All posts by Jeffrey Scott

Female athletes running towards finish line on track field

The Fourth Quarter Sprint: Seventeen Strategies to Drive Profit by Year-End

Your performance in the final quarter of 2020 will have an oversized impact on how much net profit your company earns this year.

Weekly Throughput: The main driver of net profit in the final quarter is measured by your company’s Weekly Throughput i.e. the amount of billable production work your company can produce (“put through”) each week.

Here is why this is so important: Even though you estimate for a net profit with each and every sale, starting with your first sale in January, the fact is that all the profit from those sales goes towards covering your overhead (OH) until all your overhead is paid for. Once your overhead is covered, you have reached what accountants call your break-even date.

Once you hit your break-even date – all the profit you then make from every sale goes straight to your bottom line.  Not only the net profit, but also the operational profit (that previously went to pay for overhead) now goes straight to the bottom line.  This date is generally hit right before or in the 4th quarter.

Operational Margin: My high-performing clients are able to achieve an Operational Profit Margin in the upper 30%, some even up to 45% depending on the type of business they are in and how long they have been working with me on continuous improvement. If your operational margin is, for example, 40%, then after you hit break-even, every dollar that gets produced will put approximately 40 cents towards your bottom line, and even more given that some of your operational costs are fixed.

To this end, the more sales that your team can produce and bill in this final quarter, the more net profit you will ultimately earn.

Conversely, if you have too many hiccups this fall, you put your net profit at risk.

Here are 17 ways to increase your Weekly Throughput:

  1. Keep salespeople motivated to continue selling strong up through December. Use situational and year-end incentives to keep up the selling momentum. Having an increased backlog puts positive pressure on the crews, so they have more than enough work to chew through.
  2. Decrease the non-billable time (morning, travel, deli and gas stops, evening) so more time is spent on billable work.
  3. Eliminate the unnecessary go-backs needed to complete a job by ensuring crews are properly equipped and dispatched, with trucks and tools operating smoothly.
  4. Ask crews to be flexible in bad weather, so you can hit your Weekly Throughput goals.
  5. For those who pay overtime (OT), use it to get your extra backlogged work done; the incremental cost of OT will be more than offset by an additional operational profit that will drop straight to your bottom line. Do the math!
  6. Sell more fall and winter add-on services. Remember, enhancement sales can be sold at a much higher margin than your standard work anyhow, so it is a double win.
  7. Avoid lower margin install work, but take it only if you can be guaranteed that doing it will not displace other high margin work.
  8. Walk every maintenance property and sell them services to be done a.s.a.p. (and in the spring.)
  9. Find extra work that can be performed by crews already on maintenance properties.
  10. Sell holiday decor now to be done this fall. This should be very high margin work!
  11. Sell fireplaces and hardscapes to be done now (and during the milder winter.)
  12. Raise your 2021 hourly rate right now, and apply it to your fall work. Who says you have to wait till January to raise rates?
  13. Deliver your holiday presents to clients early (now through Thanksgiving); and they will likely give you more work to take care of.
  14. Incentivize your crews to increase their Weekly Throughput. Make crews accountable for their weekly production goals, and motivate them to be as efficient as possible. Share the winnings when they sprint through the finish line.
  15. Create fun weekly internal competitions for crews to outperform their peers. Use forced ranking each week to show the winners.
  16. Borrow or rent equipment in order to increase the amount of work that can be produced in a given week. Make use of equipment to increase your throughput.
  17. Keep your company vision and purpose front and center. In the end, people are motivated by a higher purpose and not just a paycheck. So show them the greater virtue of following through on your client promises and giving your clients the beauty that only you can provide.

Connect the dots:

Many employees may not immediately grasp how sprinting through the finish will benefit them and their families. Take the time to explain it to them by connecting the dots on how it benefits the company and how it benefits them directly. Using an incentive plan on its own is not enough. You have to explain the details and what’s in it for them.

YOUR CHALLENGE:

Pull everyone together and explain to them which day in your calendar you hit break-even, and how the production during the 4th quarter will help the company hit and beat its year-end profit goals, thus benefiting everyone.

Make it a rally cry, make it fun, and celebrate the wins!

Hand Of Man Reaching For Red Ladder Leading To A Blue Sky. Development motivation Career Growth Concept

Stop Working Below Your Pay Grade

As a successful landscape business entrepreneur, you need to stop working below your pay grade. In order to grow, focus on the $200/hr and the $2,000/hr work, and start delegating the $20/hr and $50/hr work. 

