Tag Archives: Landscape

Dramatically Change Your Company Culture in Just One Week

What if you could dramatically change your company culture in just one week?

In a way that would foster deep leadership buy-in, sharpened leadership focus, and surging employee morale?

It may sound like pixie dust, but I have seen it happen over and over.

This is not meant to be a brag, but rather to show you what’s actually possible in your company.

Last week, Wade Vugteveen, co-owner and CEO of DeHamer Landscaping outside Grand Rapids, MI, brought his executive team to visit with me in New Orleans for a strategic retreat (see photos below).  In his words, here is what he experienced after the first five days after returning to work.

 “I told my wife that I don’t really recognize our company this week. It feels like a different place.” – Wade Vugteveen

Here are seven specific changes they made –– out of probably 20 motivating and profitable changes they implemented in the first week:

1. Hold an all-leaders team-building meeting.

They held a company meeting with all leaders where they played a fun game for everyone to get to know each other and then laid out their new company values. (Their Sales Manager, who is usually quiet and in the background, led this meeting with enthusiasm.) Each foreman took the time to talk about him/herself by answering a list of questions they created. Wade said it was a great meeting that felt entirely different from anything they have ever done. It was very well-received by their team; the energy and attitude were amped up! 

2. Nominate Chief Energy Officers.

During the strategic retreat, Wade and the team decided that Adam, one of the owners, would take on the role of Operations Manager. When they got back to work, Adam set up a three-person team to be responsible for the energy and attitudes of the entire production group, with the goal of leading everyone to more positive attitudes in the workplace. Adam named this team the Chief Energy Officers. 

3. Set up a personal database.

Adam, as the new Operations Manager, created a database of all of their team members and set up a schedule to give them formal reviews (which had not been done before). Adam collected personal information from all of his new direct reports so that the executive team could get to know and care for their people better. Within the first week, Adam had already met with half of the team, giving raises and re-setting expectations. This caught a couple of unhappy team members by surprise. It worked out super well!

4. Take the team to lunch.

The bar at my favorite restaurant, where I took the Dehamer executive team for a pre-event, southern creole meal.

Their Sales Manager had lunch with his salespeople and re-set much clearer expectations. Sounds like a no-brainer, but this was not part of the original Action Plan we had set. He simply made it happen. This should be happening a couple of times a year; lunching with your key leaders. When is the last time you took your people to lunch one at a time?

5. Find out what irritates your team the most and fix it.

They paved their parking lot, and oh-man did everyone really appreciate that. What’s one thing you could do to elevate everyone’s mood?

6. Remove the fires and decisions from your plate.

As CEO, Wade has been much less stressed and has had time to really focus on his role – there has been much less distracting discussions around the office and more people taking responsibility and just getting stuff done. Gotta love that. How freed up is your time?

7. Gain buy-in for cross-selling services.

Hard at work, the Dehamer executive team at my strategic retreat in New Orleans.

Their install salespeople have already sold a few lawn care and snow contracts in this first week, and they have become excited about supporting the growth of services, which was not the case before the strategic retreat. We laid out an entire cross-selling strategy where everyone will have responsibility for growth, not just the service sales team.

Wade also told me that on the flight back home, they decided to step up their plan to grow their sales team. And they already made an offer to a lawn care salesperson as a way to really accelerate the growth of their services division.

I am told that their executive team has gelled and bought into the growth plans that we laid out. As Wade shared with me, he does not recognize his company after just one week – It feels like a totally different and better place. 

Your Challenge:

It’s one thing to do a strategic planning session with your team, be it quarterly or annual.

But, it’s completely different to transform the energy of your team and actually create a plan that dramatically improves your culture and your financial results.

Your challenge is to think outside the box next time you hold a strategic planning session with your team.

To help this, create your own R&D program (rob & duplicate). Steal one of these ideas from above and implement it in your company.

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!

Man walking in a lane with the sunlight breaking through the trees.

CRISIS RESOURCE PAGE: Responding to COVID-19 for the Lawn and Landscape Industry

SMART BUSINESS RESPONSES TO COVID-19

During a crisis, smart lawn and landscape owners are looking for practical strategies and solutions they can implement in their business rapidly. You want to act fast.

Consider this your crisis resource center where you will find links to basic and advanced business resources that will help you during the COVID-19 crisis.

You’ll find a select list of videos, white papers, podcasts and other publications that are suitable for lawn and landscape business owners.  We’ve created a special link to make it easy for you to come back to this resource page as it will be updated regularly. That link is JeffreyScott.biz/crisis.

