Time-management strategies typically pay big dividends

time-passing-hourglassTime equals money. As cliché as it sounds, this adage is grounded in fact when you’re running a business.

Time management is recognized as such an important skill that there are consultants who specialize in integrating time-management processes into companies’ operations while teaching the ability to employees.

When you’re running a landscaping business, there are deadlines aplenty, and customers can relay their dissatisfaction in a number of ways when you don’t keep to these timelines, including subtracting from the amount they plan to pay. Even if the customer isn’t affected by your company’s poor time management, it can wear on both the owner and the employees.

Here are some ways you and your crews can get the most out of each day.

Prioritize

Nothing will suck away time faster than choosing to do something of lesser importance or tending to unexpected oversights.

In order to plan properly for the day, you must be able to look at the big picture and what’s coming up. If all of your projects seem equally important, evaluate which one will result in negative consequences if not completed by a certain time.

Another factor to take into account is the value of each task to your company. Having crews treat all the yards they have scheduled that day is going to come before doing preventive maintenance on a piece of equipment you haven’t used in a few days. The internal works shouldn’t be ignored, but the customer’s needs always should be taken care of first.

“Delegate items to competent staff members by giving detailed, written instructions, coaching/mentoring them along, and hold them accountable,” says Laurence Coronis, owner of Coronis Consulting, which provides operational, management, business and leadership coaching to landscaping companies.

By delegating, other members of your business can feel empowered and valuable, while you can focus on more pressing matters.

Eliminate time-wasters

The procrastinator’s favorite phrase, “I’ll do it later,” leads to what Coronis calls the morning circus. This is when a landscaping company decides to inform crews where they are going and what they will be doing the morning of. It results in late-starts, misplaced plants or tools, and an overall bad beginning for the day.

Along with prioritizing, Coronis advises company owners to get personally involved in “pre-day prep.” At the end of each day, the manager needs to look at today and tomorrow’s assignments and paperwork. Crews should pre-load their trucks with the equipment needed for the next day’s work.

“When crews arrive the next day, the morning is efficient, with little non-billable time, but this also sets the tone for the day,” Coronis says. “It adds a sense of urgency by starting the day off ready to go and knowing what you will be working on.”

A good way to keep employees informed and mindful of upcoming projects is keeping a visible and detailed schedule for everyone to see.

“The No. 1 complaint I get from company employees when I first start consulting with them is, ‘I want to know what I’m doing tomorrow,’” Coronis says. “This shows everyone the goals of the week and how to get it done.”

Another time waster can come from potential clients. If your company offers complimentary consultations, a lot of these people are just looking for free advice and suggestions but have no intention of actually hiring you for the job.

One suggestion on how to handle this is to charge for the consultation, but if they decide to hire your team to do the job then the client gets this money back. That way you can still make money off your services if the customer ends up choosing another landscape contractor.

If you wish to keep offering free consultations, try to limit each meeting to a certain amount of time so you are free to meet with more serious clients as well.

Hold employees accountable

If your best-laid plans still go awry, you might need to start looking more closely to determine exactly where things are going wrong.

Time-management software can track non-billable time and may point out certain employees who are slacking off or are reporting late to work. While good workers may be hard to find, this tardiness cannot be tolerated.

Coronis suggests warning a late worker once, then sending them home without pay if they do it a second time. A third time should result in termination.

“This is hard to do, but I have companies that have implemented this and it changes the culture of the operations,” Coronis says. “It sends a strong message to the employees that we aren’t going to tolerate this. It actually improves attitudes and efficiency.”

If an employee is a good worker, but it seems that he is putting projects behind the predicted completion date, Coronis says that showing him the score can help bring the point home.

“Provide a scorecard on their jobsites comparing actual vs. budgeted hours with a total year-to-date variance,” Coronis says. “This should be reviewed with them at least monthly, or weekly if necessary. If they want to move up in the company or make more money, they need to be sure the projects they work on are profitable.”

However, if all the employees are failing to meet the deadlines, it could be that you are being too ambitious with your scheduling and need to make more realistic estimates.

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