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Jan-Gerrit Bouwman of Grant & Power Landscaping gives tips on how to show appreciation for customers and employees.

Catherine Pomiecko | January 14, 2013

Although Grant & Power may have more than 100 employees and may have served the western suburbs of Chicago for more than 30 years, the company still manages to make customers feel as if they are their only priority. Senior Landscape Architect Jan-Gerrit Bouwman believes that maintaining strong relationships with customers even years after their projects are completed drives success for Grant & Power as the company grows. Below are some of Bouwman's thoughts on the company's success.

I started with the company 15 years ago. I knew the owner for years, and eventually he needed to expand. We’ve grown substantially. We’re much more higher-end, we have much larger jobs, we are much more custom, and much more professional.

Systems are the biggest factor in business success. Constantly evaluate your systems and processes and people every year, every quarter. Most of our employees are heavily involved with that. Everything we do is a system, a process. How we answer the phone is a system. It’s almost like McDonald’s, how they put the pickle on the bun, and so on, we have similar steps, not exactly that, but that is the idea.

We have a very specific system when the customer calls in for an appointment for design and installation. We ask quite a few questions and see if the customer and our company fit. We meet with the customer and ask a lot of questions, do our measurements, take pictures and videos, and set up another appointment for a final presentation with the customer. There are two weeks in-between the initial appointment and the presentation. After the presentation, there is usually a follow up appointment to finalize and adjust the design.

Systems are extremely important. Find out what worked, what didn’t work, and what you can improve. That’s constantly looking at processes. If you know your people are right, then that’s what you have to do. It always comes down to people and processes.

The people in our company – we have wonderful employees, and that’s probably the biggest thing that we have. Our employees are critical to success. Always love your people. To me, that’s critical. If you have good people, always love them. It sounds hokey, but it’s true. We have disc golf, lunches, major dinners and breakfasts throughout the year. It’s really fun to see another side of our employees. It is a family no matter what.

I wish had the golden bullet on finding good employees. I don’t, of course. But track record is always important. The internet and social media can also help you find out much more these days.

We measure quality not only financially but also through our salespeople. We measure cash flow, because if people pay on time, that means they are happy. We have teams that analyze these measurements as well.

Assuming too much and not training employees or not checking on customers is a big mistake. Feedback is critical. Make sure communication with employees and customers is very open and direct. Nowadays you have cell phones, email, text messages; it’s instant, and much more demanding.

We send regular newsletters to our customers. And we have a ton of walk-throughs. We actually follow up months and years after jobs are done. We do have constant contact with the customer. That is very direct, and that is basically mandatory for a normal size job.

We have those surveys and walk-throughs to measure quality by the satisfaction of our customers. Before the job is finished, the crew and sometimes the salesperson will walk the client through the job, and if there are items that need to be taken care of, we will take care of it.

We have meetings with crew, sales and, beginning this year, with design, so we can evaluate what is working well and what we need to change and improve.

It’s not easy. Keep smiling, that’s another one that’s very important.

 

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