Archive for the ‘business’ Category
Great post this week from Jim McCutcheon at his blog:
I am not running a company; I am building a business.
How many business owners can truthfully say this? I am proud to say I can. It has not always been this way but it has always been a goal. The moves I have made over the years have gotten me to this point. This is a critical step in building an enduring enterprise.
I believe that business owners must have a personal vision and a vision for their business. And it goes without saying that they must be aligned.
The personal vision starts with deciding what kind of company you want to build. In my mind there are two kinds: the lifestyle business and the enduring enterprise.
Click here to read up on both kinds, and why you can only have one.
Making a million is quite a achievement in the industry. We’ll feature a piece in our March issue about how exactly hit that goal. In the meantime, check out what Dave Fairburn, president, and Andrew Pelky vice president of NP Holdings, an outdoor property services company in New England, said about making the mark.
The achievement “gave us a point where we could breathe,” Fairburn said However, “we simply reached a benchmark which will lead to others” He said it’s not an end mark. It simply gives the company a moment to pause, reorganize, and plan our next steps.
“I processed it, and I haven’t really thought about it again until your magazine has asked us this question,”Pelkey said. “What this is really about, is that we are on this planet for only 80 or 90 years. It’s what we do to exercise our minds for that time to feel fulfilled. This is not to understate the value of a million dollars; it is just to value the million dollars in terms of life.”
Some good insight about reaching a goal, but not settling for it.
Longtime L&L columnist Jim Huston was in town last week, and he stopped into our offices for a quick visit en route to Michigan.
Jim spends a fair amount of time on the road, speaking at various conferences and visiting with clients. Apart from the bounty he brings in from his travels, he always has an interesting perspective on the industry. Here are three quick points he made during our talk.
- By and large, contractors have adjusted to the economy and it’s sporadic and anemic growth during the past few years. Those who survived the recession have learned how to grow in trying times.
- One of those ways to grow – cutting overhead and getting lean – has worked, to a point. Many contractors have leaned out as far as they can go.
- Housing markets – traditionally such a driver of the landscape industry – are up across the country, which bodes well for many.
All in all, he hears positive things from his audiences and clients, which dovetails with what I’ve been hearing in my own travel and reporting as well.
You can get more from Jim every month in his column.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Ben Bowen (no relation), the landscape manager at Portland’s Ross NW Watergardens. He’ll be contributing to From the Field more this year. I encourage you to check out more of his stuff here.
I asked myself that question and immediately thought of my local humane society. Who could possibly be upset with the folks who rescue abandoned cats and dogs? Curious, I looked up some reviews online. Sure enough, they had a high number of glowing reviews – and a handful of dreadful reviews from genuinely upset customers. If a non-profit that saves puppies can’t keep all of its customers happy, what chance do the rest of us have?
Managing your customers’ complaints isn’t about your landscaping expertise or even your business acumen. The whole thing relies on your interpersonal skills. Here are three simple tools to get you headed in the right direction.
1. Look in the mirror. It’s easy to say that you make mistakes. But can you own up to specific errors? When confronted by a client who is unhappy with your work, assume the client is correct. Try to understand how you or your company caused (or at least contributed to) the client’s issue.
Haggling over blame is a waste of your time, energy and any goodwill you have built up with the client.
2. Master the “naked apology.” This is not nearly as exciting as it sounds. Be quick to apologize. And if you are going to swallow your pride, you might as well make it work for you. Give a “naked apology” – no justifications or explanations attached. Just say the issue is your fault, you’re sorry and that you will make it right. Clients will respect you for it.
3. Examine your bedside manner. A recent study found that while all doctors make mistakes, not all get sued for malpractice. Which doctors get sued? The ones who make mistakes and had poor bedside manner. Doctors who took a little extra time with a patient, could make a joke and appeared to care were much less likely to be sued – even when they made major errors.
We can all learn from this. Take just a little bit of time to really talk – and listen – to clients. Be nice. When problems arise your client won’t feel that she needs to punish you with a bad review – or worse.
Yes, customer complaints are an unavoidable part of business. Sometimes it’s clear cut: A customer has a problem that you can fix. Other times you find yourself with a problem customer – a client you just can’t seem to please. Either way, if you approach your client’s issues with skill and art you can keep them, not just as clients, but as happy clients.
Great post from Seth Godin this week:
When making a b2b sale, the instinct is always to get into the CEO’s office. If you can just get her to hear your pitch, to understand the value, to see why she should buy from or lease from or partner with or even buy you… that’s the holy grail.
What do you think happens after that mythical meeting?
Read the rest here to find out.
(h/t to Scott Brickman for passing this one along)
I got a call from a reader yesterday asking for some help. He’s reworking his employee manual, and wanted to know industry standards for time off. I didn’t have anything ready at hand, so I asked our resdient HR expert Steve Cesare for his insight.
I thought it might be a question other contractors had, so I’m sharing it here.
The current standard is one week of paid vacation time and three paid sick days per year for non-exempt employees at and above the rank of Foreman (and all office staff), after they have completed one year of continuous service to the company.
The current standard is two weeks of paid vacation time and three paid sick days per year for exempt employees, beginning on their hire date.
These “standards” don’t really apply to very small (i.e., fewer than 15 employees) landscaping companies. Those companies typically do not allocate paid vacation time to any employees. Moreover, they typically only grant unpaid sick leave to their employees.
You can read Steve’s insight into HR matters every month in our print edition. If you have a burning question you need answered right away, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take five minutes and read this post at Jason’s blog about a contractor whose client started dictating terms to him.
It’s a good way to start your week.
I spend most of last week in Colorado visiting with the ALCC and attending the OPEI annual meeting. I learned a lot from both groups, but on my return, I found this post from an Ohio ex-pat that I found very useful considering that much of the state is on fire.
From the Oregon State Library, a 1946 U.S. Forest Service guide on what to do do when you’re lost in the woods (emphasis mine):
- Stop, sit down and try to figure out where you are. Use your head, not your legs.
- If caught by night, fog or a storm, stop at once and make camp in a sheltered spot. Build a fire in a safe place. Gather plenty of dry fuel.
- Don’t wander about. Travel only down hill.
- If injured, choose a clear spot on a promontory and make a signal smoke.
- Don’t yell, don’t run, don’t worry, and above all, don’t quit.
And, if you don’t often find yourself in the woods, I think the same advice applies pretty well to your business, too.
“We had what we thought was a training program and a set of procedures, but until you sit down and evaluate that…. We realized we had inconsistencies with each position because we didn’t have those job descriptions written down on paper. One guy wanted to do the job this way, another wanted to do it another way.”
That’s from Fred Peratt, president of Environmental Enhancements in Sterling, Va., discussing why he decided to sit down and write down what each of his employees did (or was supposed to be doing).
You can read more from Fred and other contractors in our forthcoming August issue.
Marty’s great idea this week helps you focus on your ever-growing to-do list.
Take a notebook and a pen and go to a quiet place and write down the 3 most important things you must do between now and the end of the year to have a successful year. If you end up with 5, okay, but 3 is even better. Then get focused on those and spend time each week on them.
Read the full post at Marty’s site.