Long-suffering Lynne

Departments - Editor's Insight

August 13, 2012
Chuck Bowen
Chuck Bowen

When I installed irrigation systems, we would keep track of everything by hand. The passenger seat, wheel wells and glove box of every repair van were littered with crumpled and torn job sheets of chicken scratch.

And every week Lynne, our long-suffering office manager, would harangue us about our poor penmanship and inability to keep anything clean.

At any successful landscape company, the books, trucks, supplies and people are tracked and allocated by computer, little invisible ones and zeros keeping tabs on everything from spray rigs to lunch breaks.

But when it comes to choosing a program, many landscapers are stuck. It’s one of the questions I get from readers most often. “What should I use? What works best?”

Unfortunately, there’s no good answer. It all depends on your management style, company size and how you organize things.

But whatever type or brand of software an owner chooses, the end result is the same. If you can’t keep tabs on how many hours your crews work, or where they drive once they leave the yard, or who has paid their bills this month, how can you ever hope to get out from under it all to plan for higher-level projects or markets?

Having tools in place to track – and then manage – the key parts of your business is one of the most basic ways to grow. This strategy of the small stuff – what Seth Godin calls “the thankless work of lower-leverage detail” – is so important for small companies, but it’s something the big guys have to do, too.

On page 50, in an exclusive interview with L&L, the new CEO of TruGreen LandCare, explained a similar focus for his firm for this year. “Our 2012 focus is resetting the foundation, getting back to the basics, making sure we do them right every day,” says Vidu Kulkarni. “Ours is a relatively straightforward business. We’re not building rocketships. Longer term, our focus is on profitable growth, not being the biggest dog on the block. I want to be the best dog on the block.”

When it comes to those small things, Godin writes: “An organization with feet on the street and alert and regular attention to detail can build more trust and develop better relationships than one that hits and runs.”

So this month, sit down and take a look at how you and your team handle the small things in your day-to-day work – everything from your time sheets to your job tickets to your order forms. Every company has a Lynne, and she has a point.


– Chuck Bowen