How do you manage operational adjustments between seasons? For some, the slowdown in off-seasons means focusing on optimizing management. For others, it can mean simply trying to break even until the return of the busy season.
→ Just because business slows down doesn’t mean you should ease up on your growth goals.
Though it may feel like an eternity away, the busy season is always closer than you think—sparse schedules allow high-growth businesses to stay ahead of the rush with strategic business decisions.
Informed decision-making helps businesses build momentum in the off-season
There are many ways to position yourself for success ahead of the busy season. The key to maximizing your opportunities starts with reporting.
Your key performance indicator reporting is your guide to handling your return to a busy schedule.
Without organized data, you limit your growth opportunities and ability to optimize operations before the season begins. It’s not as simple as checking numbers and inventory, though.
To set your path to success up early, you need to invest in a deep dive into your data for insightful business intelligence. Here are five strategies you need to know.
How does metric reporting make a difference?
Everyone knows the importance of reporting to understand their business, but not everyone uses reporting to their advantage.
→ Evolving your company comes down to how deeply you’re able to dive into your analytics.
Making the proper evaluations before the busy season can place you in a strategic position of success. But you have to understand how to maximize your data and derive the correct insights.
Your reporting tool affects your ability to grow
Just skimming Excel spreadsheets to evaluate finances and inventory or assess your annual business growth is a reactive approach to your data and an inefficient one at that.
High-growth landscaping companies use their data proactively with advanced data visualizations. They leverage reporting to fuel growth and keep ahead of their competitors.
When assessing your data to prepare for the new season, there are a few elements you need to evaluate:
- Win rates
- Customer satisfaction
- Operational data
- Overhead expenses
Getting these insights can be challenging, but all lead to greater profits, busier schedules, and optimized services.
The benefits of visual reporting for landscape businesses include:
- Reading between the margins
- Winning new clients
- Understanding customer satisfaction
- Reducing costs
- Measuring projections
1. Reading between the margins
Margins are huge decision-makers for landscaping companies trying to decide how to expand or scale down during the shifting business seasons.
Becoming a master of your margins is paramount to your ability to plan for changing seasons, especially when that new season brings in a new world of opportunities.
First, you need to start with the basics.
It’s a significant concern if most of your jobs barely drive revenue.
When margins barely break even or achieve only a slim profit percentage, it’s a sign that your business isn’t built for a bustling calendar.
Start with understanding what’s limiting profits:
- Where are you overspending and why?
- Do you lack efficiency in processes, so they slow down your operations and ability to manage your offerings?
- Do your crews need better training to improve the time spent on jobs?
- Is your current service load too heavy for your company to afford your offerings?
Evaluate these questions and get to the root of the issue. Don’t get so set on providing certain services that you can’t pivot when they begin to compromise your bottom line.
Consider saving services with narrow margins for bigger properties or jobs so large you can tag them with a flat rate that ensures your established profit margin.
Next, strategize in the off-season:
The best part of conducting data analysis early is you can prepare and adjust your business processes ahead of time. You can utilize the slowdown season to:
- Better train employees
- Optimize operations
- Develop relationships with vendors to get better pricing on supplies
Whatever the adjustment, be precise and efficient with your decision. You want to get things right before the new season begins, and customers are lining up for a service you can’t afford to offer in bulk.
Build a lasting foundation for growth by optimizing your schedule around these starting aspects of your business. Maximize each one to continue working toward the next growth stage.
2. Winning new clients
In sports, organizations use their win rates to define how well their team was set for success in the previous season. This data collection helps them understand how much change needs to be made to increase success in the upcoming season.
The same could be said in landscaping, but the logic works differently. Wins for landscape contractors can be defined by the amount of business you win throughout the year.
→ Your wins column should also be defined by the repeat business you generate.
By this metric, your loss rate should also consider the number of customers you can’t re-up for another job.
Finding the key to high win rates
Your win-loss record can reveal a lot if you do the proper work during the off-season. Just like a sports coach studies film from previous games, you need to analyze multiple data sources to determine what aids your wins and contributes to your losses.
If you can correctly read your organization’s KPIs, you can optimize your team for future success.
Start with the common factors across your wins or losses:
If new sales center on a particular offering, it must be your flagship service. If most of your losses come from a new branch or district, you might be outmatched by a competitor in that market or lack regional knowledge to convince new clients you understand their needs.
Making impactful strategic decisions requires a holistic examination of win-loss data, such as:
- Consider who's taking the lead on new job bids. When wins come from veteran leaders and losses from your younger crews, there is a significant gap in training that needs addressing.
- Do your teams have the resources to provide new customers with knowledgeable sales pitches?
- Do you need to provide better sales resources to compensate for a lack of experience?