To receive immediate updates directly to your inbox, you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter by clicking here.

CRISIS RESOURCES:

READ: How to Respond to COVID-19 as a Business Owner: Landscape Business Owners – Now is the time to prepare and be the first to move on opportunities in your industry during COVID-19. Click to discover 10 ideas to help you.

VIDEO: Responding to COVID-19 for Landscape, Lawn Care, Irrigation and Tree Care Business Owners : Here are 10 crucial responses for you to take, to protect your company and your employee’s jobs due to COVID-19.

RESOURCE: Build Your Resilience in the Face of a Crisis from Harvard Business Review: Things you can do to protect your mental state during crisis.

RESOURCE: U.S. Small Business Administration Website & Disaster Loan Assistance Site: Keep updated on resources that can financially help your business during COVID-19.

RESOURCE: Resources to Help Your Small Business Survive the Coronavirus from US Chamber of Commerce: Five resources that can help you mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19.

READ: Productivity Tips: Working From Home: Tips to work hard from home and still separate work life and home life.

VIDEO: Crisis Leadership Strategies For Landscape Companies: Here are 10 clear strategies to engage and inspire your team to help your company survive, thrive and kick butt in 2020 and beyond.

VIDEO: Words of Hope: In these difficult times, here are words of hope for owners and employees of lawn and landscape companies.

RESOURCE: Relief Funds (National and Regional Ones): Comprehensive, searchable database for businesses to find assistance in this crisis.

RESOURCE: 5 Ways to Stimulate Cash Flow in a Downturn, by Harvard Business Review: Tips to keep ensure the economics of your business remain sound.

VIDEO: Economic Predictions – How To Be Ready For The Upswing: Landscape and lawn professionals should get prepared now for the upswing.

VIDEO: High Stakes Leadership: The NBA commissioner made a courageous move that many sport organizations followed and every lawn and landscape business owner should follow and use, not just now but during any difficult decision-making process.

VIDEO: 10 Proven Ways To Grow Sales Now: Every lawn and landscape company has a sales and marketing culture; and the question is how strong is yours? Use this inspiring video check list to see where you can make immediate improvements in your sales right now, in this economy.

Young male constructor worker in orange hardhat thinking with one arm crossed and the other on his chin

Poach or Be Poached?

A recurring question that you face—and one that I am asked occasionally—is it okay to poach employees?

And/or what should I do when someone is poaching my employees?

First off, when someone offers one of your better employees $10k more and they leave, either they were unhappy with you, or you were underpaying them, or underutilizing them, or all three.

However, what if they leave for just a $2-4k raise? or for no raise at all?

That is why I believe this question, “Is it okay to poach?” is the wrong question to ask because it covers up (hides) the larger dynamic happening in the market place.

It’s a seller’s market.

Your company is either growing or shrinking when it comes to talent retention and acquisition.

The growing companies in your market are winning employee market share—and the shrinking companies are losing out on the best employees. And poaching has nothing to do with it.

By my definition, growth means growing in reputation, career opportunities, and client opportunities. These companies are becoming a true Destination Company®️.

Since I published my prescient book (Become A Destination Company®️) over three years ago, I have seen the competitive nature of attracting and hiring employees become even more acute.

The newer generations of good employees have even higher standards on what they want from an employer. It is a race to the top!

Your challenge: Build a company culture that promotes growth from the inside out. Where all the leaders at your company are focused on developing and retaining top talent.

Back to the question – Is poaching ethical? It is not professional when it involves you walking onto job sites. But your company should be so attractive that great employees want to walk across the street to work for you.

man look at himself in the mirror

Self Awareness is the Silver Bullet to Professional Growth

A few weeks back I gave a lecture to a packed room at the Green Industry Expo in Louisville on the topic of “Benchmarking for Profit”.

The audience learned my seven key performance indicators that you must benchmark (measure and manage) in order to improve your company’s performance.

Some of the benchmarks were as expected, such as labor, and some required outside-the-box thinking.

Then, I ended the talk with a big surprise…

I shared how you can benchmark your self-awareness (!), and why self-awareness is the single most important indicator of your future success.

Here is what the audience learned…

Self-awareness is rarely discussed in business circles, and yet it tells you everything about your future.

Alan Stein, the author of Raise Your Game, agrees with me on this.

In his excellent book, he tells the story of a young basketball player and how he could predict the player’s future success on the court based on his level of self-awareness off the court. This young basketball player chose to play for a high school team that would focus on improving his weaknesses, and ignore the hype surrounding his talent.

