Many types of businesses have off-seasons when business is slow and sales tend to decrease. Instead of just accepting reduced sales volumes during these times, Tom Phillips of Phillips Landscape Contractors (PLC) often takes the time to build his business acumen and plan for the future. While at a winter workshop in 2002, he attended a presentation by guest speaker, Tony Bass, that struck a cord and left him feeling energized with enthusiasm about bettering his business.

PRODUCT/SERVICE: Landscape Contractors

A hot ticket, the annual winter workshop features national speakers discussing the latest best practices in landscape entrepreneurship. “Tony’s presentation was unlike others I’ve attended in that it was very high energy and really got me fired up. While he wasn’t dispensing rocket science, he was sharing what I would call “golden nuggets” of information that are often forgotten in the daily grind of running a business. Everything I gained that day our company could easily implement, and in turn, almost immediately reap the dividends,” said Phillips.


A Roadmap to Greater Performance

“After the presentation, I wanted more. Based on Tony’s experience, I knew there had to be more snippets of wisdom I could glean from him that would enhance the way we operated,” said Phillips. Upon his return to the office, Phillips purchased “The Money Making Secrets of a Multi-Million Dollar Landscape Contractor” business manuals. According to Bass, for many small business owners, the enemy is time. Finding time to do everything that has to be done in order to maximize growth. Bass, a consultant to the green industry with more than 20 years of experience bases his counsel and educational materials on the principals he discovered while founding, growing and ultimately selling his initially small landscaping business for a seven-figure profit. “It’s about learning how to work smarter, not harder, and do the things that will pay big dividends.”


Getting Off the “Short List”

One very important, and profitable concept, Phillips gathered from Bass was he needed to raise the bar when it came to his bid presentations. “Often potential clients are reviewing multiple bids and like most decisions we make in our lives, the more information we have the better,” noted Phillips. “We extended our bid packages to include more details and content that would answer the reader’s questions or objections.  “When a client sees a contractor has it together on a proposal, they can assume they’ll get quality service out on the field,” said Bass. “Most of the time the decision is based on the confidence level the owner has in the contractor. And unless you have a really great existing relationship with that owner already, your bid proposal is the best chance to get that confidence across.” “Now I know that the bid needs to speak for itself. When my presentation is stacked up against one submitted on a coffee-stained, cocktail napkin or carbon paper with numbers that are hard to read and columns that are added incorrectly, I know there is no contest,” said Phillips. The result: revamping the bid process increased business wins by more than 15 percent.


Taming the Truck Rodeo

As with most businesses, when everyone starts at the same time traffic jams can arise – whether it is in the parking lot or at the water cooler and coffee makers. When you add to the mix several, large landscaping trucks all loading materials, aligning their teams and hustling out the door at the same time, headaches are imminent. “One time-saving tip I picked up was to stagger the start times of my crews. Not only did it eliminate the daily dance the trucks often performed, it allowed me to spend more time with each crew in the morning. Important job specifics often times would get missed when I had to try to shout over the top of dozens of men in the morning. This enhanced time engineering allowed for meetings to be run more efficiently and most importantly, more effectively with smaller teams,” added Phillips. So what could a simple shift in scheduling save a company like PLC? “Twenty man hours a week, and more than likely that was at an overtime pay rate!”


The Value of Six Minutes

“At the presentation, one of my “ah-ha” moments came in the form of Tony’s handout that detailed the value of six minutes,” stated Phillips. Through years of painstaking research, Bass had put together a chart that shows landscaping companies (and any business for that matter) exactly what six minutes of wasted time costs a company in dollars and cents. Most managers, as well as employees, know that it is much more than just six minutes – whether it’s in trips to the bathroom, smoke breaks or just lollygagging around at the jobsite. “Managers need to consider the man hours spent doing these tasks are not production hours, so they will have a hard time billing their customers for these hours. Six minutes doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly,” said Bass. Phillips shared the chart with his employees and now incorporates it into his job evaluations. “When someone comes and asks me for a raise, I ask them what they’ve been doing with their six minutes? It may sound minimal, but it is in those six minutes where company profitability and bonuses come into play.”


Efficient and Effective

In business and in management, operating in efficient and effective ways is the key to good performance and to successfully reaching your business goals. “We’ve incorporated many of the systems outlined in the manuals – from adding educational information into our employee handbook, overhauling our estimating systems and more accurately predicting job costs, to including a quick customer satisfaction survey on the back of our payment envelopes,” explained Phillips. “I can say with confidence, that the tactics and strategies I’ve learned from Tony have allowed us to pick up the pace along the path to more profitability.”