Many lawn care businesses struggle to find work in the winter months. Those of us lucky enough to live where there are actually four seasons can find work clearing snow. Others in warmer climates might have leaves falling late into the season. While work might seem scarce, there are still many things a good lawn care business can do to be prepared for the spring lawn care season.
Preparing for success this year means understanding how to improve on last year. Take time to look back at your results to see what made you profitable, and what didn’t. Using a quality lawn care management software, like CLIPitc, can make this process simple. Understanding your costs is easy with the in-depth reporting tools that are available.
Did you have the right crews working for you last year? Using the employee efficiency report allows you to see at a glance how each team member performed. While finding quality help in the green industry might not be easy, having employees who aren’t working hard can hurt you as well.
As much as you hate to admit it, odds are, not every customer you have is making you money. Sometimes you have to make the hard decision to “fire” some customers that might be too far outside your regular routes, or their job isn’t profitable. Using reports such as “job costing” and “jobs by revenue” can ensure you’re working as efficiently as possible. Understanding this reporting can help you ensure you’re pricing your jobs correctly as well. Don’t do work that’s costing you money in the long run. Sometimes less is more.
Say ‘Thank You’ Before The Spring Lawn Care Season Starts
Staying in contact with your customers year-round is essential. If the only time they hear from you is when you send them an invoice, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build relationships.
Most companies will be sending out proposals to their list of customers for next year during this time. CLIP Lawn Care takes more of a commercial business approach with our “perpetual” residential contracts. We assume that customers will stay with us for life because of our excellent service. We include a clause that states the customer can cancel at any time, but that we also have the right to change pricing with a 30 day written notice. So, instead of sending out proposals and hoping to hear back, we send out letters thanking our customers for allowing us to continue servicing them. The letter also will inform them of any price changes and our expected start date for the spring.
Know Your Customers
Using our “assumed close” technique in our spring letters lets us get a better headcount on how many customers we expect to have in the spring. This information can allow you to preorder enough supplies before pricing goes up for the season. Any savings on chemicals and other supplies can really add up over the entire spring lawn care season.
Knowing your customer headcount can allow you time to customize your routing efficiently. Optimizing your routes can save you money in two significant areas, time and gas. CLIPitc lets you choose precisely what routes you want to optimize, filtered by crews, dates, and even jobs. You can then send those routing sheets directly to your crews through the CLIPitc app, saving time and confusion if you have any cancellations or changes.
Almost all of us have felt the agony of not being able to find quality employees. Knowing your customers means you’ll have a better understanding of the proposed man-hours you’ll need. This allows you the opportunity to start looking for seasonal employees sooner, letting you be more selective in your process instead of hiring to fill vacant spots quickly.
Not Just Staffing, But Training As Well
How much time and effort do you put into training your seasonal staff? For that matter, how much training and on-going learning do you and your foremen do? We all know that lawn care maintenance isn’t as easy as riding a lawnmower around a client’s yard.
Seasonal workers most often get the short end of the stick when it comes to training. As we’ve discussed earlier, these workers quite often can be hired last minute and forced to learn on the job. While desperate times call for desperate measures, there’s no way that those workers will be efficient for you. Even if they avoid making costly mistakes, which can lose you customers or worse, it will take them time to get up to speed. To combat this, set aside time to train new and seasonal employees before the spring lawn care season begins. Spending a week or two on proper equipment usage, safety standards, and teaching them how your company likes to do business will more than pay for itself in the long run.
Planning time to grow your knowledge of the industry is important as well. Trends change quickly, and staying on top of cutting edge technology and techniques will give you an edge over your competition. You can find many different options from paid seminars, working with your local agriculture clubs, to reaching out to universities that have the topsoil sciences departments. There is always something new that you can learn.
Check It Before You Wreck It
Taking the time to do the required regular maintenance can protect you from having major breakdowns during the season, and keep expensive machines running longer. Sharpened blades will provide a cleaner cut and do less damage to the grass. Fluids should be changed out after sitting for any length of time over the winter. And don’t forget the other essential items like air and fuel filters.
Here are some other things to check:
- If you use string trimmers, be sure to check that you have enough string in stock.
- Check rakes, shovels, and other hand tools for rust.
- Ensure that all safety equipment is still in a functional and safe condition.
- Your vehicles are equipment too! Don’t forget maintenance and repairs for trucks and vans!
Growing Your Business
Now that you know how many customers you’ll have and you’ve updated your business plan with new goals, you can look at ways to grow. Marketing your business can be done in a variety of ways, and you should pick more than one. Using door hangers is a great strategy, especially in neighborhoods where you want to improve your market share. Have your crews spend a few minutes after each yard to accomplish this. While part of the crew is cleaning up, someone else can go to neighbors on each side and leave a door hanger. It might sound simple, but it’s very effective.
Your customer’s word of mouth is another excellent strategy. Find and utilize those customer’s who have been the most vocal about enjoying your services. Ask them to promote you to their friends and family. Use their voice on social media. While a client of yours might say the same thing you do, potential clients are far more likely to listen and believe them.
There are many different marketing strategies that you can use. Just be sure to try multiple options so you can find what works best for your company. If you take the time to nourish your business at the start of each year, you’ll be ahead of the competition when the spring lawn care season kicks off.