Lawn Care Customer Referral Ideas

Lawn Care Customer Referral Ideas: Two actionable ways to win more landscape clients

Watch the video to learn why you must…

1) Thank them to re-enforce behavior.  If you want more referrals from your lawn care, landscape and irrigation clients you must do more than ask for the referral.

2) Give customers a reason to refer you.  Asking for a referral isn’t good enough.  Most clients want to refer your lawn company but won’t.  People refer because it makes them feel good.  Not solely because they want to help you.  We all subconsciously recommend other companies  for our own selfish reasons.  How can you give your clients a reason and way to refer your business that at the same time makes them look good?

 

 

Video Transcript

Jonathan, you must deal with referrals a lot. Do you have any thoughts on referral sale?

Jonathan: I have a thought. I have a lot. We can probably talk about this for the rest of the time, but referrals for me is not the most … I’m speaking from experience here and data that I know in my own business. When I say my own business, I’m referring to the lawn care company. For us, referrals is our highest conversion, has our highest conversion rate or closing percentage, to use your words. For us, it runs in a low 90% range year after year. There is nothing in our business with a higher conversion rate than a referral. We do actually, in some of our referrals, we do encounter some expense, so they’re not free to us like a lot of people will get their referrals free, but not for us, because for every referral, we’re sending out a thank you card and a gift card to a local restaurant through the person that gave the referral.

I really believe in referrals, not our number one lead source but it’s our best conversion, so really actively try to get our clients or encourage our clients when they make the referral to really … We give them something. We give them gifts. We say thank you. We go out of our way because we’re encouraging behavior. We’re trying to train behavior. We want them to give us another referral. This is one, if I was picking three top things that I was doing and I was starting over today, referrals would be one that I’d focus on.

The reason I said we can talk about this for a long time is we’ve actually built an entire strategy around referrals, where what we do is we give our clients a gift card to give to their friends. That’s why referrals aren’t completely free to us. Our clients … We give our client a free gift card, like you would think of going to the store and buying a gift card to Best Buy. They give that gift card to their friends, and then those friends a lot of times will hang it on their fridge because it’s got value to it and they won’t throw it out, and someday down the road, they’ll redeem that gift card with our company when they need service. We have an opportunity to show off what we’re able to do and the level of our customer service, and they become a client.

There’s this huge strategy we’ve built around it. I think it’s got to be one of the top three things that a company focuses on when they’re building out the business.

Tom: I couldn’t agree with you more, but one important thing that you said there is it requires a strategy, and you always will take referral leads and referral sales just by doing what you do, but if you do implement some strategy where you can put together a plan and a program and really make it happen, I’m in total agreement. You will make a lot of sales by pushing that referral.

Direct Mail Advice for Lawn Care Business Owners

Direct Mail is a key component to maximizing profits.  Watch this video for Direct Mail Advice.

Video Transcript

Tom: I’m going to speak to direct mail for a couple of minutes because it really does have a place in your marketing plan, and I think when we talk about the most successful or the source that will drive the most sales, direct mail can do that for you but you have to be careful with it because it can get very expensive and you’re kind of taking a risk with doing it.

It wasn’t that long ago where many lawn care service companies, and I’m talking mostly fertilization and some of the big companies, Truegreen and Scotts, their main source of sales came from direct mail, after telemarketing was let go how ever many years ago, it seems like forever now. When managers switched away from telemarketing to direct mail, they just pumped millions and millions of dollars into direct mail and it’s not always the most cost efficient means to make sales, but there’s absolutely a place for it, and somebody was asking about statistics in regards to direct mail.

Let me throw a couple of things out there and see what you guys think. Direct mail, you can typically expect a less than 1% response rate. When you send out a direct mail piece, 10,000, 100,000 or even, in some of the bigger companies, 1 million pieces. I remember one year at Lawn Dawg, we sent out 500,000 direct mail pieces and we got a spring northeastern. We got a snowstorm that wasn’t forecasted. It literally, I mean it was devastating. It was a lot of money to put into direct mail. That’s what I’m talking about in regards to the risk, but you should only expect about a 1% return from it, and basically, what you’re doing is you’re generating estimates.

You should be able to close those estimates at a pretty high rate, and I think at this particular plan, you’ve get them in at 62%. If we were going to generate 200 direct mail leads, we’re going to expect 124 sales from that. That’s a fairly high amount as a percent to what we’re doing from this entire plan, but it’s going to cost a few bucks to do that. Jonathan, have you had any experience with direct mail or what are you feelings on that in today’s day and age?

Jonathan: I think there’s a move away from direct mail because the web is so incredibly, it can be so successful for so many companies and it’s perceived to be near free, though it’s not really. I see direct mail as an awesome opportunity. I still love direct mail, but you nailed it. You nailed it on several fronts. There are guys who don’t even get a 1% return. Quick example, you’ve got to be very aware of your market. For example, if you’re mailing to a residential, if you’re mailing to a street where two out of every 10 people in that street are even a potential buyer of the service you’re selling, you’re mailing out an awful lot of marketing pieces that have zero chance of getting a return. Only two out of 10 even have a chance of even having a person in response.

The very first question to direct mail is, “Am I targeting exactly the right areas with the highest propensity to buy, the highest potential?” If you don’t, you returns could be 1/4 of 1%. They could be a disaster. You nailed it on the snow. I mean if it’s raining on the day the direct mail gets delivered or it’s overcast, it kills returns. There’s all these variables in direct mail that will just kill you. You can mail the same piece to the same area and you get a 2% return, and you mail it again three weeks later and you get 1/8 of 1% return and why, it’s hard to explain sometimes.

That doesn’t mean you don’t do it. I think the guys that do it are going to win in the long term. Tom, here’s how I look at direct mail. I think the web is it. I spend a lot of money on the web, and a lot of guys are shocked when they come to find out what it take to get good SEO ranking. It really does cost a lot of money, but it’s the best money you could spend, but the best way to grow your company from a profit standpoint is with direct mail, and here’s why.

This is my opinion of course, but my strategy, my belief is you spent a whole lot of money to get yourself out there on the web so that people are coming to you, so I’m using a residential example again, and they’re finding in you land on one street because you sell a client there, and then you land on another street a few miles away, and then you land on another street a few miles away from that, and if you only rely on the web, you have a business that’s scattered across your service market. All the money’s in density, and most guys hate residential, especially on the lawnmowing side because they don’t think there’s any money in it, but there’s a ton of money in it when you’re dense.

Direct mail is how you get dense. You can’t get dense just using the web, so the web drives where you land, and then when you land on that street, you go in to own that street and you own it through direct mail, and that’s why I’m a huge believer in direct mail. In the streets that the web drives you to and you land on those streets, to have a very low chance of many people in that street being a buyer of your service, you don’t direct mail to that street. You know your market and you only direct mail to the streets with the highest percentage of potential buyers and the strategy is you go in to own those streets and you do it direct mail.

That’s my belief and that’s why I so believe in direct mail, and yes it is expensive. It is a more expensive sale, but it’s the best sale because it leads to the most profit because you build density.

Tom: Yeah, and you know what, you’re nailing it, man and I can tell by the questions that are coming in here, density is absolutely the most important part of profitability, and when it comes to lawnmowing especially, if you can park that truck and do six lawns, that’s as good as having a 50,000 square foot property and plus, it’s going to be much more profitable. One of our branches in Portland at Lawn Dawg years ago, we had 750 customers in just one zip code, and the guy would literally just go and park his truck and treat like 15 lawns at a time. They were tiny little 3,000 square foot lawns, but he did 40 lawns before 1:00 in the afternoon, and it was by far the most profitable route.