- Evaluate one-time jobs that didn’t amount to return business. Turning new clients into regulars is a powerful way to improve profitability and growth.
- Analyze the most common jobs among one-time clients, investigate job performances that don’t result in return customers, to figure out what’s holding your business back.
As a business owner, identifying the make-or-break points in both sales and repeat business opportunities may feel time-consuming initially, but building momentum to the next growth stage is crucial.
Strategize in the off-season:
When was the last time you watched your employees present their sales pitch? Workshopping and training everyone to close deals are integral to a business.
As an experienced leader, closing may be second nature, but future leaders in your organization can always use practice and feedback to keep their pitches compelling.
If you generate lots of leads but your employees struggle to close deals, the issue may be your marketing. Without the right resources, sales may not be able to convince clients of the quality of your services. There are a few ways to confirm your marketing backs up the skill of your field crew:
- Review testimonials
- Invest in your online presence
- Create new materials to spread brand awareness
Beyond that, invest in operational resources that improve employee efficiency in the field. Consider a prospect’s biggest questions during the pitch and the responses that might make the difference in their decision to purchase.
Prepare your employees with the following:
- Quick estimate tools
- Scheduling availability
- Costs of different services specific to their property
Offseason data collection may include asking leaders where they get caught up during a pitch and what is limiting their ability to close. Invest in management tools, resources, and training to empower your sales team to improve their ability to close.
3. Customer satisfaction
During a win rate data analysis, you should dive into your customer satisfaction, which can be hard to measure.
Sure, winning new or repeat jobs is a good indicator of satisfied customers, but it doesn’t paint the complete picture.
Your regular customers trust you and are familiar with your business practice. That’s not to be cynical, but familiarity breeds comfort.
→ Your regular clients might love your business, but it might not reflect the perception of new customers.
Consider the last time you got a review from a new customer.
- Do you get positive reviews often?
- Are you encouraging new customers to leave honest reviews?
Negative or positive, reviews can tell you a lot about what’s working well or holding you back. As a business leader, you need a complete understanding of these aspects.
The customer is always right
Start with your customer reviews:
Customers can be brutally honest, meaning your reviews are a reliable source of truth. Even satisfied customers will still have something to say about improvements.
→ Don’t focus on the number of stars or rankings in reviews.
Instead, look at the messages:
- What stands out to you?
- What comes up often?
- What raises concerns?
Even if your reviews are highly positive, focus on why to use that as your strategic positioning to win new clients.
Then, consider your performance. If you have negative reviews, don’t assume the customer was having a bad day and needed to take it out on their keyboard. Review that job with all the stakeholders, from crew leads to account owners and operations. When customers aren’t satisfied, evaluate if the performance aligns with their review.
Strategize in the off-season:
First, ask yourself how you’re generating reviews. People often don’t feel the need to speak until something truly draws emotion out of them. Being contented rarely makes people feel the need to speak up. In contrast, discontent is an easy trigger for someone to let their opinion be heard.
If you’re only waiting for testimonials to come to you, then you’re limiting your business in a major way. You need to generate feedback even if you’re not asking for public reviews.
- Customer surveys
- Discounts for reviews
- Satisfaction rankings
- Social media comments and tags
- Feedback forms
Make these feedback-generating strategies a standard part of your business functions so that every job leaves an opportunity for feedback.
- If you receive poor feedback, use that to evolve.
- If you acquire great feedback, see if the customer would be willing to give a full testimonial for marketing to your target audience.
Take advantage of every opportunity, and use your customers to help you generate real-time insights you can’t find elsewhere.
4. Reducing costs
Cost reduction is a year-round mission for every landscaping business, but you don’t want to be playing catch-up on this goal during the busy season.
→ Value defines how much you should be willing to invest in certain aspects of your business. For example, scattered jobs can cause transportation costs to cut into profits, so it might be time to invest in more efficient routing. Or, if a difficult property is causing excessive wear and tear on your equipment, the upkeep costs may not be worth the value.
Build an understanding of value by measuring performances through:
- Profit margins
- Win rates
- Customer satisfaction
These are just a few examples, but you can easily create an extensive list for your organization. Not everything will present immediate value, nor will it show a red flag–at least not at first.
→ Just because something is low value doesn’t mean there is an immediate need to eliminate it.
You can make small changes that build momentum to affect your overall costs. This is why analyzing overhead expenses is such an important factor in your slowdown.
Don’t let overhead weigh you down
It can be hard to see how smaller factors combine to burden your overall bottom line. The off-season presents the perfect opportunity to get a full scope of your expenses and adjust before business accelerates.
→ Your reporting and data visualizations need to be on-point and up-to-date year-round.
If you’re waiting until the off-season to get your numbers in order, you’re simply wasting an opportunity and placing your company in a bad position.
