Coming to a close

Features - Turnaround Tour

As fall approaches, the Turnaround Tour winners continue to find new ways to improve.

Subscribe
October 10, 2017
The owners of Freedom Lawn & Landscapes dropped unprofitable customers and focused more on profitable accounts.
Photo courtesy of Freedom Lawn & Landscapes

As the season winds down, so does the 2017 Turnaround Tour. As the three winners approach fall, they have experienced a number of wins, but also still have challenges. Freedom Lawn & Landscapes has a good feeling about a large job they bid on, but will need to make sure it’s profitable. Vineland has had no trouble getting work, but still has problems getting paid. The Wades have what they think is a solution on examining revenue streams, but it’s too early to tell if it will work long-term.

Freedom Lawn & Landscapes

Last time we checked in:

Heather and Jeremy Dirksen had moved into a smaller office and rented out their old office. They also replaced unprofitable clients with profitable ones. They were debating whether to repair or replace an old spray truck that broke down.

Latest update:

The Dirksens replaced the spray truck, which was a 2000 Ford with more than 200,000 miles on it. It would have cost $4,500 to fix the transmission, so the couple found a 2011 truck in decent shape with 140,000 miles for $11,500.

The Dirksens recently moved homes, and one of their neighbors was unhappy with their current landscaper. After speaking with the new neighbor, the Dirksens found out the homeowner owns a large commercial real estate company in Oklahoma City.

As the season winds down, so does the 2017 Turnaround Tour. As the three winners approach fall, they have experienced a number of wins, but also still have challenges. Freedom Lawn & Landscapes has a good feeling about a large job they bid on, but will need to make sure it’s profitable. Vineland has had no trouble getting work, but still has problems getting paid. The Wades have what they think is a solution on examining revenue streams, but it’s too early to tell if it will work long-term.

They put a bid in for all of their commercial properties, and they hope to sign a deal by December.

“We have a lot of customers in that area, so we have a great reputation that we’ve built,” Heather says.

The Dirksens’ daughter is friends with the homeowner’s daughter, but that wasn’t only the connection that helped. “Something that Bill and Ed had talked about is place yourself as No. 2,” Heather says. “So not necessarily going there to get the job, but just let them know who you are and what you offer.”

Bill and Ed’s take:

While the company has dropped in sales, they’ve doubled in profit. The company was surrounded by potentially profitable clients, and didn’t know it until they started scouting them out. Arman says owners should take a 30-minute drive around their dispatch yard looking at properties, especially new construction.

“I start pinpointing the jobs that are in there and the types of jobs. What do I have that’s in a half-an-hour drive point of my dispatch yard?” Arman says.

Vineland Landscaping

Last time we checked in:

Will Gruccio and his partner Michael D’Orazio were subbing some maintenance work to another company for the first time, and debating whether to drop construction work. They also discussed pre-billing maintenance work and visiting a similar company with higher revenue.

Latest update:

The biggest hurdle facing Vineland is having cash on hand because the big checks from construction jobs haven’t come in yet – those jobs are slated for the fall. Vineland hired a part-time employee to help with collections, and the company will start to pre-bill mowing jobs each month despite a few long-time customers saying they didn’t like the idea.

“It’s at the point where I’d rather lose an account and have our business run smoothly than every week us being worried about cash on hand,” he says.

Gruccio says he hopes to start billing in October of this year as a trial run. He plans on sending a letter with an invoice to customers explaining the change.

If customers who pay on time complain, they will return to the old process for those customers.

Vineland has also been getting burned by general contractors not paying on time. Gruccio is putting language in contracts saying some money should be paid up front.

The company is also reducing overtime. They will allow experienced workers to get overtime, but as less experienced workers hit 40 hours, Vineland will have a part-time worker jump on a job.

Bill and Ed’s take:

Vineland is getting killed on their subcontractor work and would like to see the company move away from working as a subcontractor. The Harvesters also encouraged the company to look for new maintenance work to replace the commercial construction revenue.

“Throughout the winter they can be making calls on commercial work to grow that side of the business,” Ed says. “They’ve got six months or so to replace the construction work and I believe he can do it without any problems.”

Wade’s Lawn Service

Last time we checked in:

Deborah and Ira Wade were trying to find out how much revenue was coming in from enhancement work and maintenance. They planned on having a whiteboard in their office with a worker’s name and next to it the hours they spent performing maintenance or enhancement work.

Latest update:

The Wades scrapped the whiteboard idea, opting for a division of crews. Previously, maintenance and enhancement work was performed by the same crews. Now it has specialized landscaping/enhancement and maintenance crews.

“We can just look at the time cards and see how many hours the landscapers came in and how many (hours) the maintenance crew came in,” Deborah says.

The Wades hope the change will solve the revenue problem, and also result in better work.

“We need to specialize so we can keep customers and repeat customers, especially for landscaping,” she says. “The mowing crew, they’re out and they’re mowing. That’s all they’re doing.”

Deborah says they asked employees to note things that could use work at properties, so they can suggest the service to the owners.

Bill and Ed’s take:

The Wades have two large jobs pending that are close to their office, which is good for profit. The Harvesters encouraged Ira to spend more time managing jobs, but he recently had to go back in the field to do work due to staffing issues.

“Now he’s being more of a manager and leader and oversight of jobs rather than doing the job,” Bill says. “He’s actually inspecting jobs and making sure they’re performing to the quality level that we expect.”