People are asking questions, interesting that the way you talked about SEO or trying to generate leads on the web, and how direct mail does have a place in your marketing campaign, but many people are asking about that United States Postal Service ever do a direct mail option, and they really do reduce the cost of it, but I’m not a huge fan of it because it doesn’t allow you target the way a good list does. I think the importance of having a good list far outweighs, and it’s going to cost a little bit more, but I think instead of just blanketing certain carrier routes, if you can really drill down where you want to make the sales and where you want to mail those pieces, that’s about how you build density. That’s how you improve your profitability.

Jonathan: Yeah, can I make a quick comment there, Tom?

Tom: Yeah, go for it.

Jonathan: I think this is really, what you brought up something I think is worth just an extra minute on, because it is the difference maker in a profitable marketing strategy, and I’m going to give an exaggerated example, but if you use this mindset in thinking about marketing and especially direct mail, it will help. I’ll give you an example. Let’s again use residential example. You’re out and you’re doing estimates and you’re meeting with clients, and this is again a very exaggerated example, and you have all these clients and you go out there and you meet with them, and you walk away from the property and think, “I like that guy. Every time I meet with him, he’s a great guy. He’s a great customer.” You just keep having these little experiences.

One day you notice, and again this is a silly example, but one day you notice, “You know what, that guy that I just liked. He lives in about a $400,000 house and he’s got a BMW in the garage.” Then a week later, you’re like, “Oh, that guy, his house is about 400 and what do you know, he’s got a BMW in the garage.” What you start to do is you start to see these trends and you’re like, “You know, the guys I tend to like, they tend to be entrepreneurs, doctors, chiropractors, some kind of professional, who tend to live in about a $400,000 house.” What do you know, they tend to drive a BWM, and then you go to your mailing list company and you say, “Hey, I want to buy a list of everybody in my city that lives in a house between $350,000 and $450,000 that has a BMW and so on and so forth.”

Now, that’s a little more expensive list to buy. You’re going to spend some money to buy that list. It’s not free, but now you’re mailing to a group of people that the entire demographic probably has close to 100% chance of being your buyer, instead of mailing to a street where two out of every 10 people or three out every 10 people might be your buyer. What you’ve done is you’ve shifted some of your expense. If you’re spending 28 cents a piece to get bulk mail and post cards out the door, now you spend several pennies per name to buy the name, but you’ve immediately eliminated thousands of pieces that you would have sent that were a complete waste because you weren’t mailing to a specific list.

Exaggerated example, but that’s the mindset in direct mail, how can you narrow the market you’re focusing on and only get mail to the people that are your most likely buyers.

Tom: It’s almost as if you and I conspired about what to talk about during this and I want [crosstalk]

Jonathan: We didn’t.

Tom: We’re doing this on the fly, but what’s happening is, I think I wanted to happen is that we hit on specific things that literally make the biggest difference to implementing a marketing plan. Let’s stay on this for a minute because I think we need to actually take that exaggerated example that you gave of the BMW, but bring it down to a realistic point of view. In my opinion, a list is huge. Yes, it is more inexpensive to do that than if you do a direct mail. You can blanket as much as you want. Bulk mail is an option, but I’ve always been a firm believer in that if you can identify who your best prospects are, you’re going to increase your closing percentage drastically, or even your response.

If you’re getting a 3/4 of 1% direct mail response, by increasing the validity or the quality of your list, you can get 1% or even higher than 1% response, and when you’re talking about the numbers we’re dealing with direct mail, that’s a make or break 1/4 of 1%. I think that the BMW again is perfect, but when you get right down to it, you want to deal with a couple of parameters in regards to your list. You want to only deal with single-family dwelling units. If we’re talking about residential here, you want to clean out the condos, you want to clean out the apartments. You want to get rid of the renters. You want to deal with single-family dwelling units only and you want to use two things as your main cutoff with who you want to mail something to. It has to be home value and income level.

Most of these companies can actually take it beyond that, and you’re absolutely right, man. You can get lists based on specific interests, whether the people like to play golf, what kind of car they drive, whether they have a vacation home, kids, everything. In our case, if you’re trying to sell organic lawn care, whether or not somebody has children is a big deal, right? If you can specify that in your list, it’s very important, but I think it’s different in different types of the country, but you want home value and income level to be the two main things. I don’t know if you want to speak to that at all, Jonathan, but I think it’s important that we let you guys know that the list is a big deal.

Jonathan: Yeah, I’m going to second that with one little comment, and that is that’s not that expensive a list to buy. The common list is the one with the home value, the age, a few demographic pieces of information. For example, the age of the person. That’s a very common list to be able to get a hold of, so it’s not a lot. It’s not very expensive. When you go and add my exaggerated example of the BMW to it, that gets more expensive because now, you’re matching up multiple lists, so it ups the price. Tom, the list you’re talking about, it’s a very affordable, doable list and I’d add one little thing that I just learned over the years. Part of building your company is about building your company with clients you like, and clients that you like doing business with that pay you on time.

You don’t want to build your business around a company you hate because you’re dealing with a bunch of people that drive you crazy, and years ago, I spent $200, had this huge wall map of my market made. This was back when I was still working the phones at City Turf in the early days, hung this thing up on my wall and every time I got off the phone, I put a push pin in the wall for a lead and I put a different push pin in the wall for a sale. The thing that happened was I realized that in my market, there was this one section in my entire market that was about a 1/2 mile by 1 mile and that’s where all our best customers were. They would buy anything we want to sell. They weren’t million dollar homes. They were in $275,000 to $450,000 homes and just that little activity clued us in where we wanted to be, and then we bought, Tom a list exactly like what you just described.

We used that and we thought we bought that list in that area. That, so add to what you just said, what kind of homes, how old are they, now the next question is in what area, and you can get even more refined in just the zip code. That’s how we’ve done exactly Tom what you described many, many times, it’s a very successful, very affordable approach.

How To Decide: Should I Fire an Employee and Hire a New One?

Hard time trying to figure out if you should fire an employee?  This video provides pointers to help you think through your difficult decision.

Video Transcript

The gist of this question is, “How do I decide if I should keep a current employee (or fire an employee) that is now going to cost me quite a bit more money versus hiring a new employee?” The real question is this, I’m going to read the question and I’ll put it on the screen so you can read the back story if you’re interested. The question is, one mowing crew last year, me and a weed whipper. This winter I bought a second vehicle and planned to promote my weed whipper to run the second truck as a two man crew and I’d run solo until I reach capacity to hire a helper in my truck. This employee that was going to take over the second truck lost his license which is now going to cost the owner, Cory some additional money as in $600 to help that guy reinstate his driver’s license, plus he needs personal car insurance to make it to work. Then he also is going to increase the cost of their commercial insurance at the company.

He’s going to have in a new expense on this employee over and above last year $4,050. Now, one idea would be to just go hire somebody new and based on what he thinks he’d have to pay this new person. His cost would go up $3,600 over and above the amount he was paying this employee last year. I’m sure that was a bit confusing. The takeaway is that the old employee is going to cost $450 a year extra versus hiring a new employee. The question is, “Should he go ahead and hire a new employee or should he retain the current one? What kind of cost are around training and labor?” Kind of a long question here, but it’s a good one because it could be applied to all kinds of different scenarios.

My opinion on this, my very first thought is, first and foremost, you have to ask yourself, “What is the very best situation?” What is the very best solution for the business? The dilemma as a business owner, especially dealing with employees is you’re caught up with the emotional aspect of this guy screwed up, he’s going to cost me money. This guy screwed up, he did this. This guy screwed up so he doesn’t deserve this. I’m giving him a break and he really needs to learn a lesson here. There’s all these things with a voice that can come to mind about why they should or shouldn’t get something or you should or shouldn’t do something for them that are all emotional based.