Stein (who has coached 100s of stars) says self-awareness is the single most critical characteristic of high performing athletes. It’s what gets them to the top of their field, and keeps them there every day.

How strong is your self-awareness? And how can you improve it?

As I write this, I’m visiting with an award-winning landscape company in Asheville, NC. They have invited me in to guide the owner and his team to grow from good to great…to extraordinary. I laid out the strategies to fast forward their success and domination of the Asheville market. But it still requires the owner and his team to be open to hearing my direct feedback, and then be willing to act on it.

With high levels of self-awareness, the owner and his team will easily surpass the extraordinary goals they have set!

How about you?

Your Challenge: Try this simple exercise in order to benchmark your self-awareness.

  1. Meet with your leadership team, and ask each person to rate themselves and each other on the following question: “Are you an intimidating leader or an approachable leader?”
  2. Score yourself first, on a scale of 1 to 5. The lowest score (1) means you are a very intimidating leader, and 5 means you are a very approachable leader. And the scores of 2-4 means you are ‘in-between’. You get the point.
  3. And then score everyone else on your team. And then…
  4. Share your scores with each other. And then…
  5. Go around the table and, one at a time, discuss your personal score vs. how others scored you. How similar were these scores? How clearly do you see yourself vs. how others see you?

The scores are not the main point. The ensuing discussion (around your perception of yourself and other people’s perception of you) is what will have the biggest impact. It will raise your self-awareness and that of your team.

Plus, it will foster an open and honest dialogue within your leadership team. And that’s priceless!

surfer riding wafe

Transition Your Company From Founder-Led to Founder-Inspired

At some point in the growth of your lawn or landscape company, you will want to focus your attention on new things. You may be bored with your current role, or you have personal or professional passions you want to follow.

Are you ready to make a change?

It is hard to make that transition, from leading the company to the role of inspiring the company. And if you are the face of the company, it is 10x harder.

How will you do this so that your company legacy continues to soar, while you shift your focus?  

Grab a cup of coffee and ponder this example: 

When Howard Schultz of Starbucks made the transition (for the second time, after the first time backfired), he made it clear to his troops that the new CEO was in charge. They held a private meeting, all sitting down on the wooden floor of the original Pike Place store. Howard then stood up and said to Kevin (the new CEO) and the leadership team, “This is my personal key to the Pike Place store. It is a key that I’ve carried with me for decades. And I want to present you this key as a symbol of this transition.”  

In my experience, a successful “next generation” leader tends to be more analytical because they don’t have the benefit of decades of operating by their gut and learning from early-on mistakes. 

Success also requires a more distributed leadership model. Even if the founder could initially run the business by herself or himself, the next generation cannot, or more accurately, should not do the same.

Assuming you have found the right leader or group of leaders, what will they actually focus on? 

  • Nurturing the vision
  • Making tough decisions to strengthen the company’s future path
  • Bringing more technology to bear
  • Greatly expanding the growth of the firm, based on the foundation built by the founder

What does a “founder-inspired” leader do?

You have a few choices on what your new role will be.  

  • Allow the new management to implement, i.e., stay out of their way! 
  • Look far ahead into the future growth, research new products and new markets 
  • Help ensure the original purpose of the company is kept alive, and strengthening the purpose to attract the younger generations.
  • Act as an advisor to the new leadership

When I speak to leaders, some of them also have other desires: 

  • Return to the field, back to their roots, to lead hands-on training
  • Go back to sales while someone else leads the firm
  • Or simply move on to enjoy life and travel more

Here is a prime example of a client who wants more free time:

I received a call from a landscape business owner who now wants to shift at the age of 52, take more frequent 4-5 day trips with his daughter, learn to surf, and enjoy life with his wife as traveling foodies. We will be working together to make that shift, and identify the team and infrastructure he needs in place to transition as quick as possible. 

Your challenge: Be honest with yourself – what would you like your role to be in the coming 3 to 5 years. (Don’t plan 10 years out to make this shift, that is too far in the future.) Start putting steps in place now to transition from founder-led to founder-inspired.

Are you going to GIE + Expo / Landscapes in Louisville?


If you’re coming to the biggest landscape show on earth, the week of October 15th, you won’t be disappointed!

Here are 7 opportunities for you to connect with me at this event, and for you to gain more from your visit!

Plus there is one extra resource at the very end of this post, that you’ll want to use for any conference you attend in the future.

