Check out the 2024 State of the Landscape Labor Market Report. Download here.

The Challenges of Building Business Systems

| Topic:

Business Advice

For small businesses one of the most difficult challenges to overcome is creating roles and responsibilities for all staff. The responsibilities must outline who does what, when, where, why at what speed and quality. This applies to Sales…Administration….Operations. This article will offer some examples of how process can be used to improve staff performance in all areas of your business. 

The big question is how do we get our people to follow processes without creating undue friction and how do we create effective processes people will follow?

I will start with Sales because it is the first thing that is required for a business to succeed….It is the foundation to getting all your process right (along with budgeting which I will not get into here because it’s a whole topic on its own!).

 Sales & Design – Estimating – Process Goals

  1. Weed out unwanted customers
  2. Ensure that the design balances Price / Buildability / Creativity
  3. Reduce friction between creative “right brained” and “left brained” People
  4. Eliminate estimating errors
  5. Ensure sales closing ratios are kept high
  6. Ensure profitable work

Process Solutions

Step 1 – The Sales Process

  1. Take client information
  2. List wants and needs
  3. Establish a budget up-front
  4. Screen out “waste of time customers” by asking for the budget on the phone
  5. Go to the sales meeting with client info…a map how to get there…the lists of wants and needs…..the budget and literature or brochures that apply to the client.
  6. Sign a design contract allowing for three concept drawings reflecting an entry level landscape design through to a sophisticated one. The analogy here is that if you went to a Volkswagen Dealership and you were looking for an entry level car and the only thing the dealer offered were premium models with premium prices you might go to the Toyota dealer instead. Do not give your clients a chance to shop around. Get them thinking about your brand only! Then get them thinking about prices within your brand only. This process also allows your designers to design cheap and cheerful or over the top…..satisfying their egos and creative urges. The salesperson can up sell to the customer if required and the owner will never be in conflict with the salesperson/designer because ego problems relating to creativity issues or boredom are resolved through process. The sales closing ratios will go up with more time spent on solid business prospects and less time wasted on tire kickers.

Step 2  The Estimating Process

  1. All estimates should be set up the same way – by order of operations
  2. Every estimate is to be verified by someone else and initialed “Verified by_______”
  3. The check should include accuracy of take-offs
  4. A discussion about how long the project will take and why
  5. Who is building the project?
  6. A discussion on what obstacles there may be to production
  7. A discussion about whether the client is difficult or not
  8. An understanding of the tolerances required for the work
  9. A guarantee that overhead is being recovered for the project.
  10. Certainty that the correct profit is applied balancing the sales target for the company with the risk involved in doing the work.

The third and fourth step in the process would be getting the contract signed correctly so that the customer and your accounting department are on the same page, followed by your crews understanding what needs to be done in what order and in what time period and to what standards!

If you get the process right your people will be happier and you will have more profit and less grief.

*To avoid a union type mentality in smaller companies it may be best to assign responsibilities and not roles because changes can occur quickly….your estimator may be pricing one day and planting a tree the next if required! 

All of these areas – sales, estimating, and production – are linked. Any disruption in communication as a result of poor process causes problems which translate into lost time, money and opportunity.

Creating all the documents and written processes for a small business is an arduous and taxing responsibility, especially when the owners have no expertise in process creation and should be selling, managing, doing or administering the work.

In a business there are three components to its growth and development before it can become a turn-key operation.

The business must:

  1. Do the work efficiently……Efficiently building the gardens or cutting the grass
  2. Do the administrative work properly……Properly budgeting, hiring, training, invoicing, receivables, estimating, taxes, ordering materials and supplies, tracking inventory etc.
  3. Build the business………Both physically and administratively.

Physically Building the Business: the office, the shop for equipment repairs and or indoor construction….Building the yard the loading bays, the shelving systems the storage areas and material bins

Administratively building the business:  creating the filing tree on the computer, the document library, the company operating manual………The hiring forms…Safety meeting…Marketing etc.

I know in our business of 25 years we have spent literally thousands of hours developing processes, including setting up an efficient filing tree where all our staff can quickly find the forms, documents and processes needed to run our business.

Landscape Management Network (LMN) has created all the forms and processes necessary to run a turnkey landscape business including budgeting systems, an estimating program derived from your financials, a systems library and online training for staff including health and safety. So far in my experience, it is the only complete business management system available for the landscape business. For those of you who are tired of re-creating forms and documents and want to create a professional Landscape Production System I highly recommend looking into it.

Why can’t my people ever find anything?

If you find yourself frequently asking this question your people need to apply the 5S Process:

  1. Sort
  2. Set In Order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Wouldn’t it be nice if you:

  • Never had to ask someone where something was?
  • Never bought the same thing twice?
  • Never had to look for something and not find it?
  • Never had to clean up after other people?
  • Never moved something twice?

Imagine your office, yard and shop looking like the Home Depot. Every department has a label. Every department has categories that are labeled and every item in each department is labeled. There is a return section. This concept allows for customers and employees to always follow the same system to easily find what they are looking for. You can and should set up your business in the same way.  

*Note that all fire trucks are set up exactly the same so that each fireman, regardless of which department they belong to, knows where everything is. They put everything back exactly the same way and maintain it to the highest standard. When staff is transferred to other fire stations no further training is required because all the processes are identical. There is only one way of doing things. Thank goodness, because when someone’s house is on fire the fireman is not wasting time looking for the hose!

Good People, Culture, and Process are critical to running a smooth business. One without the others means trouble.

In Summary

Processes are critical to enable individuals to communicate in complex organizations using the same language, methods and paperwork so that predictable repeatable results can occur. Without process everyone would do what they want, when they want, on their own schedule, and using their own methods and crafted forms. 

Just like water, people will follow the path of least resistance, and without good process, this creates a lot of turbulence and makes your business goals harder to achieve.

You’re just one step away from better

Start Your Free Trial

30-day free trial. No credit card needed.