If you can look at it in this scenario as an outsider, it’s easier for me to answer the question, “What for you is the absolute best thing for your business?” Your small business, it’s you, and a crew and you’re not trying to take a big step towards two crews, that’s a big deal. What could derail you from adding this second truck? Exactly this, if you don’t have anybody to run it then you go one more year with only one truck. You’ve delayed your big jump for it by year and if you’ve listened to any number of my videos, you know that I believe on the absolute most important things in business is getting out of the field, and being the guy that runs the business not the guy that works in the business.

This could delay you maybe a year. I don’t know the answer to that. In my mind, if the answer is, there’s any chance that by replacing this proven guy that you like and trust that can absolute take over this second truck with somebody that’s unproven that you have no history with that could potentially leave you in four weeks and you really don’t know how good they are yet, and it’s only going to cost you let’s call it $500 extra a year to keep this other guy, I’d keep the other guy. At least with him, you somewhat have a proven thing. You know you have a track record. Also, I’m inferring that he’s put himself into a predicament here that may make him a little more difficult to hire with other employers.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty that will hire him because everybody needs labor, but it’s going to make a little bit more challenging for him. My opinion here is you make the best decision for the business. It sounds to me the best decision for the business is to keep the guy you have because you like and trust him. A lot of people do make mistakes so one thing you do have to ask yourself though is, “Is he going to do something that could jeopardize your business?” I don’t know what the reason here is for the drivers license loss, but is there a track record or something you need to be concerned about where he could do something dangerous driving your vehicle? Or is this an example of poor behavior on his part that is a lifestyle problem that you can’t fix that you’re somewhat ignoring because he’s a good employee?

I don’t know that any of that’s the case, but ask yourself that, “Are you ignoring anything that has been bothering you that you think this guy could eventually wreck my truck. He could crash into somebody, he could do something crazy, or there’s something.” I don’t know that there is but think about that. If there’s nothing like that or whatever is gone on here isn’t something you think is going to resurface and be a problem again. It’s only going to cost you $500 extra dollars to keep this guy so that you can expand to a second truck this year which is critical. I think you do that. Now, on a side note, how can you have this guy, have a little skin in the game?

For example, he screwed it all up and somebody, if you let him go, he’s got to immediately go find other employment and he still got this problem. Is there a scenario here where you don’t pay for all of this rather what you do is you take some amount of it out of his check and he pays you back. Off the cuff, what if you even gave him a dollar an hour raise and then you deducted some portion of that that was him paying you back or basically you had to deal that, “Hey, I’m going to give you a dollar an hour raise you’re becoming a driver or I’m going to give you a $2 an hour raise you’re becoming a driver, I’m giving you more authority in the company. I really see you as a key part of the company.”

What we’re going to do is, I’m basically out of pocket $2,760 helping you out. I’d like to have you pay me back 75% of that. I’m going to give you this extra bump. I’m going to take you from 12 bucks to $14 an hour. What we’re going to do is I’m going to continue giving you the $12 and applying $2 to payoff this debt. You might have him payoff the full $2,700 debt, you may have him payoff 50%, 70% of it, but something you’re paying this money anyway. What I think we’ve concluded possibly is that you want to keep this guy. If you’re paying the money, how can you spend this? Can you say, “Hey, I tell you what, here’s what we’re going to do, I’m going to give you a raise.”

That further locks him in. That gives him more motivation. He seems potential of the company. He’s taking on more authority, he makes more money. You really don’t have any additional money out of pocket because you have only two options here. Either you pay the entire bill yourself or you pay the entire bill yourself and get repaid some portion. By giving him a bump and then not actually giving him any of the additional money using that money to have him pay you back. It creates sort of a win-win scenario. It was going to be throwaway money anyway. Now you’re at least increasing his salary and making him feel better. If you want to, you’re teaching him a lesson here. I feel that if this guy is going to eventually run a truck and be that critical, you’re going to eventually want to pay him more anyway and lock him in.

You don’t want him to leave you even next year if he’s really as good as I perceived you’re saying yes. Consider that as a possibility. But the takeaway here is that when we’re making employee decisions, we have to make employee decisions that are best for the company. Sometimes we have bad employees that we absolutely cannot let go now for whatever reason, but we’ll be able to in the future. Strategically, we keep them for just a little bit longer. That does happen. That’s an absolute consideration. You cannot get emotional about this stuff and make a rush decision which you’re clearly not. Those rush employee decisions are what often hinder businesses and guys wake up one day and they think the whole world’s against them and they’re so unlucky that their business hasn’t grown and what reality is it’s the compounding of lots of little poor decisions or emotional decisions.

We need to be, as business owners as best we can we need to look at our business from a business perspective and keep as much emotion out of it as possible. Good luck.

 

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Is Irrigation Business Inventory Management Necessary?

Irrigation Business Inventory management often makes sense for large companies.

But, is it necessary for smaller irrigation and sprinkler repair companies?

 

Video Transcript

The question is, do you think it is necessary for me to keep up with the inventory of my irrigation parts?

This individual is wondering if they need to put in place an inventory management system.  There is software that manages inventory such as QuickBooks.  Intuit’s QuickBooks program can perform basic inventory tracking functionality.

My general take on that inventory management for small sprinkler repair companies is generally not necessary as it over complicates the business.

A lot of the reason for that opinion is just seeing what goes on within our own business.  Likewise, through Service Autopilot because we have so many clients in the industry, what I’ve seen with most companies that manage inventory or implement an inventory management system is they end up making tons of adjusting entires and get very little in the way of hard data from their inventory management system.

For example, something happens, the inventory is off by some amount. Nobody knows exactly why so they make an adjusting entry.

A little time goes, inventory’s off again. They talk to the tech, tech’s, “Okay, I don’t know, I guess I used it on a job.” You like the tech, you trust the tech. What do you do? You don’t make him pay for the inventory. You don’t fire him. You make an adjusting entry. More often than not, what I see is a lot of companies just making tons of adjusting entries and therefore, the inventory management is near worthless because you’re not using it to measure anything. You’re not using it to penalize anybody or it’s not giving you the information to know if anybody is stealing from you because you never still never know, so you make adjusting entries. You may have hunches but you can’t prove them and you don’t want to fire that guy because he’s really important. That’s one side of it.

The second side of it, it’s so easy to get caught up in all the little stuff in the business. Irrigations are great example. There’s so many T’s and elbows and there’s so many things involved. How in the world can you possibly track all that stuff? If you want to track inventory, then what I would essentially say is instead of having a whole inventory management system, why not have some type of a system within your office or your yard or your warehousing that protects the high dollar stuff and when it’s needed in a job, you deviate it out. You just keep the higher dollar stuff locked up somewhere. You’ve got a bunch of controllers or whatever it is that you have that’s high dollar in terms of inventory equipment parts. You keep that in a locker, you keep that locked up, you keep it in a warehouse and then you deviate that out when the job calls for it. That’s one angle.

What is the point of inventory management if you don’t hold someone accountable.  If you don’t make business decisions with the resulting reports.  

My opinion is inventory tracking and inventory management is good but few companies have the time to execute properly so it is an unnecessary expense and time distraction.

Instead of an inventory management system from a software standpoint, it’s more of a physical inventory system, because it’s so easy to think about, “I’m going to optimize this, that and the other of my business.” Then let’s say that you have a loss of $3,000 a year in inventory parts, but now you take on this new project or let’s call it $5,000 and now you take on this new project and it takes $5,000 or $6,000 of your time or the employees that you’re paying $18 an hour, now every week it’s taking an extra hour of their time, 50 weeks of the year times five employees plus your time. So it’s just one more thing for you to think about and obsess over and it takes mentalist capacity. My takeaway, my point is, I generally think it’s not worth maintaining an inventory system especially for smaller companies, instead put in some different types of procedures to protect the inventory but know you’re going to have some loss and try as long as you can to avoid having to put a whole big technology system in place for it.

