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This is the second in an updated multi-part series about the importance of business calculations and reporting in the landscape and snow industries. To read the first post in the series, visit "Do the Math, Part 1: Reporting for Accountability."

Landscape business owners have plenty of resources to manage. From ensuring you're making the right hires; determining that your business has the appropriate cash flow to operate; monitoring quality and customer satisfaction on your job sites; managing your profit & loss statement; plus making cost-effective material and equipment purchases like mulch, mowers, and more; the list of things you need to keep an eye on in your landscaping company is endless. To make money, you must manage these resources effectively. To manage your resources effectively, your reporting must be accurate and your data must be readily accessible. Landscape contractors can't afford to be in the dark about their numbers—especially now that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way all businesses operate.

You can get a better handle on your data by creating a reporting structure that starts at the top of your company (big picture) and drills down to the bottom (little picture). This reporting structure maximizes visibility and accountability in your landscaping business.

Big Picture vs. Little Picture

Big picture: Rolling Budget

  • Business KPIs (Key Productivity Indicators)
  • Functional Reports (Sales, Client, Production, Finances)

Little picture: Process Dashboards

There is a right way to do this. Let’s start with the big picture—the budget—in this post and move down the cascade in future discussions.

The budget is a working management tool that operates at the biggest picture level. Once you create it, you need to use the budget by “rolling” it monthly. This reporting process allows you to identify variances (problems) and identify/reforecast your plan and expenditures (solutions) to ensure you make the budget or make the necessary adjustments to secure your net profit.

Beginning the budgeting process

Build your budget from the bottom up: Start with net profit, add overhead expenses, and determine cost of goods (labor, materials, and subcontracts) and labor costs. Then, calculate the revenue required to get you the gross profit dollars you need. Keep this original as your standard of comparison. It is your goal. See an example of a simple condensed budget below:

Starting Budget

Rolling the budget

Rolling the budget simply means “dropping in” actual results monthly where the original budget numbers were. Then, conduct a detailed review of the variances from the original budget. You do this to identify problems and define solutions—to make sure you make the budget. See an example of the rolling budget below:

Rolling Budget

Variability vs. control

There are typically three key areas that vary in any budget year. These are overhead expenses, labor, and revenue. There are usually two numbers that really matter—those you can control in the short term: labor and revenue. I am not suggesting that overhead is not important, only that it is harder to control in the short term. You don’t budget “fat” into the overhead, and most of those expenses (rent, equipment, insurance, etc.) are fixed. This leaves only staffing cuts to reduce overhead. Ouch!

Identifying problems in the budget

When you look at this rolling budget above, is there a problem? There certainly seems to be...

Revenues are running behind—that seems pretty important. So, here are the questions: Is it possible to catch up and close the revenue gap? If so, how?

Labor may not be over budget dollar-wise, but it is over budget as a percentage of revenue. The average wage rate is higher than planned. Is it possible to bring this cost back into line? If so, how?

The answer to these questions requires a system of cascading reports that allows green industry business owners to “drill down” into the variances—because from the rolling budget view alone, it's hard to pinpoint the causes. Cascading, expandable reports provide an understanding of the source of the problem, allowing for the development of a solution. What are these reports? The first level is called Business Key Productivity Indicators (KPIs), which we'll discuss in the next blog post.

Now you have an idea how this reporting structure can help develop a sound landscaping budget for large to small businesses. You're now able to see how these reports can help you see the big and little picture, identify and solve for variances in your reporting, and make decisions that can impact your bottom line. Our upcoming blog posts in the Do the Math series are aimed at helping landscape professionals manage their labor and customers, develop a forecast, and more.

Learn how certain KPIs can help you understand variances in your budget in the next post: "Do the Math, Part 3: Landscape Business Management KPIs."

In case you missed the first part of our Do the Math series, learn more about how reporting can drive accountability in your landscape business in our first post, "Do the Math, Part 1: Reporting for Accountability."