There are four levels of work you need to familiarize yourself with. The first two levels are where business owners often get trapped and slow down the growth of their business, whereas the last two levels will help you significantly ramp up the scale and value of your landscape business. 

Level 1. Transactional Work

Transactional Work typically pays in the range of $15/hr to $35/hr.

Examples of Transactional Work includes general administration, billing, collections, data input, buying plants, and doing mechanic work. Surprisingly, this can also include office-based estimating and selling of simple services.

You may be good at some of these or feel like you should help out, but you are leaving money on the table by not delegating and shifting your focus. 

Level 2. Value Adding Work

Value Adding Work ranges from $35/hr to $75/hr. It’s the work that you may think you should do to keep overhead lean, but it diverts your attention from the more important Business Building Work. 

Examples include writing complex proposals, doing complex estimates, reviewing job cost reports, ordering detailed custom products, reviewing insurance proposals, etc.

While these activities are critical, and you may be very good at them, true entrepreneurs realize that building their business (the next level) adds even more value.

Level 3. Business Building Work

Business Building Work pays on the level of $100/hr to $200/hr.

This level includes developing high-value strategic relationships, setting up a budget to bolster growth and profitability, leading your strategic planning session, recruiting the highest-level people to work for you, starting up a new division, setting up incentive systems, and mentoring your highest level leaders.

These are true “working on the business” activities that are also sometimes done by Chief Operating Officers and General Managers.

Level 4. Enterprise Transforming Work

Enterprise Transforming is valued at a range of $1,000/hr to $2,000/hr, plus or minus.

This highest level includes negotiating acquisitions, buying and developing property, ensuring a systematic framework is in place to have the company run without you, educating yourself on next-level thinking, setting new positioning strategies to shift your company’s direction in the marketplace, and succession planning.

(Again, some entrepreneurs will hire a professional CEO or COO to take responsibility for some of these.)

Your challenge:

The biggest challenge is balancing your time among the four levels, but the truth is you will be more effective if you limit your role to the top two levels, while only working in the lower levels by exception. It is a process, and you must grow into it.

Take this a step further (see figure, The Four Levels of Work). 

  1. Reflect on your past couple of weeks; how many hours did you spend in each of these four levels?
  2. Set a dream for which business-building and enterprise-transforming roles you need to fulfill this fall and next year.
  3. Identify what you can delegate and to whom, to remove the lower level activities from your plate.

 

Episode #163 Vision Is An Action Verb; Pillar 1 from “Become A Destination Company®”

This is the first pillar from Jeffrey Scott’s book, Become a Destination Company®. A Roadmap to Attract, Motivate and Retain Great Employees.

Nurture Your Company By Making Vision an Action Verb. 

In this episode, Jeffrey explains why attracting, motivating, focusing, and retaining great employees starts and ends with a concrete and compelling vision. 

If you do not flesh out your vision, and if you do not keep your vision front and center with your staff, it will wither and die along with your company’s energy and focus. You will learn strategies and specific tools for outlining, developing, and communicating a vibrant company vision.

Read by the author, Jeffrey Scott. 

Sean standing in front of RV

Increase Your Net Profits While Traveling More and Working Less

Sean Baxter takes a week off each month in his new RV, and has successfully increased his net profits to 25% while working less, and spending more time with his family.  

I have known Sean Baxter (owner of Lawn & Landscape Solutions, Kansas City, MO) for twelve years now; he became a peer group client and a member of my community ten years ago, and he has worked hard at transforming his business and providing for his family and loyal employees. 

He always had this dream of traveling with his family, (after having travelled with me and the peer group for our meetings) and this year he made the decision to buy an RV and take his family on the road.

Sean standing in front of RV

With school being virtual and the world becoming a bit crazy, Sean decided not to wait until retirement, so he hit the road this summer and took his wife and four kids with him. 

Sean is close with his dad, who had a dream to take his son on big trips (but couldn’t do many as a single parent), so now Sean takes his father with him to all the places he wanted to visit. 

Working on the road has been easy for Sean, he checks email and executes some DocuSign agreements. His team handles the day-to-day, perhaps even better with Sean not in the way.

As a leader, Sean’s job is more about goal setting and checking the results of his two division managers and sales team. I call this “inspect what you expect.”