 

How To Handle The Coming Minimum Wage Increase and Other Business Challenges?

Scared of the minimum wage increase?

Scared of Obamacare?

Scared of the many business challenges you don’t yet know about?

Fear not… Learn how to handle the never ending business challenges that will drive your weaker competitors under.

 

Video Transcript

This question is similar to one I’ve answered about Obamacare and my opinion on it and will it harm the economy and business and such. If you’re interested in that answer, I’d watch my video on Obamacare. This one is more specific to when things like Obamacare happen or when minimum wage has increased or when new regulations are passed down that the business owner has to absorb, how do we handle that? How do we deal with it as business owners?

The two examples are Obamacare, that’s a current event, and the potential for a minimum wage hike. If you use H2B visa labor, then you’re dealing with this type of stuff right now and you understand that there can be a hike in wages, not even related to minimum wage, but because you’re using H2B visa. The question is “How do I handle this as a business owner?”

Here’s the way I think you think about this. You hear about something like Obamacare and it frustrates you possibly or you could think this is awesome. I mean it just depends on where you stand on this legislation and on the politics of all of this. Even if you’re in love with say Obamacare, you’re in love with the idea of minimum wage increases, it does affect your business and you’ve got to deal with it. If you are in up in arms about it, your job as a business owner is to keep a cool head and your job is to think about, “Okay, here’s what’s coming. How do I deal with this? What effect will it have? How do we react? What will my competitors have to do versus what will I have to do maybe based on size?” Obamacare is a great example, the 50 plus employee rule.

You have to consider these things. If you’re going to get mad and upset and it’s going to derail you and it’s going to suck all the life out of you and all the energy out of you and you’re going to take it home and take it out on your family, it does nobody any good, and especially you. It doesn’t help you make wise decisions. It doesn’t help change anything. It is what it is. You can do nothing about it. I know some people won’t like that I just said that, but let’s just say, I mean, you’re not going to actually change Obamacare at the end of the day. You might have voted in the election, but outside of that, there’s not much you can do.

As the business owner now, you know what you’re dealing with. It’s coming. Minimum wage might come. I don’t know. Maybe it increase well or won’t. I don’t know. My job as the owner is to, yes, maybe I’m frustrated, maybe I’m disappointed, maybe I think, “Gosh, I don’t think is the best direction for the country,” or whatever the case may be, but now, it is what it is. I have to deal with it.

How do you handle it? Well, you get the facts. You don’t just get the facts form listening to talk radio. You don’t just get the facts from Drudge Report or CNN, that’s headline news. Know that all news is now created based on some person that gets commission or paid based on how many times that thing gets clipped on in red. The more sensational they can make it, the more dramatic and fear-based they can make it, the more money they’re probably going to make because that’s human psychology and that’s what works. You got to ignore that junk and you got to be realistic.

I’m not putting down any of the news sources that I just referred to, but whether it’s a conservation news source or a highly liberal news source, at the end of the day, the guys were all getting paid for who reads their stuff. They want you to read it, and so they make it as sensational and fear-based as absolutely possible. Then it’s easy to get caught up in that stuff. As the business owner, you got to disconnect from that and you’ve got to think logically and say, “Okay, Obamacare is going to happen. Okay, what does that mean? What are the real facts?”

Go to your account and go to your lawyer. If you’re with ADP, go to ADP. Get real opinions. You can read Forbes, and I like Forbes. You can read Drudge. You can read CNN. You can read Money. You can read these different articles, but you have to be careful because some of it is nothing but sensational information, some of it is overblown. Some of it’s editorial emotion-based writing and not factual-based writing. You’ve got to decide for that. When you get the facts, now you make a business decision. You say, “Okay, when is this really going to happen?” At one point, we had to consider Obamacare because it was going to have a huge impact on our business; we had to start thinking about it.

A year before Obamacare was to go in place, I talked to ADP, I talked to our accountant, I talked to several other people that knew what they were doing, and if I remember correctly, even legal advise. I talked to several people. Now, ultimately Obamacare got delayed, which was fabulous for us. It bought us some more time, but it just kicked the ball down the road. We’re going to have to deal with this. We got our ducks in a row.

Now, we were presented all kinds of options. You could try to get involved in some insurance program so that you’d be grandfathered in, but there were so many unknowns, there are so many questions that people couldn’t answer that we chose not to take any dramatic action and take a wait and see attitude, but we were prepared. We had the facts. That’s what I believe you do as a business owner. You get ready and you start making the changes so that when it happens, you’re not shocked. That’s what we did. When it got delayed, it got delayed, but we had a plan of action had it not been delayed.

I think that’s how you have to think about it. You have to think logically, calmly, get the emotion out of it. You’re making a business decision. You are a business owner charged with solving problems. You need to do it with a cool head and you need to be rational about it. What is best for the business given where we’re at today? Get the facts. Make a decision. Make your changes.

If minimum wage hike comes, same exact thing. You just deal with it. You say, “Okay, what’s that mean? What do we have to do with the payroll company? Do I need any legal advice? Do I need any accounting advice? How am I going to educate my employees on this?” The great thing about a minimum wage hike is that it affects everybody unlike say Obamacare. It’s going to affect all of your competitors just as it affects you.

Now, what happens if we all have to raise wages, who ultimately pays the bill? Not us. Our customer pays the bill. They have to pay the bill. Otherwise, we’re a charity service who are making no money. That’s our … we take, we figure out what the pile of cost is going to be and we say, “Here’s our cost. I want to make this much profit,” and I say, “Therefore, that’s what I need to charge you, Mr. Customer.” That’s what we do as business owners. If the profits are going to shrink and the costs are going to go up, we have a couple of choices. We can eat it and burn all of our financial resources and eventually go out of business or we can pass the cost back to the client, back to the customer.

Minimum wage, Obamacare, they get passed back to the customer. The challenge is that some of your competitors will pass it back tomorrow whereas others that aren’t on top of their numbers will pass it back in a year and yet others will go under as they run up their line of credits and don’t know why they’re not making any money. The challenges that you’re dealing with all kinds of competitors that are not savvy and don’t get this stuff will ultimately run themselves out of business.

Your charge is to be savvy. Understand your numbers; pass it back to the client. You have to educate your client. You have to tell them why, but you do have a challenge here, and that you have to balance things like this with how fast will your competitors react because you don’t want to be the guy that suddenly makes a huge price hike while the rest of your competition doesn’t. If you’re going to do it, you better do a great job educating your clients why. That’s one of the big challenges here is coordination and that requires planning and thought and getting your facts together and then being ready.

Ultimately, all of this gets passed back to the client. If you’re Amazon.com, minimum wage affects you, Obamacare affects you. If you’re Starbucks, it affects you. Now, Starbucks already offered health insurance. If you’re Target, if you’re McDonald’s, if you’re the city paving roads, it all affects you and it will all get passed back. At the end of the day, the consumer will pay for all of this. We, as business owners, will pass it back. It’s not all on us to absorb it. You can’t absorb all of this stuff. It’s an impossibility. If you do, if you’re going to absorb everything that’s going to come your way over the next 10 years, you might as well shut down your business now because you will make zero money. You will lose money.

