There is no charge for awesomeness.

Archive for the ‘business’ Category

Time for some time off

without comments

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 scesare@giemedia.com.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

November 28th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Posted in business

Tagged with ,

without comments

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.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

July 2nd, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Posted in business

Tagged with ,

Lost in the woods

without comments

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):

  1. Stop, sit down and try to figure out where you are. Use your head, not your legs.
  2. 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.
  3. Don’t wander about. Travel only down hill.
  4. If injured, choose a clear spot on a promontory and make a signal smoke.
  5. 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.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

June 26th, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Posted in business

Tagged with , , ,

Sneak peek: Training and HR manuals

without comments

“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.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

June 18th, 2012 at 6:05 am

Posted in business

Tagged with , , ,

Rule of 3

without comments

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.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

May 23rd, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Posted in business

Tagged with ,

On giving back

without comments

A few weeks ago, landscapers across the country pitched in around their communities as part of PLANET’s annual Day of Service. It’s a way for companies to give back to the areas where they operate, and help out local organizations.

The Day of Service is just one of many examples of landscapers giving back and participating in community service projects. (In fact, we’ve got an entire department in the magazine dedicated to just these types of projects.)

Last month, Dan Moreland, my former boss and publisher of our sister publication PCT, wrote about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the correlation between compassion and business success.

For any company operating today, profitability cannot be the sole measure of success,” Schultz said. “Delivering long-term shareholder value is essential. But today’s increasingly complex world requires companies — including Starbucks — to hold ourselves to higher standards. Amidst continued worldwide economic uncertainty, Starbucks has demonstrated that it will continue to build shareholder value, but never before has that value been more closely aligned to our values. Simply put, the value of your company is driven by your company’s values.”

Capitalism, in and of itself, is not bad. It’s what has enabled the United States to become the largest economy in the world. I’ve benefited personally from the fruits of capitalism. Thirty-one years ago, when I joined GIE Media, we were a modest, start-up business employing four people working out of a single-room loft above a local restaurant. Today, we publish more than a dozen magazines and employ more than 80 people, supporting scores of families. Watching those families grow and prosper and contribute to their respective communities has been the single most gratifying professional experience of my life, and it’s all due to the gift — and power — of capitalism.

It’s when we lose our moral compass as companies, or as individuals, when we put profits and personal aggrandizement above all else, that we suffer collectively. The pest management industry understands this basic contract with society, perhaps because pest control companies have such an intimate relationship with their customers and the communities they serve. Paul Jackson, a staff writer for The Northwestern Chronicle, puts it best: “There are good CEOs and good companies, moral corporations; there is moral capitalism because as moral beings even our self-interest is moral in itself, but only if we see ourselves as humans reflecting humanity, one to another. How we function as a society, economy and polity has to do with Us: the market reveals Us and shows what kind of people we are. Indeed, the market is a test, a proving ground for your heart in search of the question — just how moral are you?”

If you’re in business just to make money, you’ll probably do OK. But if you make your goal the improvement of those around you and your community, you’ll do great.

Written by admin

May 15th, 2012 at 1:13 am

Chaos monkey

without comments

First things first: I’m a big fan of monkeys.

Second: We all know they can cause trouble.

Bill Conerly, a columnist for Forbes, wrote this short piece on the idea of a Chaos Monkey. Besides being a great idea for a tattoo, the idea centers around a program Netflix created to test its own systems.

If our recommendations system is down, we degrade the quality of our responses to our customers, but we still respond. We’ll show popular titles instead of personalized picks. If our search system is intolerably slow, streaming should still work perfectly fine.

One of the first systems our engineers built … is called the Chaos Monkey. The Chaos Monkey’s job is to randomly kill instances and services within our architecture. If we aren’t constantly testing our ability to succeed despite failure, then it isn’t likely to work when it matters most – in the event of an unexpected outage.

What happens if one of your key employees quits? What happens if your supplier raises fertilizer prices by a factor of three? What happens if your bank calls in your loan?

Really bad things probably won’t happen, but what if they did? What if all those things happen at once?

Sometime in the next few weeks, sit down and think about it.

Be your own Chaos Monkey.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 26th, 2012 at 12:43 am

Posted in business

Tagged with , ,

How-to

without comments

As someone who loves magazines, I read a lot. But one of my favorite issues all year is Businessweek’s annual How-To issue. The magazine dedicates much of its coverage to a series of small, as-told-to pieces that explain how to accomplish many practical (and not-so-practical) goals.

This year’s issue, which came out earlier this month, did not disappoint, and there’s lots of great stuff for any business owner. You can find all the stories online, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Orioles manager Buck Showalter (above) on how to fire someone (without resorting to the bat).
  • Chicago mayor and well-known firebrand Rahm Emanuel on how to motivate people.
  • How to run a board meeting.
  • Howard Schutlz on how to make coffee (gasp) at home.
  • Google VP Marissa Mayer on how to avoid burnout. Hint: it involves dinner and soccer games.
  • And, in case your negotiations or motivation don’t go as planned,  Manny Pacquiao’s former trainer Freddie Roach teaches you how to take a punch.

 

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 24th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

What you’re best at

without comments

Seth Godin has a great definition of what it means to be the best in a world of online marketing and unceasing demands on your customers’ attention and budget.

The only way your business wins in Google world is to be the best available option, where “best” means best for the person searching for an answer, and “available option” means everything. (Best doesn’t mean most expensive or exclusive, it merely means the best choice for me, right now. You don’t have to be happy about how much competition you have, but it helps to admit it.)

We’ve written about this before, but it bears revisiting. Your competition is the other landscapers in your market, but it’s also a new car or a new roof or a vacation.

You don’t sell nice plants or green grass. You sell a homeowner time with his family. You sell a property manager less risk and a better conversation with his boss.

That’s what you have to tell your customer. That’s what you have to be best at.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 19th, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Posted in business

Tagged with ,

Jamming to speed metal

without comments

Scott Grams has a great column in this month’s issue of the Illinois Landscape Contractor’s Association magazine. Scott is the executive director of one of the country’s biggest and best-run associations, and he has a great perspective on the industry. What happens in the Illinois (read: Chicago) market tends to trickle down to other parts of the country, so it’s a good bellwether for the rest of the industry.

Scott’s take is that as the economy improves (and it is improving), consumer spending will continue to grow and landscapers will benefit. But he worries that many contractors have become locked into panic mode – the lean-at-all-costs way of operating that got them through the recession, but that will stymie their growth as things improve.

You can read the full column as a PDF here, but here’s the money quote (emphasis mine):

It’s said that financial success masks all problems. Mediocre salesmen look great. Bad salesmen look competent. Poor managers look like master motivators. The flip-side of that is that economic growth exposes poor innovators and small thinkers. This is the time for big ideas. As the rest of the industry stretches and groans at the daybreak, who is already out of the shower, down the stairs, into the car and jamming to speed metal? This is a time for reinvention and for the realization of pipe dreams. Survival mode will be over – and many have forgotten how to do anything but survive.

Scott has the right idea. If you haven’t already, now is the time to starting thinking big about how you can grow. Things will get better, and your company needs to be ready.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 17th, 2012 at 11:53 am

Posted in business

Tagged with , ,