We need to face it: The current labor shortage in the landscape and snow industry is here to stay for a while. We have a “perfect storm” of reduced foreign seasonal worker visas, increased unemployment benefits, a recession market, and wariness toward heightened infectious risk at essential service businesses. It all adds up to quite the recruiting challenge. Despite this, the good news is that many landscape and snow businesses have remained strong pandemic-to-date, and some are even experiencing booming growth. As a result, quite a few companies report their biggest challenge related to growth is not one of sales acquisition but talent acquisition.
There are, in short, three solutions to this problem. The first is to turn away work and decline growth, which obviously is unacceptable. The second is to come up with a superior talent acquisition and marketing strategy, compelling people from other industries to join the team; you exchange a temporary shortfall of industry knowledge for high professionalism and business acumen. (Whole blog series have been written on this alone!)
But there is, in fact, a third plan which is able to work with or without either of the prior two. Quite surprisingly, it might be easier to implement and more widely beneficial to the bottom line, yet it is less-discussed and less-utilized in the industry. Rather than talent acquisition, the third plan is a path of talent amplification. The short premise is this: Instead of hand-training staff in one management encounter at a time, hand-train a business management system that continuously guides your team. Because a small number of high-experience team members define the system, the rest of your staff can over-perform their experience levels with precision and confidence. While your competition struggles to retain and recruit talent, your team benefits from developing your own talent from within. This takes three key phases.
To begin, your essential systems need to be centralized. How many stories of business management frustration begin here? “Three salespeople estimated the same job three different ways.” “We’re scheduling some in a whiteboard, some in excel, and some with a program.” “I keep finding out about jobs we completed weeks ago that never got billed.” The root cause of this kind of disconnect is each team at some time needed better organization, had the good intention to “be problem solvers”, and created their way of doing things. Unfortunately, too many teams don’t know each others’ way of doing things, so it falls to centralized management to learn every team’s system – and keep them all connected by hand! You could easily fill your whole week with so many different parts of your business to oversee – and that’s if nothing broke and there was no crisis at all! Thus, the journey begins with pulling people and systems together at the table to visualize where you truly are as a team. Think of an initial doctor’s visit where a chronic problem finally receives an accurate diagnosis. You’d rather know what’s going on than not. A short while later at the follow-up when the treatment plan is working you’ll be glad you entered the journey. And yet… today there are many emotions, questions, and concerns. Centralization will likely have that same mix of feelings, and that’s okay.
From there, essential systems need to be standardized. This won’t solve that between-teams feeling of “silo mentality” just yet – and their struggling handoffs. Instead, the goal here is to reduce in-team issues, aligning those inside each silo. No double-booking the same crew for two different types of work under two managers because of two different systems. No embarrassing misses where two different prospectors ring on the same account and damage each others’ efforts. Defining one shared, standardized process per team closes quite a few gaps.
Once the systems are centralized and standardized, you are able to take the important third leap, where essential systems become synergized, guiding your whole team as far toward a “one system” environment as possible. Now the between-team symptoms of “many systems that don’t connect” begin to fade into the past. (Four common wins are “sales we closed that didn’t get scheduled”, “jobs we completed but forgot to bill”, “teams who worked jobs yet are missing payroll hours”, and “heavy manual labor to create reporting”.) In the end stages of this transition, your team can even go to digital systems to achieve a fourth and powerful advantage: systems become automated. With the right system selected, such as BOSS®, you don’t just teach your estimators to do jobs the same way; you define a centralized catalog with all your costing and production rates, and every bid made by every estimator works from the latest data – automatically – every time. Production managers are automatically notified if teams claim to have clocked in onsite at a job though their GPS position clearly shows they’re still eating lunch. Executives can be auto-alerted to issues of elevated priority. Approved timesheets auto-update your inventory levels, send hours for payroll, notify billing of completed jobs to maximize cash flow.
Adding human-error-free automation to a centralized, standardized, synergized system solves the talent acquisition problem with talent amplification, ultimately increasing your management reach and your net profit as a company.
David Rempfer shares from 13 years of profit and non-profit team leadership, is a veteran leader of multimillion landscape and snow operations, and is one of less than 300 professionals in North America to be SIMA Executive CSP certified. He now consults industry executives and leadership teams in their pursuits of business improvement and quality-of-life.