Know that you are not going to absorb this. You are going to creatively figure out how to educate your clients and pass the cost on to them. Everybody will pass the cost on them. Do you think Jeff Bezos at Amazon is going to say, “Well, crap, Amazon is just not … we’re going to lose more money now, we’re just going to eat all this.” No. He’s going to figure out how to pass it on. Do you think Microsoft, do you think any of these corporations, Jack in the Box just says, “Ugh, now that’s a bummer. We’re just going to no longer make money.” No, they will figure out how to pass it on.

Planning, education, understanding, these are the things you need to do. If you think about it that way with a cool head and some time and some perspective, you’ll work it out. That’s how I think you solve these problems and you work through them. Good luck.

Will Obamacare Hurt My Lawn Care Business?

Watch this video if you are asking yourself “Will Obamacare Hurt My Landscape Business”?

Video Transcript

I receive the Obamacare question fairly frequently. What’s my opinion on Obamacare? Do I think Obamacare is going to hurt the lawn care industry? Do I think it’s going to hurt business in general?

I’m going to give you my opinion.

It’s a controversial one, but I’m going to give it to you. I’m going to tell you how you should think about this. The question usually comes in two forms. One, I’m thinking about getting into the business, but I’m afraid to start. I’m looking at Obamacare and what it might do to my business or I’m in the business and I’m thinking, “Maybe it’s time to sell. There’s so much government regulation. I don’t like the way things are going. Obamacare scares me.” I get these question in several different ways.

First, my opinion, probably a water down opinion. Then second, what I think or better said how I think you need to be thinking about this. My opinion is that I’m disappointed with Obamacare. That’s the nicest way I can say it. The biggest reason why I’m disappointed with Obama Care is because I don’t think it’s legislated fairly. I can go into other reasons, but let me just pick on this one. I’m going to give you my opinion, but there is something you need to stick with this video to hear. The reason I’m disappointed with the way it’s legislated, forget whether or not I think it should have ever been enacted. The reason I’m disappointed is because in my opinion, it’s very unfair.

What’s happened is that many very large corporations have been given wavers to basically opt out of it in some form, or there’s been so much government law being that so many people that are needed to support the system now don’t have to participate in it and they did that so they could get it passed. But let’s think about it on a smaller level for us. Obama Care only kicks in with 50 plus employees, and there’s some penalties involved and I can’t remember all the details exactly, but there’s something around 35 employees. My point is that even if you’re over 50 employees from the best of my recollection that you don’t really pay the 50, the penalty on all 50 employees if you don’t pay for it and you have over 50 employees, meaning you don’t pay for health insurance. You’re paying of some number of those 50 employees and then those over.

That’s not what we’re here to talk about. My point is that, why is it that if you grow a business and you do everything it takes to get to that point and you sacrifice and invest and take all the risk, when you get to 50 employees you’re treated differently than everybody else? To me that is extremely unfair and it does, I do believe, keep some guys from wanting to cross over 50 but not quite at the level that so many blogs and articles and radio guys say. For example, if I’m at 40 employees, it’s not stopping me from going to 70. There’s no way. I’m not going to look and say, “I’m stopping my business. I’m done growing. This is good enough.” You’re not going to do that.

Generally, I think the entrepreneurial spirit, the reason you got out of bed and started a company and took all the risk is, you’re in this for more than money. You’re in this for the challenge. You’re in this because you’re going to do something great. You’re in this for so many other reasons. You don’t just hit the magical wall and say, “I’m done. This is good enough.” I don’t believe that. I think it’s a little overblown and that companies will just magically stop at 50 employees. Now, we’re not done. Companies are going to consider this so I hope I’m not stating this incorrectly to construe that I think this is no big this, because I think it is a big deal. I think it’s really bad that companies that are over 50 employees are penalized. I think the law would work far better if it was uniform if you have a thousand employees, 50 employees, two employees, we all work under the same guidelines, then we’re playing in the same ballpark.

When I hit 50 employees, I don’t suddenly have a tremendous amount of cost that my competitors at 40 don’t have. That seems very wrong, and that’s the most troubling part about it. There’s other things that trouble me about it. That’s my take on it. I’m not against helping other people. I’m not against charity. I’m not against any of that stuff. I just have different opinions on how it should be done. I realized that I may be turning you off with my opinion here. Let me talk about what the bigger issue is whether you think it’s right or wrong, it will, without question add layer of cost to your company. Whether you agree or disagree with the law, it will add cost to your company.

I think there’s a bigger mindset here. The deal is, you’re going to be hit as a business owner with all kinds of stuff. This Obama Care is just one of many things. If you’d been around in business 20 years ago, lots of stuff has changed. If you are going to be around in business 20 years from now, lots of things are going to change. You’re going to get hit with this and that. I can’t predict it. My job as a business owner is to solve problems. My job as a business owner is to react. My job as a business owner is to figure out how to make my business work regardless of taxes, regardless of legislation, regardless of economic events, regardless of employment. That’s my job. If I’m not willing to do that, then I shouldn’t be a business owner. If I’m willing to do that, I’m going to make money.

One other thing to think about here or many things to think about is, if a whole bunch of your competitors are going to run around with the same attitude and say, “New legislation, new taxes, new Obama Care stuff,” and we could all disagree with it. But if they’re going to take that too and you’re going to say, “I’m out. I’m done. I’m not going to do it. I got to quit the game. I’m not going to enter the market.” Good news for you. There’s less people, less price pressure. If you’re willing to play the game and you’re willing to figure it out and go through the pain and solve the problem, be creative about it, then you will get the rewards. The more of your competitors that bell out of the market, all the better for you.

I would also ask you if you’re a new business owner or thinking about starting and this is going to keep you from doing it, which you’d rather go work for somebody else that also has to comply with Obama Care. For example, if you think Obama Care is going to destroy your company, then are you going to go work for somebody else’s company that it’s going to also destroy? Because now you have zero control. Least if you’re going to go work … If all companies are going to be destroyed by Obama Care, you might as well at least be in control and run your own. I’m being dramatic, but the logic is, I’m going to shut down my business because Obama Care is going to end the world and I’m going to go get another job. Then, what’s different about their company versus your company? It makes no sense to me.

Your job, your charge, your responsibilities as business owner is to fix it, figure it out. What are we as business owners? We are guys that put out fires and solve problems and create processes to get around future potential problems. We are problem solvers. If you want to be a high paid employee and you don’t want the responsibility of building a business or you want to be a really high-paid sales person, what’s your job? At the end of the day your job is to solve problems. The guys that solve problems make all the money. Nobody promotes the guy to make $300,000 a year doing the easy job. They promote the guy to make $300,000 a year that can solve big problems that everyday deals with big problems. That’s your job. Your job as I’ve said three times, put out fires, solve problems, figure it out.

Obama Care is not going to hurt you. It’s not going to end you. It may reduce profits, but people are going to figure it out. You’re going to figure it out. I’m going to figure it out. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s another challenge. Yes it’s one more thing. We’re going to figure it out. We’re going to get passed it and we’re going to make a bunch of money as business owners. Last thing I’ll say, one of my favorite … I wasn’t around making money in the 70′s. I don’t know the 70′s and I think it was the 70′s that tax rates were super high, like the highest tax rate was 80% or something insane. What’s our highest tax bracket today? It’s not 80%. I’m not paying anywhere near 80% in taxes, federal income taxes. I remember listening years ago to a guy named, Jim Roan who I really like.

If you never heard of Jim Roan, he’s like a Tony Robins and Ziglar kind of guy. He was one of the early guys. He’s somebody I resonate with. I remember listening to one of his tapes and he’s talking about the fact that you’ve basically got to have a plan, you’ve got to have … He uses a great word for it, but it’s like a road map for your life, for your business and he talks about all the excuses that people make. I can’t do this because of that. I can’t do this because of this or that. He talks about how much and how high taxes were in the 70′s as compared to probably in the 80′s or 90′s when he recorded this tape. Taxes had gone way down. My point, my takeaway is we’re going to have problems. Our tax rate is so much lower than it used to be a long time ago.

