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Labor Management Made Easier

Hopefully you are all smiling, thinking about the great year you have had. Many of you have enjoyed double digit profits while growing 15 percent or better. A year you can be very proud of. Now we need to FOCUS on this year and set our goals even higher. Here are a few tips I have found in working exclusively with landscape companies throughout the country which will produce PROFITS.

As you all know LABOR is what it is all about. It is our biggest single expense, creates the single biggest headache and is the toughest area to manage on a day-by-day basis. A lot of this, I feel, can be eased by implementing SYSTEMS that will assist us in managing, and at the same time show the employee, in black and white, how he is performing on the job.

First of all, Budget Your Man Hours. On each maintenance project, create a budget for every function, or groups of functions, per month. This is not a small task, particularly if you do not have historical information in the same format, but it is very important. If you do not do anything else we recommend, please do this. I promise, your business will run smoother when you track and report to the field Man Hours. To insure this is accomplished we first need to design a Daily Time Sheet that allows the Foreman to not only record the project he was on but also the time he spent there and the particular function he preformed.

The implementation of management systems will help show your employees how they are performing on the job. Simple tasks like budgeting man hours can help keep expenses to a minimum. Photo courtesy of Hellenmyery Nurseries, Lexington, Ky.

Next, this Time Sheet is submitted to the Office the following morning. The office now has two functions relative to the Time Sheet. First, input the hours each man worked for payroll. Second, input the total man hours spent on each project. That's it, and it really does not take all that much time. Mattingly Consulting has the entire Microsoft Excel System which includes all of the above, available and ready to use.

Many of my clients actually report Man Hours on a weekly basis. If Man Hours are tracked, you will have accountability and you will be focused on the biggest expense in our industry.

As for Landscape Installation, the minimum we suggest is a total budget of all hours on the job. With this we can now monitor the hours spent and report to the field the hours he has left to complete the job. Both reporting systems can be administered on an "Microsoft Excel" spreadsheet, which your computer now has, and does not include any special or expensive Software and does not appreciably increase the office workload.

Daily time sheets allow the foreman to record the project he was on and the time he spent there, including the particular function they performed. Keeping track of hours spent at a job site can give managers the ability to report back to the foreman with how many hours they have left to complete the job. To follow up on the man-hour reports, visit the job site on a regular basis. Above photo courtesy of Groundmasters, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio. Bottom photo courtesy of Ultimate Services, Wolcott, Conn.

Speaking of Software, I find that most of you use QuickBooks and this, or any other financial software teamed up with an "Excel" system is quite adequate and will enable you to become a $5 million company easily. On the other hand, I find that we are not taking full advantage of QuickBooks and its capability and most of us need additional, special training. Some of us use a Chart of Accounts that our Accountant created, who does not know our Industry. Your Chart of Accounts needs to be built around the Industry and the method we use to estimate. If you have more than one "Division", your Chart should separate both the Income and all the expenses associated with that particular Division. This is not only critical but it is also very detailed and needs to be accurate. I recommend you obtain assistance in the form of seminars and/or help from someone who knows our Industry inside and out. I am here to help, if you so desire.

Review your Management Information Systems. We need information that is clear, concise, timely and accurate for our Foremen, Supervisors, Managers and Owners.

Foremen need to know weekly how many hours they spent last week compared to the number of hours budgeted. In addition, if you have a Quality Judging system, they need that information quickly. A "Judging System" is a program that requires preferably the owner, to visit the maintenance sites on a regular basis and Judge the Quality. He/she would then fill out the form and "rate" the quality in various categories such as Turf, Pruning, Weeds, etc. A total score is calculated based on the value of each, such as 92 percent and we now have a measurable, quantitative score that informs the foreman as to not only what his overall score is, but also exactly what the deficiencies were on the site. I guarantee you, this will bring your Quality up to the standards you desire.

Supervisors/Account Managers need information relative to Man Hours year-to-date, Sales, Gross Profits, various expenses and the Income From Operations that was generated last month and year-to-date compared to the budget.

Owners, of course, want to see all the expenses and particularly their PROFITS for last month and year-to-date as well as year-over-year. All of this information needs to be timely and accurate. Again, a lot of this can be created easily via the "Microsoft Excel" program and your financial software.

All of this will greatly assist you in the management of your labor. You can develop these systems yourself and/or obtain assistance from others such as myself. If needed, send your people to seminars during this slow time of the year. It will be the best investment you can make. The main message I want to emphasize is that you need to provide hourly and financial "Score Cards" to all, as mentioned above. Please commit to implementing such a program within the next 30 to 60 days. It will enable you to grow faster and generate more profit with greater ease. Remember, if we estimate properly and manage the HOURS, we will make PROFITS!!!

Another tip, guard your cash. The phrase, "Cash is King" is never more important than during tough times. Use it wisely to maintain your current operations. Invest money wisely for the future, which might very well include hiring good, new employees.

And lastly, eliminate the valueless items. Now is the time to cull the reports that never lead to action, dump all the old non-operable equipment in storage, etc. Ruthlessly eliminate anything wasteful. This includes trimming (humanely) your people – even very good ones – whose skills or interest will not add value to your company’s future. Tough decisions.

Jack Mattingly is a consultant for landscape contractors and specializes in operations review, labor efficiencies and training programs. To contact Mattingly Consulting, call (770) 517-9476 or visit their Web site


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February 26, 2020, 9:42 pm PDT

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