February 15, 2018
By Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager

Jacki HartAnyone involved in Landscape Ontario’s Prosperity Partners learning program over the past 12 years should know how to finish the sentence: “If you’re aiming at nothing...”

As your business plans for the upcoming season start to unfold, budgets get implemented and recruiting rolls into full swing, it’s time to be VERY clear on what you’re aiming at. Because “if you’re aiming at nothing, you’ll hit it with huge accuracy.” It’s so true.

Knowing what to measure in your business can be a difficult thing to determine. Many contractor entrepreneurs would rather have a root canal than sit down at a desk and drill into their business results to see what’s happening. Figuring out what to do in order to improve those results is even harder. In my experience working face to face with owners of landscaping businesses, I think it’s fair to say that less than 10 per cent are comfortable with analyzing their business results, let alone strategically planning to improve. So, if you’re in the other 90 per cent, read on.

First, let’s keep it simple.

What to measure and when

In order to add some structure to your thinking, take a look at these six key resources I use as simplified measuring sticks:

Capital. This means money, available credit, cash on hand, leverageable assets, etc. At any given time, your balance sheet (if accurate and accessible), can give you a snap shot of what working capital you have available. I realize many of you struggle with understanding a balance sheet, so there are other simple ways to check-in with the resource of capital. Compare the amounts and age of accounts receivable against the same data on your payables. How much cash is in the bank? How likely you are to collect the receivables on time? What expenses are on the horizon? Especially what I call ‘chunky’ ones: HST remittances, source deduction remittances, WSIB payments, mortgage, rent, leases, loans — it’s handy to have a monthly total in your head of what these typically cost. This will help you to manage cash flow more smoothly.

Culture. This is your attitude versus aptitude. Is everyone involved with the ‘business of doing business’ with you (employees, customers, suppliers and potential ones) clear on who the company is and what is consistently expected and delivered? What are the non-negotiables for behaviour? What principles and values guide decisions? How do you know who is right or wrong fit? When you have a healthy culture, there’s no doubt as to who your company is and everyone is fully-engaged.

Momentum. How well-established is your company? On what processes and systems are you building future growth and innovation? Does your company have steady growth that is bringing in right-fit new customers? Are your existing customers loyal and good advocates for you? Are you innovating and continuing to improve your team and your offerings? Is your company moving forward on most fronts?

Market. How well are you positioned in the marketplace, along with your competitors, at what you do or sell? What are your unique value propositions? How well do you differentiate your company from others — and how well do you do that in the eye of your potential and existing consumers? What is your brand? How do you promote it? Who engages with it and who remains engaged? How do you measure it?

Time. Do you have time every day to look at the big picture? Do you ever consider your job description and how well you are performing at it? Are you leaving some important things off your to do list because you’re too busy? Is there a balance between what your company needs from you, and how you choose to spend your time running it? Do you eat well, sleep well and balance work with family?

Talent. How deep is your bench? What league are you in? Junior A, Junior B, NHL? Is there a good mix among your team members of daily engagement, continuous improvement, striving for personal bests and creativity? How skilled are your staff? Are they willing to improve and learn? What are you doing to nurture that? How well are skills matched to growth strategy and innovative plans for offerings and service?

I know being an employer is hard work and it’s not getting any easier. Labour is the key challenge for our profession. I also know that owning a business is hard work. Between government compliance, rapidly changing marketing methods and everything in between, most business owners are scrambling to keep up with knowing everything they need to, in order to keep up with change.

Think ahead

One of the best ways to keep up, and get ahead, is to anticipate and plan. Step back. Look at what’s happening (even the less obvious things). Look to the resources you have available and build solutions proactively. I’m making it sound easy, but it’s not. But there’s no time like the present to set your sights on getting started. You’re driving the company bus. You set the GPS.

If you don’t, then who will? If not now, then when? I challenge you to answer these two questions right now.

Need help? You’ve got a great resource with Landscape Ontario’s Peer to Peer Network. Join in the conversation. Ask questions and let your peers share their experience. Together we’re all stronger and better as a community of professionals. Not a member, email signup.peer2peer@landscapeontario.com.

Do you have a topic, issue or question to ask your LO member peers?
Contact Jacki Hart at info.peertopeer@landscapeontario.com.