Yeah it’s higher then when Bush was a president but it’s so much lower than what, when Jimmy Carter was a president. We’ve all survived. We’ve all thrived. We’ve all made a lot of money because what are we? We’re entrepreneurs, we figure it out. If you’re not going to go into business because of that, huge mistake. You should do it. If you’re going to close your business and sell it because of Obama Care, it doesn’t make any sense to me. Figure it out. If you’re going to stop growing because of it, I don’t get it. Because if you’re not growing, your business is going backwards and you’re shrinking and you’re not becoming better. You’re not going to make more money. You’re going to slowly fade away and disappear. Consider one more challenge in life, figure it out, and you will do fine. Good luck.

 

What Are Your Favorite Magazines (& Lawn Care Trade Publications)?

Full List of Lawn Care Trade Publications
plus my two favorite business magazines

Business Magazines: Inc Magazine & Forbes

List of Green Industry Trade Journals:
http://www.lawnandlandscape.com/
http://landscapemanagement.net/
Green Industry Pro Magazine (http://www.greenindustrypros.com/)
http://www.grounds-mag.com
Total Landscape Care Magazine
Fabric Architecture Magazine
www.SIMA.org
Snow Business Magazine
http://www.turfmagazine.com/
http://www.treeservicesmagazine.com/

 

How To Raise Prices Without Making Your Lawn Care Customers Mad

Has it been years since you took a price increase with your lawn care and landscape maintenance customers?

In This Video Learn The 4 Keys to ‘How To Raise Prices’…

1. What is the best way to raise your lawn care prices?

2. How to raise prices without losing customers?

3. Strategy to increase prices without making your lawn care clients mad.

Video Transcript

The question is, how do I tell a client that I need to raise the price? How do I tell them that I need to charge more for the spring clean-up or for the initial mowing? How do I explain it to them without them getting mad? And so, the way you do this is you think about a couple things, and I’m going to give you the four things to consider, the four things to do.

First, remember how much or how little you knew when you got started. You think about this business every single day. When you wake up, you’re thinking about it. When you go to sleep, you’re thinking about it. You live it seven days a week. You think about it constantly. But when you first got started, two years ago, five years ago, whatever it was, remember how little you knew, how little you knew about the business, how little you knew about the industry. Now think about how little your client knows. If this is something you think about every day, it’s so easy to assume that they just get it or they know or they understand. They don’t think about any of this stuff that you deal with.

Now why did I say all of that? Why did I spend the first minute saying that? That’s because that’s the key to everything when it comes to explaining to a client why you need to charge more. They don’t know your business. They don’t understand it. They don’t know the costs involved. They don’t know the challenges involved. As far as they’re concerned, if you’re in the lawn-mowing business, anybody can get a mower out and mow a lawn. If you’re in irrigation, how hard could that be? They guy screws a head on there. Irrigation’s a little more mysterious, but if it’s tree-trimming, all he’s got to do is get up there and cut that limb off.

Basically, that’s how a lot of people think. They have no comprehension of what goes into this. They don’t understand all the costs behind the scenes, what it costs you to just get the truck to their house. So, when you say, “I need to charge this,” that means nothing to them. They don’t know why you arrived at that number. You know why, and so here’s how you’ve got to think about raising prices or explaining to a client.

First, you’ve got to educate your clients. You’ve got to tell them some of this stuff. That’s why I said for the first couple minutes here that you know so much and they know so little. It’s all about education. If you want to sell something, it’s about education. If you want to raise a price, you’ve got to educate them on why: Why is to their advantage? Why does it matter? Why are you doing this? You need to tell them that. Education is key. They know very little. You know a lot. You forgot how much you know.

You need to teach them a little bit about what you know so that why or when you ask for something, it’s meaningful. They understand. “Oh, I get this. I understand why he needs to raise the price. Oh, I see why it takes four extra hours to do this thing. I didn’t know.” A lot of times when we assume they’re going to get upset and they wouldn’t let us raise the price, if we explain to them, oftentimes we’ll find out people aren’t upset. They get it: “Oh, yeah, I get it.” Because they work, they have jobs, they do things, they understand when things take a lot of time. So, education is key.

Second, you’ve just got to be honest. I think that’s the absolute best approach in business in general. Lay out your case. Be honest. If you screw it up, say, “Hey, we screwed up.” If you’re running behind, tell them why. Be honest. If you try to cover it, if you try to make stuff up, your team sees you doing that. Then they do it. If you are dishonest with your clients, your people will be dishonest, and then you will be a dishonest company. Your company, your people mimic you. You need to be honest. Your need to be forthright. Tell people the truth.

When I say be honest, it’s not always being honest about a screw-up or mistake. Sometimes it’s just being honest and saying, “Look, the reason we’ve got to raise the price is we thought it was going to take three hours. It takes five. For the last four times we’ve been eating it, but I’ve got to tell you we’re losing money every time we’re out here. We really love working with you. I really want to keep you as a client, but is there any way you can help me work on this? We need to make a price adjustment for this to make sense.” I’m not saying say it that way, but it’s that kind of an attitude of just tell them the truth. Tell them them exactly what’s going on. Explain your case. Educate them. Be honest about the situation and then propose a solution. You’ll be surprised how often that it will work out for you.

I sort of already said this one: explain it. That’s part of being honest. Just lay out your case. Tell them what’s up. Tell them why. Explain exactly why you’re asking for more money. It’s not because, “My wife and I decided we want to buy a Ferrari, and we figured out that if we charge every customer two extra dollars, we could do it.” You tell them the truth. “Look, we’re not making a ton more profit here. The reason we’re doing this is gas prices have gone up. The reason we’re doing this is because now that you’re having us mow the backyard, it costs us more time and money. The reason is because we originally came out and looked at your irrigation system and there was only one zone, but that was broken. Now when we come back, you have a second zone that’s no longer working. We didn’t anticipate this. We need to charge extra.” You can think about the use case. It’s all about explanation, education, and honestly explaining what’s up.

Finally, when you’re doing a massive price increase across a lot of clients, test it. Let’s say you have three hundred clients you want to raise the price on. You don’t just go out and raise the price on three hundred clients. You call up a couple clients and you explain your case: education, honesty, and explanation. You say, “Here’s what’s up.” If all three clients say, “I’m going to cancel,” you’ve got a problem. You don’t want to go to four hundred clients. If all three clients say, “Cool. I get it. No problem,” go to all four hundred clients. If one client says, “Wait a second. Why now are you raising my price, because you just raised prices last year, and I can go down the street and get somebody else?” You know you hear their complaints, their concerns, and then the second person voices a couple concerns. You take those concerns, and then you go approach three more clients and tell them, “I need to raise the price,” but now you know how to answer the concerns when you’re talking about why you’re raising the price. If you’re writing a letter, you can address the concerns you heard in the letter telling your clients why you’re raising the price.

These are your four take-aways when you consider adjusting price, when you consider making a change. When you do this, especially when you test it and try it, it’s not so intimidating. It’s not so hard. Your clients will be far more understanding than you think they’ll be. Just remember, it all starts with explaining to them and educating them on the things you know that they couldn’t possibly know.

Good luck.

 

Lawn Care Software Reviews

In this video about Lawn Care Software Reviews I name every landscape software provider serving the lawn care industry and give details.

 

Video Transcript

I receive a lot of questions through my ‘Lawn Care Millionaire’ blog about “Who is the best software provider?”, “Who should I use?”, “What software systems exist?”, and so I’d like to answer that for you. A lot of users search Google for Lawn Care Software Reviews trying to figure out who all the lawn care software providers are.  In this video I provide a full list.