Sean and his family have been to Arkansas, big lakes in Missouri and Kansas, and to the glorious Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Family standing in front of Loveland Pass sign

They plan to visit Florida for two weeks this year.  Since July he has gotten away each month for at least one week sometimes two. 

The net effect is that his family has grown closer and more centered than ever, and his dad has bonded with his kids. He and his wife have nurtured their spontaneous and adventurous spirit.

Sean built a large home a little while ago, and now he finds he is happier in his  400 sq ft motor home. The little things in life have become more important.

I asked Sean two very important questions, here is what he had to say.

Jeffrey: How did you make this all possible? 

Sean: I am a student of your philosophies on how to grow and run a successful business. None of this travel and time away from the biz would have been possible without the advice and vision of your Leader’s Edge peer group. I have used the focus on scalable and accountable systems that I have learned from the group.

Jeffrey: How is the business doing while you are on the road? 

Sean: Last month I was gone for 60% of the month and we had the highest gross and net numbers we have ever had; 25%! Thank you, Jeff!

Your Challenge

  1. Set your business up to run with or without you. 
  2. Take a chance on what you want most out of life.
  3. Surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs from your industry. 
  4. Life is an adventure, go enjoy the view.

View of green and yellow trees and mountains in the background

Front View of Homestead Landscaping

A Unique Strategy For Building Employee Morale: Using Camaraderie, Caring & Food

How do you build employee morale, and turn it into a competitive advantage, where your employees fight for your company and brag about working for you?

Sometimes it’s the pay, and sometimes it’s the perks you offer.

But sometimes it’s the love you show.

The following story is going to inspire you to do more. Meet Tami Blanchard, owner of Homestead Landscaping in Vermont. She is a new member of my Leader’s Edge Peer Group, whom I have known for a few years now. In a recent zoom meeting, Tami shared something remarkable with the group about how she was caring for her team.

What she shared blew my mind.

Building Loyalty Using Camaraderie, Caring and Food

Tami began working for Homestead as the bookkeeper years ago, and after seventeen years, her boss offered to sell the company to her. She was already running the business day-to-day, so she jumped at the chance.

The company has since flourished over the ensuing 15 years.

A large part of her success is the care she has for her people.

When the pandemic hit, and PPP money was granted, she decided to supply her employees with a bagged lunch every day. They could no longer stop and pick up lunch, so she made it part of their combat pay, and she personally handed them out each morning.

She found it a great way to connect personally, especially with new hires.

When the stores opened back up 6 weeks later, she told her people to bring their own lunches from now on (no more stopping) and then she pivoted and wowed them with a novel perk.

The Snack Cart at Homestead Landscaping is Famous

Tami introduced a snack cart with water, Gatorade, Red Bull, and snacks like nuts, protein bars and apples and more. Beef jerky, it turns out, is the most requested item.

Tami or someone else drives the snack cart out in the morning and everyone can grab a few things.

The UPS man may hate her for having to deliver huge heavy boxes of Gatorade each week, but her employees love her.

She often tries to buy local and spends around $50-75 per month, per employee on this fun perk.

It has created a real buzz in town and now strangers will even stop by having heard of the snack cart wanting to see it.

image

More Personal Touches at Homestead Landscaping

  • Tami’s company holds a golf tournament every year; everyone gets paid for the day, and new employees are excited to participate.
  • Tami and her husband Steve (also an owner of Homestead) write personal thank you notes with profit-sharing checks that they pay out each year.
  • She personally makes and serves breakfast a couple of times a year.
  • The company throws a wicked Christmas party each year with spouses invited. She hands out custom goodie bags for employees’ kids and spouses.
  • When it came time to clean up the yard she paid everyone to help out (are you catching a theme here? They “work hard and play hard together”.)
image

Your Challenge

  1. Spend less time worrying about the next recruit, and spend more energy and money honoring your employees and building your culture, so that others want to work for you.
  2. Improve the ideas you receive from your peers, and then put them into action. Because a good idea is not good until it’s implemented.
  3. Talk to me about joining a peer group if you are not already active, to enhance your ideas, accountability and fun.

P.S. There is nothing better than sharing and growing together! Ask me for more information if you are interested.

jeffrey and Teddy

Episode #162 – Growing to $100M “Three Million at a Time” with Teddy Russell

Teddy Russell, owner, and CEO of Russell Landscape Group, based in Atlanta, runs a $40M company with 8 locations and 465 employees.

He is the second-generation owner of a fabulous, southeastern enterprise growing with the growth goal of $100M.

