve put together this list of business improvement tips to help make your landscape company better and stronger in 2011:
1. Understand your financials
Having a clear understanding of your market, potential sales, profit, revenue and expenses is often the difference between success and failure. While certain things, like the state of the economy, are out of our control, there are a number of financial factors we can control. We have control over how we price our work, taking into account equipment, labor and overhead costs, and we can control how we manage our gross profits. It all comes down to gaining a better understanding of your business financials and using these numbers to make smart business decisions.
2. Refurbish equipment
Looks matter. There’s nothing worse for your company image than a fleet of dirty, loud, “on their last leg” trucks, skid steer loaders and excavators. Old equipment doesn’t do you any favors in the productivity department, either. Newer, clean equipment projects a professional image and will build customer confidence in your company’s brand.
3. Expand/update products and services
To keep busy all year round, you need to expand your services. Think of innovative ways your company can broaden its potential and still be profitable. Cleaning up perennial gardens, winterizing irrigation systems, snow and ice removal, Christmas lights and décor removal and storage, firewood supply, and interiorscaping are just a handful of examples. Use newsletters, email blasts and blogs to promote additional services at no extra cost to your business.
4. Revisit and renew policies and procedures
A written plan and procedure for health and safety, job performance, operations, sales, customer service, etc, should not only be developed and implemented, but also regularly updated. As new substances and materials are brought into the workplace, as new employees are hired, and just as time goes on, your policies and procedures will need to be adjusted and updated to accommodate ongoing change.
5. Develop an online presence
In today’s technology-driven world, you need a strong online presence. Your website has a direct impact on your sales; it needs to send the right message about your business. To target the right customers, expand your business and make more sales, your website should be professional-looking and easy to use, but it should also accurately capture the essence of your business. Blogging is a web-related tool that is replacing the need for expensive marketing and advertising campaigns. Hundreds of thousands of blogs are popping up online every day and the tool generally remains untapped in the landscaping industry, which is good news for landscape contractors. Blogging about your business is a great way to stand out from your competitors, connect with your customers and show off your work.
6. Look to customers for feedback
When a customer complains, take the time to listen. If you listen and take into account what your customers are saying, they’ll know you value their business. Being honest, reliable and upfront will establish a level of trust that is absolutely crucial to building strong business relationships. Establish a platform for regular communication so your customers will know that they can come to you and your crew with questions or concerns. Conduct routine site inspections, and regularly check in on customers. Promptly follow up with clients by responding to emails and phone calls in a timely manner.
7. Stay in-tune with the industry
Everyone values and trusts the opinion of an expert. Your customers want to be in the hands of a qualified professional. Reading industry blogs, books and news, taking online courses, participating in workshops and seminars, attending trade shows, starting your own blog and writing for trade magazines, are all effective ways to boost your expert status.
8. Offer value at no extra cost
Show your customers how well you understand their needs. Why not take the time to get to know them through a free consultation? Other ways to provide greater value are to offer a free estimate, an additional service at no charge, or free maintenance for a designated time. Your customers will notice and appreciate the extra effort you take to ensure the best in customer service and value.
9. Focus on your employees
Happy employees will perform better, not only because they enjoy their job but also because they want to work for you. To keep your employees, it is your job to provide an atmosphere that breeds positivity, creativity and productivity. The loss of loyalty from your top performing employees has a dramatic effect on your bottom line. And with both workplace dissatisfaction and employee turnover on the rise, you can’t afford not to focus on creating an effective work environment for retaining your employees.
10. Revisit and update long term business plan
Stay ahead of the curve by planning for the future now. Hold regular meetings with your trusted employees to assess how present actions are shaping the future of your business. Continue to review and update your business plan. Ask your foremen to evaluate their crew’s performance – which systems and processes are working? Which need to be changed? How can company culture be improved? How can we work together to boost the morale? Also consider how the industry is changing and how it will affect your business in the years to come. Generate ideas, set goals and identify critical success factors. Ask the bigger questions and encourage others to do the same so you and your employees can see the bigger picture.
Landscape Management Network (LMN) is a collection of systems, tools, and training to help great contractors build and manage great businesses. For details, visit the LMN website. < http://www.landscapemanagementnetwork.com/index.ph
What tips or processes are you implementing to improve your business? Please post your comments below.
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