Eleven Learning Points From Frank, Shawn, and the Summer Growth Summit

Aug 31, 2020 | Leadership, Strategy

For those of you who did not make it to our Summer Growth Summit, here is a sampling of the takeaways — eleven points to inspire and guide you:

1. Profitability starts with pricing

To earn a 20% net profit, you have to charge out your labor at an ample hourly rate.

Frank Mariani shared what he sells his maintenance for (a competitive rate) and what he sells his enhancements for (more than I would have guessed). His strategy is to raise the number of enhancements sold, raising his average realized hourly rate. 

Shawn Edwards (owner of A+ Lawn and Landscape, host of our event) then shared what he bills out his irrigation enhancements for, and it caught everyone’s attention, as it was an even higher number!

This proves what I have always urged; you don’t get to be a high-profit company simply by hoping to squeeze in extra billings by the end of the year (i.e. luck), it must be planned into to your hourly rates from the beginning and thus it is dependent on how you position, market, and sell your services.

2. Mini-me’s must be grown

Both companies (A+ and Mariani) showed prowess and shared examples of success by how they develop their future leaders. Shawn has built his leadership team on this premise and Frank has scaled his business on this premise. In fact, if you want to move up at Mariani, you must develop your own mini-me.

It’s a chicken and egg challenge, and clearly, the eggs come first. You have to identify, tap into, and develop your future leaders now to scale your business in the future. 

3. Sales is a system

A+ showed how they ‘plan’ for quick closing when selling small DB work. The salesperson must set time on their schedule to do the plan and get a signature all in the same initial meeting (one call close) and for larger jobs, the salesperson must schedule their office design/estimate time, so that a quick turnaround is possible after the initial meeting.

A+ also shared how they used the Sandler Sales System and then adapted it to work for them. It was a brilliant example of a great sales system made even better by applying it to their company needs.

4. Gracious leaders finish first

Shawn, as host of the Summer Growth Summit, was gracious to invite us into his business, and graciously shared many “secrets” he learned over the years. He is a polite leader (even to his office staff dog, see photo). He makes you feel comfortable and it’s part of their success. Anyone who knows Frank will say the same thing: he is a generous person who has built a thriving culture.

5. Improved customer service is more important than ever

Even though the market is up, especially for residential services, clients have become picker than ever when they are working from home and watching everything you do. Plan on working harder for client retention, in residential and commercial, the beauty is that the more time you spend with clients the more you will sell them enhancements (see pt. 1). 

Facility Tour at A+ Lawn and Landscape

6. The more you invest in marketing, the bigger the facility you will need

Shawn shared how quickly he grew into (and out of) his facility in Des Moines, and in hindsight, this could have been predicted given his investment in marketing. If you surround yourself with excellent marketing advisors and know-how, then plan for faster than normal growth.

7. Loss leaders still work

Shawn shared how he uses loss leaders to give the prospect a reason to “call or email the office today”. For example, in his marketing for lawn care, it promises the “first app free”. He calls it “trusting the client” by offering to be generous to the clients upfront, and it works. Shawn is naturally optimistic, and it shows in his people’s smiles and morale, and his marketing success.

8. Partnerships grow the pie

A+ showed that having partners can work. Shawn claims it has grown the pie, made him more money, and given him more free time. He may be the exception for those that have seen partnerships fail, or he may simply take a more thoughtful and slow approach to it. As we learned, partnerships must favor one of the parties, so it takes mutual trust to keep everyone smiling.

9. Be the biggest (in your niche)

I kicked off the event with a formula for how to become King Of The Mountain in your niche, and that you should aim to become the biggest in your niche, but not the biggest overall. The former is strategic, the latter is folly. Don’t be all things to all people, rather find out where you can enjoy the largest demand and margin, and expand those niches aggressively.

10. Take care in how you name things

I spoke about branding including the art of how you “name” things…and Shawn Edwards showed us how he put that into action. 

– His first lawn care company (which he sold) had a generic company name (so bland I can’t remember the name of it). The second company he called A+ and developed memorable graphics and the rest is history. 

– Internally, he and his managers refer to their employees as “volunteers”, and they have developed methods for nurturing their volunteers in the first 90 days of employment, and in how they give corrective feedback, and in how they do reviews. (Old school yelling at your employees is out. Showing empathy, curiosity and kindness is in.) Don’t get me wrong, the leaders at A+ are no pushovers, they are just savvy in how they go about cultivating their staff.

The calm before the storm, as my COO (Corine) takes a break before the fresh-air rooftop (client only) reception begins.

11. Taking risks and telling great stories 

Shawn shared how he hawked his wife’s car (their only car) so he could pull together enough money to start the business. She was livid, but she didn’t “fire him” and now she gets to have whatever car she wants. Being successful comes from taking risks and then seeing them through. Shawn and his team are still taking risks, trying out new ideas they learn from every meeting and event they go to (including this last one at their facility). Non-stop experimentation and risk-taking is what keeps them growing. How about you?

Your Challenge:

Keep learning and growing, no matter the environment, and enjoy the ride!