Teddy has made growth look easy, with his highly attuned relationship selling approach, and understanding of superb customer service and the systems that support client retention and employee development.

Listen in while Jeffrey and Teddy discuss the magic of “hitting $3 million”, key systems that maintain client satisfaction as you scale, and the freeing nature of learning someone else can do your job better than you, even if it is that of CEO.

Jeffrey has run events at Teddy’s firm, gotten to know his team, and sees Teddy as one of the most optimistic leaders in our industry, with good reason. You will enjoy this podcast!

vision

Casting A Compelling Vision Is The Key To Growth

Have you shared a vision that is so compelling that your team jumps out of bed every morning and runs into work?

Do you even know what a compelling vision looks like?

Last week, I was Zooming with a coaching client, Almora Hudson, the owner of a second-generation landscape firm in Northern California. They have grown far beyond the founder’s original vision.

And now she has a new, expanded vision for what the company can become in the future, but she struggles to articulate it out loud.

I urged her to write down her vision, and then share it with her team in their upcoming quarterly strategic planning. I suggested she kick off the meeting with her vision because her team is starving to hear what’s in her heart and mind.

Even if you are the original founder, pay heed––because a lack of communication and cloudy vision is a recurring challenge that everyone must overcome. Too many owners are coasting on the old vision of ‘what got them here’.

What Questions Does A Compelling Vision Answer?

A vision tells you where you are going and what the company will look like when you arrive.

Think about Moses leading the Israelites through the desert. To keep them on track, he told them over and over about the glorious land of milk and honey, and what life could look like when they arrived. This kept them moving forward through the extreme desert climate. 

Your vision should answer these questions: 

TIMEFRAME – Choose a timeframe; how far out is your vision? Some have big hairy audacious visions that go 10 years out. But all teams need a shorter-term vision, i.e. where will we be in 3 years?

CLIENT – What type of client do you want to focus on? And if you are only in residential or commercial, what subtype do you want to focus on? What type of quality do you want to be known for? 

(I urged my client to define her residential and commercial clients with the same level of quality. It is much harder, if not impossible, if the quality levels differ.)

SIZE – How big do you want to become? What size jobs do you focus on? How many branches will you have? How large will each division grow in terms of dollars and people, and does it all make sense as a whole?

GEOGRAPHY – What areas do you want to focus on today, and within 3 years will this change? 

SPEED – What response times do you want to be known for? (In initial lead contact, in turn around from lead to a sale, for customer complaints, for warranty, etc.)

ENHANCEMENT – What percent of enhancement do you want to be selling to your clients? 

(This is the golden ticket question. I urged my client to set a vision goal of 50%, and even higher if you include selling them new larger projects.) 

ORGANIZATION – What key roles will need to be filled in the next 3 years? Can you lay it out in an org chart?

WIIFTE – “What’s in it for the employees” if you reach these goals? What can you do to make your employee retention stickier and make the company an even better place to work?

Your Challenge:

Make your vision specific enough, but leave plenty of areas for your team to take ownership and fill it in with their own ideas and how-tos.

Steal some quiet time and write down your vision. It’s this “hope and dream” that feeds your people’s heart and soul. 

When I decided to move to New Orleans, my wife and I were there at an outdoor wine and music bar, and we committed our dream on a paper napkin. “Move to NOLA within 12 months”. We found our home the very next week and moved within two months. 

Teddy Russell, CEO of the Russell Landscape Group, says writing down your vision is the first step to making it real. Teddy’s napkin says, “Grow to $100 Million”. 

After you cast your vision, repeat it over and over as Moses did. That will make it compelling and more likely to be achieved.

passing on legacy

Don’t Wait Until The End Of Life To Define Your Legacy

We think about legacy as we get older, but that is often too late.

When you get to an age where it’s time to transition your business, you will need to have already thought through many things, including your professional legacy.

This was brought home this past week with the passing of a Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Regardless of politics, you have to admire her for fighting to make something of her life against the odds as a woman in a man’s world; and for giving back to society for so many years.

She was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneer for women’s rights. Who, ironically, late in life became a cultural icon for those much younger.

Her vision was to create a legacy of equality for all, and she shaped our country’s vision of equality. Not bad for a 100-pound grandmother.

What about you? 

What’s your legacy that you want to be known for?

If you are 30-60 years old and running your landscape firm, now is the time to think about your legacy. Don’t wait for 3-5 years before you retire or decide to sell your landscape business. 

