How to manage indirect time in your landscaping business

Read Time

5 minutes


Eric Mann


Oct 20, 2020

How to manage indirect time in your landscaping business

Recently, Aspire Software and The Grow Group co-hosted a webinar on managing indirect time. Our host, Marty Grunder, president and CEO of The Grow Group, discussed how indirect time is managed in his landscaping company, Grunder Landscaping, as well as the companies that he consults.

While many landscapers who are newer to the industry seldom think about indirect time, the cost can quickly get out of hand and negatively affect your profitability. That’s because it’s easier to focus on direct time when you’re trying to ensure your crews stay within the budgeted hours. Indirect time is more difficult to visualize, making it one of the biggest hidden leaks in your organization. Activities that fall into the ‘indirect time’ bucket include drive time, loading and unloading vehicles, and making unscheduled stops to places such as gas stations.

So, how should you manage your indirect time? It’s impossible to completely erase indirect time; however, below are 4 key areas Marty Grunder focuses on to reduce unbillable hours.

  1. Training
  2. Loading and unloading
  3. Drive time
  4. Warranty and call-back work

While training contributes to indirect time, it is not an expense. Training is an investment. It improves the quality of your services, safety, promotes a culture of continuous improvement, and so much more. In addition, training also makes your team more efficient to help in other key areas of indirect time.

“Safety’s important and it’s a marketable attribute of your company” – Marty Grunder

When investing in training, it must be done wisely. Keeping your employees engaged through hands-on learning activities helps them learn and retain information quicker. Training is about progressively getting better over time. A half hour a week is a small-time investment that pays off in the long run as training allows your crews to be independent and dependable.

Loading and unloading

In our webinar, we asked our attendees how long it took their crews to rollout in the morning, from clock in to when they leave in their trucks. From the survey, we found that 42% attendees were able to get their crews rolling in 15 minutes or less. These are highly efficient crews that cut down on a lot of indirect time. Load times will depend on the service mix that your company offers, but a load time of under 30 minutes should be a goal for all companies.

Here are a few quick tips to conduct a smooth rollout in the morning.

    1. Stick to a strict schedule. Have a set of specific tasks to complete and create a positive routine for your crews in the morning.
    2. Have the schedule ready and visible so crews know exactly what to expect for the day.
    3. Load supplies into vehicles in a specific order so your crews can systematically pull out what is needed as they visit each job site.
    4. Ensure your team is focused on getting directly to the job site and avoiding unnecessary stops.

Altogether, this approach relies on planning the day before so your crews know what is expected when they come in every morning.

Drive time

Traffic will depend on your local area. In some locations, there won’t be much traffic, while others may suffer from perpetual traffic. That’s why it’s important to know your local traffic patterns. Perhaps you’ll need to have an early start for your crews or possibly a staggered start. Additionally, your crews should be discouraged from making any unnecessary stops. Unplanned stops at gas stations or to get food add up over time.

Technology provides many benefits, too. GPS units enable managers to identify frequent, unnecessary stops so they can quickly address any issues. Occasionally, something may come up and stops will happen, but it shouldn’t become a daily habit.

Download the Ultimate Buyer's Guide  to Landscape Business Management Software

Another way to improve drive time is by increasing and optimizing route density. The key is targeting areas in which you already work or want to work. If you’re already in one neighborhood, you’re eliminating drive time if your next few jobs are down the street instead of miles away. Whether you target through referrals, direct mail, or social media marketing, there are likely many opportunities close to locations where you’re already working.

Warranty & call-back work

Warranty and call-back work are killers. They hurt profitability in so many ways because your crews must go back to job sites to do work that you’re no longer getting paid to complete. Not only does this increase drive time but there are also costs to replace plants that may have died—and most importantly, it can hurt your relationship with your clients.

In another poll during the webinar, 41% of attendees said they did not track warranty and call-back work. For those individuals, there’s a big opportunity to improve their business. If they were to track and ultimately decrease that number, they would save a lot of money on indirect time and other call-back expenses. By tracking call-back work, leaders can become more aware of how it affects the business.

Decreasing warranty and call-backs begins with getting the job done correctly the first time. Ensure your crews have accurate and detailed work orders so they know exactly what to do on each job. Site checklists are helpful for identifying possible issues with work as well as problems with the property, such as cracked concrete. Something as simple as taking a picture of these issues can legally protect you from paying to fix damage you didn’t cause. When going through bids for potential clients, taking a methodical approach and making numerous notes about the property can save your crews time and protect your business at the same time.

In the end, make sure your clients are happy by honoring your commitments!

Indirect time costs

During the webinar, Marty provided an example of how quickly indirect time can add up in one week and the costs associated with it. While the numbers may vary from business to business, the results can be shocking:

Indirect Time Example

Indirect time quickly adds up and causes overtime. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to reduce indirect time as much as possible without cutting corners. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate indirect time, the steps to reduce it begin with identifying where improvements are needed and planning initiatives to reduce the overall lost time.

To view the full webinar “It’s About Time,” click here.

At Aspire, we understand that when you’re running a landscape company, it’s important to have the right tools for the job. That’s why we’ve developed an all-in-one, cloud-based solution with the functionality you need to keep your entire business running smoothly—and profitably. If you’re ready to take your company to the next level, contact us today!

Need help finding the right business management software? Download this helpful buyer’s guide to learn everything you need to know before selecting a solution, from initial research to final decision.

Landscape Management Software Buyer's Guide
For other tips for achieving consistent and sustainable growth, read our article, "4 Ways Landscape Scheduling Software Helps Manage Labor Costs."

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also want to read, "8 Ways Business Management Software Can Boost the Profits of Your Landscaping Business."

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