Summary of day with my PLANET Trailblazer
During the winter of 2008, I joined two organizations, PLANET and OLA. My reason for joining was to stay abreast of what other professionals in my area and across the country are doing and how they are resolving and dealing with the same problems I have. Also, I wanted to associate myself with other green industry professionals.
I was led to PLANET by the monthly industry magazines I was receiving. It was in the February issue of PRO that I read an article about the PLANET Trailblazer program and thought to myself, “What a great idea!” So I went online to the PLANET Web site and started looking into it further. The next thing I know I had downloaded the Trailblazer application form and was writing down which Trailblazers I would want to have mentor me. From there I chose my top three choices and sent in my application.
In March I was informed that my number one choice was going to be my Trailblazer mentor. I contacted him and we had a good first contact as he was easy to communicate with. We covered topics such as the size of company, current and future services, pricing strategies, and productivity factors; such as applied vs. unapplied, time, percentage of payroll that is value-added (meaning how productive we are). By the end of the phone call I felt our relationship was heading in the right direction. He advised me of some good reading material and if I ever had questions to contact him and not to make this whole program overloading.
Great I thought … so when I had questions, we communicated over e-mail which worked out great for me. My Trailblazer gave great advice such as keeping things fun, up selling to current customers, and easy and inexpensive ways to market to new customers.
A few months went by and as my time was freed up, I arranged for a visit to his location. I made my way to his facility and there was a sign welcoming me along with their two operations managers … one for the maintenance division and one for the landscaping division. These two department heads were great and went over daily operations of how they do things and how I am used to doing things. Nothing was said about being right or wrong … just a sharing of ideas and perceptions.
I see on the local level amongst landscape companies a misconception of the competition is the enemy … an attitude of don’t share and don’t let the competition know how you do things. You don’t have that issue with PLANET and the Trailblazer program is a prime example of that.
The most important thing I took from my conversations with the department heads were the importance of customer relations … staying in touch with customers and letting them know what is going on with their properties. The maintenance department head, Juan, provided me with a property evaluation form and the value of using them.
Property Evaluation Form
By using these evaluation forms, one can determine how well the job is being done, meaning … is there room for improvement and are the employees meeting or exceeding customer’s expectations? These property evaluation forms also allows an individual to sell more to the current customer, i.e., shrub trimming, installation of seasonal color, additional weeding, identification of problems such as repair of broken sprinkler heads or lighting.
While I was chatting with the department head, my Trailblazer met up with us. After quick introductions we jumped right in to how I could better tract jobs so that I have a better idea of how much time each task takes. For example: if my company was doing a landscape renovation with various jobs on the project including patio, plantings (trees, shrubs, and perennials, lawn installation, lighting, and drainage), the job should be broken up into segments and each task timed out. This way you know where you need to work on improvements and where you are doing well and making the profit you want. With this information I can bid more competitively, address problems regarding where training is needed, or learning when the correct equipment would have helped the technician get the job done most efficiently.
After about an hour we started making our way to his office and on the way he gave me a tour of his facility and how each area is utilized. During this time we covered topics such as:
Mechanics – who don’t just change parts but who diagnose and fix problems.
Weekly meetings - covering topics such as safety, agenda of work, company outlook, company policies, and equipment training
Then we went to his office where we had a talk about our agenda for the day. Here is what I got out of the day:
What attributes has taken us to where we are now?
- Customer has faith we will get the job done to their satisfaction
- Trustworthy employees
- Owners’ ability to build relationships with customers
- Proximity of current customers (clustering)
How I can use these same attributes to make more money?
- Sell current customers new services or items.
- Ask for referrals.
- Build relationships with other contractors and ask for referrals.
- Find more customers like I have been (use what works)
- Add services to enhance customer’s properties that require little to no overhead (tree work, shrub trimming, bulbs, seasonal color, sustainable landscapes, and outdoor living areas).
Importance of doing work I like and paying someone to do work who can do it better or cheaper than me doing it.
- Office work (accounting)
- Training employees to “wear more of my hats” (plant selection, operations)
- Provide portfolio of work
- Place in their hands and view the pages
- Show them what I want to sell them
- Direct them to our Web site
- Attributes of the company should be visible to potential customers and current customers
- Do people know what type of work we do?
- What does our company name mean to you?
- Track where the profitable work is coming from
Take advantage of volunteer work
- Project Evergreen (200+ hrs)
- Stan Hywet (25+ hrs)
- Keep Akron Beautiful (30 hrs)
- Paul’s work with school (16 hrs)
Strategic planning with the key guys of the company
- Where do we want to go?
- What are our strengths?
Thank you PLANET for offering such a great opportunity!