You must start at least 10 years out to do it right, even longer if you want to build a business that gives you the life you want to live.

This is a short blog from me to remind you that life is short. 

We all have dreams, and we all have the opportunity to live a life of meaning and impact.

So, plan what you want your legacy to be now and go after it full steam.

I run the largest landscape peer group network in the industry, and I get the opportunity to see people who wait too long. And I also get to help others with ambition and a dream to run towards it at an early age and succeed.

Your Challenge:

If you already know how you want to transition your business in the future, don’t wait. Start putting the pieces into place now while you have your health and the economy at your back.

Episode #161 Building a Driven, Caring $30M+ Company with Jason Craven

Jason Craven has built a mega-successful company (Southern Botanical) in the heart of Texas. At 12 years old, he started mowing lawns to earn money for a new bicycle. In 1995, he turned this endeavor into a company that includes 280+ team members who share the same devotion to quality that the company was founded on.

Jason is unique in his inspiring vision for the green industry, his dedication to the long game, his passion for constant improvement, and for the level of service he demands and trains his team to achieve.

Jeffrey and Jason discuss how ambition and drive can build a company but also how they can get in the way of its continued success. Jason shares many inside secrets and tactics they have implemented on his way to building a Destination Company®.

Learn how Southern Botanical has done extremely well during the pandemic based on their culture and focus to employees and clients.

Listen in below.

What Can You Learn From Rubbing Shoulders With Highly Motivated Peers?

Last week, one of my long term peer groups met with me via Zoom and shared some extremely useful tips (below).

Some of them had doubts that a Zoom meeting could be productive and inspiring, but by the end of it, everyone was jazzed.

My friend Jason Craven, CEO of the $30M business Southern Botanical, was a guest speaker at this meeting, and he was inspiring. (By the way, you can listen to the interview of him on my podcast “The Ultimate Landscape CEO”. It comes out on Thursday.)

Let me share with you some takeaways from our peer group meeting:

1. Stay connected with your team.  Jason Craven gets to spend a 1/3 of his time in the field with his people because he has delegated everything else in his business. His Leadership team has just four people overseeing everything. That allows him to keep his week organized and fun, while still giving weekly 1:1 time to his team leaders! Does your leadership team free you up?

2. Use applicant tracking software. This will allow you to build up a huge pipeline of future prospects. I predict this software will become as commonplace as QuickBooks. Are you on board?

3. Bookend your meetings with positive intentions. Start your team meetings with everyone sharing accomplishments and end with what excites each person. (This is how I run the peer group in my community. Bookends of energy, pride, action, and accomplishment. You’ve gotta love it!)

4. HR should be empowering your managers. Southern Botanical has a competitive advantage because all the HR duties are delegated to various HR experts so that managers are not bogged down. In this day and age, you can easily recruit part-time HR, so there should be NO stopping you no matter your size! (In the podcast you will learn how many you need.) Have you put this in place? 

5. Build up a left and right hand. Every leadership position should be building up not only a right-hand woman (or man) but also a left-hand as well. It’s the only way to scale your business smoothly and steadily while avoiding hiccups when you lose someone. 

6. Great employees make deposits into your culture. Poor performers are making withdrawals. You know that sucking sound when you feel it and hear it. But, are you using this information to give your “withdrawal” leaders feedback? 

7. Commit to weekly one-on-ones. These will drive your business forward, whether you are $1M, $5M, and $30+M. The key is to delegate and keep your number of direct reports manageable.

8. Maintaining quality in maintenance is a team effort. Quality is a function of Pride and Accountability. There are clever ways to create pride by photo-sharing among crews and turning it into a fun contest. But you still need account managers to do quality control and give feedback. Tie their accountability to performing QC and this will allow you to hold your field staff accountable for quality. Have you let that slack this year?

9. Acquisitions start with rapport. A few members in my peer group have successfully grown with acquisitions, and the consensus was the conversation starts by getting to understand the drive and desires of the selling owner. Building understanding and rapport is initially more important than pricing or terms. 

Your Challenge: 

Find a community that will help you grow. 

As a business owner, you need to make time to rub shoulders with other smart entrepreneurs and receive expert guidance from those who have done what you aspire to do. 

When you get your assumptions checked, your energy tank refilled, and your vision clarified, you will experience far greater joy building your business and you will have more free time with your family. 

Now that’s a blessing!