First, many people don’t realize that I own a software company. I’m a partner in ‘Service Autopilot’, so we are one of these companies. We are a software provider.

Now, knowing that, I’m going to try to do my best to be somewhat unbiased but obviously I think Service Autopilot is the best system out there.

I’m going to be frank.

I’m going to tell you exactly who the lawn care software companies are that we compete with.

I’m going to name every single landscape software company I am aware of, and then I’m going to give you a little bit of detail about each one of those companies.

This is not a blatant plug for Service Autopilot, the feedback I’m giving is from my perspective, of course, after several thousand calls over the last four years. I’ve learned a lot about our lawn software competitors and who they are, and so I’m just simply going to state that.

Now, before I do that, why would I even be willing to do this?

Because obviously, I am trying to sell Service Autopilot.  Maybe I should want to hide our software competitor list from you?

Maybe I don’t want you to know who my competitors are or maybe I don’t want you to know what their good points are and their bad points are, actually, I probably want you to know what their bad points are but not their good points.

Why?

The reason is, if you look at us, we sell Service Autopilot as a membership, and you have a 30-day money back guarantee, and you can cancel at any time. The way we look at this is, we know what we’re building. We know where we’re going, we know what we have, and we feel that if we’re not the right fit for you, we really don’t want you to sign up today. I’d rather work with you in a year, because then, in a year, I can keep you as a client, whereas if you start today and we’re not the right company, you’re going to think we suck, you’re going to think we’re no good, you’re going to think we don’t know what we’re doing because we’re missing some feature or something that you’ve got to have, and then you’re going to have that impression forever and you’ll never try us again later.

Even worse, you’re going to tell everybody that we’re no good, or you’re going to go on lawn site and you’re going to say, “These are certainly no good. They don’t have the faintest idea of what they’re doing.” My challenge as an owner of a software company and the challenge of everybody I’m about to mention is that this is a big industry. It’s one of the biggest industries. Sometimes, I’ll have somebody in Service Autopilot, they’ll say to me, “How can you not have this feature? How could you possibly not have the report?” in almost in the tone that, “Are you guys completely incompetent and clueless?”

I argue I’m not incompetent. I think I know what’s going on. I’m not just a software guy. I have a clue about the industry. The challenge is that this is a big diverse industry. There’s tree care and irrigation and lawn care and maintenance, and there’s commercial versus residential, there’s a little guy that’s doing 50,000 a year versus a big guy that’s doing $25 million a year.

Everybody has different needs. Everybody has different priorities. It’s different in the northeast versus in the south. It’s different in California versus Florida. Some guys do prepaid letters, other guys think you’re insane to do prepaid letters. Some people give an estimate for everything and renew the estimate and the contract every year, other people think contracts are insanity. Some people auto charge credit cards, some people bill every 30 days. Some people do chemical tracking, some people think it’s a waste of time.

Some people think inventory and irrigation is “You got to have it”. Other people think, “That’s a giant waste of time. All you’ll do is make adjusting entries.” Everybody has an opinion. Everybody runs their business different. It’s my challenge, it’s everybody’s challenge up here.

Know that going into this, you have to look for what is the right solution for you. I’m not the right solution for everybody. Nobody up here is the right solution for everybody. It’s a massive market. We all fill up a need. We all fit into a space. Let me tell you what I’ve learned over the last several years about my competition. I hope that ultimately, I’m your solution down the road. If not, that’s fine. It’s fine.

There’s plenty. That’s the way I look at it. I’m not worried about it. Here’s what I know. Let me first tell you, who is it that you might want to take a look at if you’re going to fully evaluate and do a competitive analysis on everybody? Here we are, Service Autopilot. That’s me. Again, not just me, I have a whole team behind me and I have an incredibly awesome business partner by the name of John, so it’s not just me.

Clip, QXpress, Jobber … Let me do it this way. Boss, Real Green, HindSite, PestPac, EverGreen … I think I have that right. I spelled it wrong. No, I believe. I don’t know. I can’t remember how they spell their name. I don’t see these guys very often. ArborGold, Grounds Keeper, Gopher, LawnPro, LawnAid, DynaSCAPE. I know I forgot somebody. I know there’s somebody else.

I’m going to first tell you after thousands of conversations, and let me tell you that I’ve talked to some massive companies that are too big for us, I mean, the biggest of the biggest. I’ve also talked to some guys that don’t even have a business, they’re about to get started, so I’ve truly had all the conversations. I’ve heard about all the systems. Let me first go down the list and tell you who I think the major players are based on what I’ve learned.

I think we are a major player. There’s no doubt we’re a major player now. Clip is a major player. They’ve been around forever. QXpress is a major player. I get the impression that they were one of the most dominant systems, and I’ll tell you more about them. Jobber is coming, I think. Real Green for sure a major player. ArborGold is the major player from what I can tell in the tree care industry.

Those are probably the big ones. If you’re a pest control, PestPac is a big player. There’s another competing PestPac, I can’t remember. I think it’s Service Pro I think is a big competitor of PestPac. It would be between those two guys in the pest control world in my opinion. I could be wrong on that.

I preface … I’m not going to say it again. I hope this preface everything. Everything is my opinion. This is what I think is the case from what I’ve learned over the last several years. In HindSite, I see them quite a bit too, but I named the major players. The companies we hear about the most are Clip and QXpress for sure, and then when we’re dealing with tree companies, it’s ArborGold. Those are the big ones.

If you’re a little bitty company getting started, we hear about Grounds Keeper and Gopher. Those are the two that most of the small guys come from, these two systems or have used or asked questions about. Gopher is a system that from the best I can tell hasn’t been updated in six or seven years, and there’s virtually no support around the system, but a lot of guys start there because it’s super cheap, and so we see a lot of guys on Gopher.

This is basically the competition. Let me go through a few things that I think are key points and then differentiate a few of these companies. DynaSCAPE is going to be the strong player for landscape. That’s really where they fit in my opinion in the landscape market. LawnAid is a little bitty online software program. LawnPro is a little bitty online software program. Gopher is very old desktop program. Grounds Keeper is an old desktop program. ArborGold is a really old tree software program in Microsoft Access. I think they might be trying to do …

I think they might be doing some new things on the web. EverGreen and PestPac are related. They’re both owned by a company named ‘Marathon Data’. QXpress is owned by the same company that owns these guys, ‘Marathon Data’. Marathon Data has at one point was … I may get my facts wrong, held under another company and that was recently sold off. This Marathon Data Company is owned by a different group now.

QXpress, PestPac and EverGreen are all related. If you’ve ever heard of ServiceCEO, it just does not fit in this industry. Those four systems are all related together. QXpress in my opinion was the system for the maintenance guys. I’m sure that Clip would disagree with me because Clip has a lot of clients, but QXpress from my perspective was the one that I saw a lot for maintenance, and Clip has a ton of clients from what I understand or has in the past. I don’t know where anybody stands today.

QXpress was sold I believe in 2010 to this company, ‘Marathon Data’, and the owner of that company has since moved on to start another software company. QXpress, I’ve been pretty fond of. The QXpress and Service Autopilot I believe have by far the best sync when it comes to QuickBooks. No question about it. I don’t think anybody else is in the realm of either of Service Autopilot or QXpress when it comes to sync.

QXpress just historically has been known, [inaudible 00:08:58] a one way sync, but they’ve been historically known as a solid one way sync, and they do a great job. I mean, they really do a very good job. They were desktop software, started I believe as a college project maybe by the owner, and they did a great job. Great product in my opinion.