Start with your reporting:
If it takes too long to get the information you need, your reporting is falling short of real-time data to help you actualize growth during the busy time of the year.
Data shouldn’t be scattered. You need a trusted source of truth readily available to your decision-makers.
→ Invest in a management software tool that provides transparency and visibility to evaluate data at a moment’s notice accurately.
When your reporting is not only tracked year-round but collected and automated, data analysis becomes less of a challenge and a much simpler task. Then you can begin digging into every aspect of your costs, from labor costs to supplies and equipment maintenance.
Here are some optimizations to look out for:
- Leverage bulk ordering to purchase materials and supplies wholesale
- Optimize job schedules to minimize travel times and reduce transportation costs
- Reduce maintenance costs by eliminating equipment that’s not used properly
- Streamline job prep to cut down on wasted employee time
- Cut out high-cost services and those that aren’t often requested
- Switch to contractors for unique job opportunities that your business doesn’t tackle frequently
Strategize in the off-season:
Start with the easy cutbacks.
- Supply costs
- Employee churn
- Overspending on equipment
- Consolidate funding on scattered resources
Make your goal to chain together cutbacks. Cutting back on supplies and equipment can lead you to redefine services for better profits. Start looking at where you’re spending. Consider:
- Exploring new vendors
- Seeking off-season deals to stock up before the busy season
- Partnerships to avoid overspending on hiring crews you’ll need to churn when work slows down
Consider every option, and never be afraid to pivot as you grow. If you’re overspending on equipment you don’t currently utilize, find a way to increase your services to maximize usage of that item better.
Once your profits increase, you can invest in these bigger expenses if they make sense for your business growth.
You also need to see where additional costs are coming from as you consider ways to enhance your offerings in the new season. The goal is always to find a way to beat the competition. It can be a considerable advantage within your market if you can afford the transition to a new service.
5. Measuring projections
After fully diving through your reporting, you should have a full picture of how last season went and begin forecasting for the new season.
→ Forecasting is key to how your company will evolve.
If you can anticipate what business might look like when it picks up, you can prepare appropriately to meet or exceed projections.
Once you review the previous season, you should start formulating your forecasts. You want to see growth year-by-year, so hopefully, your projections reflect this.
If your projections aren’t showing this growth, that’s a sign of greater concern.
The amount—or lack—of growth your business experiences is a critical input for busy season decision-making. Again, the goal is to get proactive, not settle for reactive.
Start with evaluating year-by-year reviews:
When you look back over the past year and beyond, ask yourself:
- Has growth been increasing, decreasing, or slowly building?
- Do your graphs look like a roller coaster?
- What happened that year to contribute to your growth momentum–good or bad?
- What can you focus on to capitalize on the factors aiding your growth?
- How can you eliminate the factors stifling growth?
Strategize in the off-season:
As you build out your projections, pay keen attention to the services you’ll focus on in the upcoming year.
→ Identify the offerings that drive the most business and that you expect to remain a mainstay of your business.
Consider the complementary services you can build on as your top sellers continue to drive business. If you can prepare your sales team early for upselling strategies, you’ll dramatically increase their chances of success.
More importantly, your projections should guide your investments. If you see a projected uptick in particular jobs, then prepare accordingly and look for opportunities to save on costs as you do.
Assess whether or not it’s time to upgrade or expand a service, particularly if it fuels most of your business, by:
- Building on it
- Specializing in it
- Using that to take over new markets
As you build momentum with services that drive revenue, you’ll put your business in an ideal situation to win clients from your competitors.
Centralized reporting gives you the information to decide whether upgrading and expanding services is possible. If done correctly, you can advertise the service to attract new customers.
Success starts with data
While these strategies revolve around preparing for the busy seasons of the year, the truth is they’re a year-round task.
Your data starts on day zero, so your strategies also need to. You need your data to be:
You don’t want to spend the down season waiting for and organizing reporting to be able to analyze insights.
→ A comprehensive management platform is crucial to your growth.
The right software will consolidate your data into one accessible and transparent hub, where your team can analyze and evaluate as needed–keeping management decisions proactive year-round.
Aspire’s cloud-based landscape business software provides all the management tools your company needs to maximize operations during any season:
- Estimating templates and pricing kits
- Scheduling calendar
- Accounting integrations
- Invoicing capabilities
Aspire provides transparency into how your business operates and achieves results. That kind of visibility is paramount to optimizing data to:
- Enhance efficiencies
- Improve operations
- Increase profits
Cloud-based software means you can remain responsive and adaptable to data on the fly, so you never miss an opportunity to win big.
Want to experience software designed to help landscapers achieve growth at twice the industry rate? Schedule a landscaping business software demonstration with Aspire and see how you can take your profits to the next level.