  1. Attend the ticketed Design-Build workshops on Tuesday, I’m a guest speaker in the afternoon, and will be sharing brand new concepts for making your business run better. It will be highly interactive and you won’t want to miss it!
  2. Wednesday you can attend both of my talksIn the morning, “Creating a Five Star Brand” and in the afternoon, “Benchmarking for Profit.” You’ll leave with brand new tools that I’ve never shared before. Don’t miss it.
  3. Wednesday and Thursday’s Breakfast With Champions are superb learning events. You’re invited to join me at my table to learn about Achieving 20% Net Profit” and “Developing Your Second In Command” 
  4. Wednesday you really want to attend the special ticketed CEO
    Forum.  I’ll also be attending, on the topic of “Breaking into the Millennial Mind”.
  5. Wednesday night, if you want to network and have a great time, you should attend the IGI Investors Reception at the Omni hotel. You must make a donation to this worthy fund to gain entry but it’s well worth it.
  6. Let’s coordinate a time to meet up together, one on one, in Louisville, to discuss your business, goals and ambitions. Email me directly so we can confirm the date and times.
  7. You’re going to be busy, don’t forget to see the live concerts, and take advantage of all the great networking and education! My favorite is The Muhammad Ali museum, it is fabulous!

One last thing, if you really want to maximize the value of your visit to this or any conference, read this blog: 11 tips to maximize your time and money spent going to conferences. 

The Race Is On! But Will YOU Win?

Wouldn’t you love to learn how to raise the competitive spirit of your team?

Last week we did just that, with a select group of landscape and irrigation business owners at my Driven To Win event, held at BMW’s high-performance racetrack in S.C. 

It was unique and exhilarating; not your typical landscape conference!

Here are 6 lessons from the event that you, as a landscape contractor, can apply right away:

1. The Excitement of Competing Against One’s Peers

Even though no money was at stake, we all wanted to win the various mini-competitions that BMW set up for us. 

One of the attendees, Ken Hutten, shared that he is reserved and not normally competitive, but he stepped up and won one of the contests. He enjoyed the competition and camaraderie, and pondered how he could bring that same degree of excitement back to his operations. 

So how do you create fun competition in your company to crank up your people’s focus and results?

2. The Power of Metrics

We could see our scores (and the scores of our peers) each time we raced through a ‘time trial,’ and so we immediately had a new goal to beat, whether it was ours or our peers. 

This immediate feedback was a wonderful mechanism for improvement. 

So, how do you give meaningful daily and weekly feedback? Does it instill a competitive spirit?

3. Camaraderie Made Us All Excel

We enjoyed getting to know one another personally over a meal the night before the event. (We had a private chef in an exclusive loft.) 

This increased our enjoyment and our willingness to get “naked”, i.e., be more open and honest with each other when we convened the final day to debrief and apply our experiences.

Do you have that same level of open trust on your team?

4. Getting Feedback Was Crucial

We had three to four professional racecar drivers who were coaching us throughout the day.  

Some of us got too much feedback and it became distracting, and at other times we received “the perfect tip” to greatly increase speed around a corner. 

There were also times we were left wanting more feedback. (I wanted to beat one of the others and needed crucial feedback, but the coach wasn’t paying attention and couldn’t help me.)

Your business lesson – how, and how often, you give feedback is crucial – every employee wants it differently. Some want it more direct and more often than you think. Ask your people; make learning fun.

5. Daily Brief/Debrief

It helped us as a group to debrief how we did after it was all over, and then apply the lessons back to our business. We all had skin in the game (pride, business and personal goals). 

When your people have skin in the game, and when they have their own personal goals, they will gain even more value from the debriefs you hold at work — whether daily or weekly.

6. We Shared Our Failures

By the end of the day we were tired, and yet we had one more competition – the final time trial.  

I was pumped…but then I spun my $110,000 M5 off the track into the dirt. (No damage luckily.) I wanted to win, but my stamina could not keep up.  I was seeing the “red mist”, i.e., where one’s ambition clouds one’s judgment. Not good. ;-(

I was not alone. And so we took time to discuss our failures––on the track and in business. We kept it real and learned from each other. 

The best learning organizations have developed this same trust and a method for sharing problems and how to overcome them. Do you have this same camaraderie and support at your company?

Your Challenge: Make work fun, make competing fun, and use feedback and metrics to help your people improve. Don’t be afraid to share failures. And, just as important, take time away from the day-to-day to recharge and take advantage of out-of-the-box learning.  

See photos below, and stay tuned for my next unique event to help you truly excel at work.

bmw racing track

BMW performance track in S.C.

Jeffrey Scott bmw thumbs up

Ready to rumble!

bmw racing competition

Excited to get started!

bmw racing group team photo

We left it all out on the track.

bmw race team medals competition

Top 3 drivers of the day!