Time to recharge

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October 12, 2017 -  By

Fall and winter may mean less work in the field, but many lawn care operators use this time to get things done behind the scenes.

For lawn care operators (LCOs), fall and winter may signal a period of downtime in the field. But for many, this is when the work picks up behind the scenes, providing LCOs a chance to do the types of things there simply isn’t time for during the busy spring and summer months.

“For lawn care operators, especially those located in the north, fall and winter are good times to reset your stuff,” said Jennifer Lemcke, COO of Weed Man USA, headquartered in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. “We take this time to reset and do a full analysis of what has transpired over the year.”

jamie_breuninger

Jamie Breuninger

Jamie Breuninger, field scientist with Dow AgroSciences, agrees that LCOs should capitalize on the slower pace of the fall and winter months to prepare for the busier days ahead. He suggests that LCOs should also use this time to test new products, review service call records and cancellations to understand complaints and resolve any issues, and consider add-on services to help generate more revenue per customer per stop.

“Spring is a busy time, with the challenges of weather, getting new customers, performing time-sensitive applications, and getting employees trained,” Breuninger said. “Fall and winter are good times to make sure everything is in order.”

At Weed Man, spring is the busiest season, so Lemcke said the work put in during fall and winter is important to starting the year on the right foot. Weed Man, a $159-million franchise company, provides lawn care services to a 95 percent residential, 5 percent commercial clientele.

Jennifer Lemcke

Jennifer Lemcke

“Spring is when marketing, technical and admin all come to a head – it’s not just sections of the company that are busy, it’s the entire company,” Lemcke said. “The phones are ringing more, and people are anxious to get you on their lawn.”

Lemcke said fall is spent working on the upcoming year’s business plan. Weed Man has an open-book policy, so the company shares its numbers with top management and supervisors. The company uses customer reviews and data to determine the marketing campaigns it will run the following year to attract new customers and reach growth goals.

“We look at costs and budgets and make sure we are in line,” Lemcke said. “As we assess that, we say, ‘OK, we were either successful or not, but it’s time to turn the page and look ahead.’

“Take this time to plan and lay out your road map for the following year,” she said. “Make sure you share it with your staff and align your training so that your staff can be the best they can be. Execute and really measure and monitor where you’re going.”

Weed ManWeed Man technicians spend December through February maintaining and painting trucks and equipment to make sure everything is in working order. Marketing is in full swing, and the admin team is in “clean-up mode,” doing tasks such as organizing data and reviewing routes.

Weed Man also uses this time to reconnect with its franchisees. Lemcke said the company focuses on education and adjusts training as needed based a franchise’s performance. Most Weed Man franchisees will use this time to go to their state association shows and chapter meetings and earn new certifications and licenses.

“Fall and winter are when we can adjust,” Lemcke said. “In the heat of the season is not the time to do it – LCOs can be in over their heads and we are all in more active mode. In the fall and winter, we can be more proactive and work alongside our franchisees in a more relaxed environment.”

For Angela Reindl, vice president of Oasis Turf & Tree in Loveland, Ohio, fall is the busiest time of year, as 18 percent of her residential customer base receive aeration and overseeding. These services need to take place from late August to mid-October, which Reindl said is a “short window to complete a lot of work.” The company continues to provide aeration to another 12 percent of their customers until Thanksgiving, so Reindl utilizes the winter months to prepare for the spring season. Oasis Turf & Tree is a $5.4-million company that provides lawn care and pest control services to a 97-percent residential, 3-percent commercial clientele.

Angela-Reindl

Angela Reindl

“We definitely use this time to plan, budget and organize for the upcoming year,” she said. “We plan our spring processes using information from the prior year to improve.”

Reindl said her admin teams rework most of the company’s customer service systems to improve work flow and communication between departments.

Technicians maintain equipment, essentially rebuilding all the machines to keep them operating at optimum capacity. Reindl and her teams also plan and execute the company’s Oasis Summit, its annual company-wide team building event that takes place at the end of February. The week of the Oasis Summit also includes in-depth training for every technician who will be on staff for the upcoming season, putting the company on track to start production the following week.

“The event is full of information about how we operate and what our goals are. Each department updates the whole team on where they are, what they are improving on and what opportunities for advancement they foresee,” Reindl said. “It is the one day a year our entire team can spend together, learning, bonding and getting excited for the upcoming season.”

Images: Dow AgroSciences Turf & Ornamental; Weed Man USA

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