HindSite was irrigation software that I believe they’re serving the whole industry. Real Green, I pigeonholed them into the guys doing fertilization and weed control. They tend to attract bigger companies because they’re an expensive product, and they sell you forms and marketing. They’re really … I feel their essence is they’re a marketing company, they sell you the forms, and they’re not cheap. They’re not cheap and they cater to you lawn care, fertilization and weed control guys. Again, they don’t generally have startups from my perspective, they have bigger companies.

Boss? Don’t know a lot about Boss, but Boss is a company from my understanding with few clients but very, very, very big clients and they’re very expensive. I envision them as very custom. We don’t see Boss very often. Again, very small number of clients but very, very big clients. I perceive … right or wrong, I perceive they tend to attract commercial maintenance companies.

Jobber guys, they’re really catering to the smaller client, the smaller guy, the smaller business, so not a bigger company but the smaller guy. Clips, they’ve just flat out been around forever. They have from my understanding a very diverse client base of maintenance of landscape, irrigation, lawn care … They have really served the industry for a very, very long time and serve a lot of clients, and a lot of clients in all different segments of the industry.

From what I’ve heard, my perception just going into details here, I’ve heard the ArborGold folks are super nice people. I have the perception that they are. HindSite, I get the impression these are good people over at HindSite, and I’ve met the Jobber guys. I know the Jobber guys are good people. I’m the guy that used QXpress years ago. I was actually a QXpress client years ago before Service Autopilot existed or I even thought there would ever be a Service Autopilot.

Service Autopilot came out of the fact that I looked at all these solutions and used QXpress for a while and thought, “I just could never get my company to the level I need. I need one system that can do everything,” and I just didn’t have it. I looked at NetSuite, I looked at [Salesforce 00:11:33], I looked at all these high dollar systems outside of the industry and said, “There’s no way they’ll work from a scheduling standpoint.”

I looked at the guys that own PestPac, EverGreen and QXpress. I looked at ServiceCEO … There just wasn’t any chance I could make them work for my business and the industry. That’s how Service Autopilot spark happened is we didn’t see anything. If QXpress had been built into something really awesome, which it was a good product, Service Autopilot would not exist today.

If  Real Green had been a full business system not just for lawn care, then Service Autopilot would not exist today. That was a spark that  created Service Autopilot just to be completely upfront. I think of Real Green and QXpress as being really good systems. I think the Jobber guys are doing some nice stuff but they’re catering to the really small business and they’re good guys.

That’s my basic take on most of these. If you want a web-based solution, you’ve got to look at Service Autopilot, Jobber … I got to preface, if LawnAid and LawnPro are online systems but they’re tiny little systems. They’re not Jobber and they’re not Service Autopilot. Again, I’m sure I’m offending some people here, but that’s my perspective after thousands of conversations, and I would argue that I’m pretty clued-in on what’s going on.

Pretty much everybody else is an older desktop-based system, older technology. The guys that strike me as  that I’ve just been around forever are the Real Green, the Clip, the ArborGolds, Gopher and Grounds Keeper. I think of those as the five systems that have just been around forever. To reiterate, if you’re looking for online software, Service Autopilot, Jobber and then after that, if you’re a little little bitty, LawnPro and LawnAid would be considerations.

Honestly, if you’re not going to consider Service Autopilot, if we’re just not a fit, and we are a fit for smaller companies, but if you’re not going to consider Service Autopilot and you’re looking for a little bitty system to get you started, go with Jobber over these two. If you’re looking for pure landscape, Dyna-Mist is a solid job costing, costing-base system that tends to be different than all these other guys.

Like I said, everybody have their thing when they got started. DynaSCAPE fits into the landscape mode. ArborGold is really a tree software. They’re hard to fit outside of tree software. Real Green is lawn care, spraying, fertilization and weed control software. HindSite was, if I understand correctly irrigation software, but I think they make a little bit more of a crossover than some of the other systems do other things. That was kind of their thing.

By the way, our perception is that Boss is commercial maintenance. Service Autopilot by the way was started with the vision that we were going to serve all aspects of the industry, and we were going to be that system that wasn’t so much so pigeonholed. I will tell you that over the years, we’ve been weak in areas where other systems have been strong.

For example, Real Green has continued to be stronger than us in the past years for fertilization and weed control chemical tracking type things. It took us time to build that kind of stuff where we’re still a little weak. This is March of 2014, the very beginning of March, 2014. We’re about to solve this problem when we release some new functionality that we’ve been working on a long time called ‘Project Management’.

The DynaSCAPE has historically been stronger than us at project management and the landscape industry because we haven’t had a project management base system, and they focus just on the landscape aspect. As you’re doing your research, what I can recommend that you do is you figure out what is it that’s most important to you. What do you do? What services do you sell?, and then that helps you figure out who you identify with the most.

For example, landscape, you’re going to need to look at DynaSCAPE. Clip I think does some landscape stuff. You want to look us. I mean, there’s others that will work but these guys are going to tend to be the strong one. If you want to look at fertilization and weed control, you’re going to look at Real Green. You’re going to look at Service Autopilot.

QXpress had some functionality in there around for it, so there’s a bunch of … actually, there’s a bunch of fertilization and weed control guys on QXpress. I think Clip has some stuff, but I hear about QXpress and Real Green as being the bigger ones for fertilization and weed control. If you’re going to look at irrigation, you got to look at HindSite. You look at us.

Again, a lot of guys on irrigation with QXpress. They were a good general system. Something else you might want to consider is “Are they a full business system?”, “Do they do really deep to do scheduling?”, and “Do they do email blasting?”, and “Do they do marketing and CRM and all of that stuff?” That’s stuff to consider. That immediately rules out the vast majority of all these companies.

This is a very biased part what I’m about to say, but I believe there’s absolutely no question that the future is cloud-based, web-based software. It think it’s flat out proven. There is no question about it. That’s something to consider when you’re buying software, “Which of these vendors is going to be the one that is going to work for you two years, five years, ten years from now?”, “Which of these companies are going to have to rebuild their entire systems from scratch?”

I’ll tell you, there is no reuse of the programming code when you decide to become web-based. You start over. You start over like Service Autopilot in 2009 starts … I mean, you start over. In fact, half the time your programmers that you have can’t make the jump. You’ve got to get new developers.

For a lot of the companies to make the switch, that’s a big challenge because they’ve got to get new development teams or over the years, they’ve lost a lot of their internal knowledge because  guys have left to go on to web-based software because some of these systems are still desktop-based software. Think about that. That’s a very biased opinion.

We made a very conscious decision to go web-based. Back when we did it, it was not the obvious answer just yet. We thought it was close but it was not the obvious answer. Today, there’s no doubt. If nobody is investing and giving money to [inaudible 00:17:49] but web-based software.

If you look at VC and angel  investing, they only invest in web-based software. Nobody is building desktop software anymore. Any company that’s desktop software is going to have to start over if they ever want to be the true cloud-based web-based system which is totally the future. Think about that. Think about how big of a system you want.

If you just want a $200 cheap  solution, kind of a throwaway solution to get you by for a year, you could look at things like Gopher. Now, I would not recommend that. Again, totally a biased scenario or biased answer. If you’re not going to consider us, there’s a couple of others I’d recommend. I pointed out Jobber. Think about this stuff as you’re working on your business.

One more thing. Totally biased again, and it’s because I have experienced in the industry, I have experienced in technology, you could today start with something a little bit cheaper than a Service Autopilot or a little bit cheaper than a Real Green or a little bit cheaper than some of the other systems on here, actually, even cheaper than Jobber. Jobber is a really low priced point, that’s their price point is going up but they’re low. You could start with some cheaper stuff, but what’s going to happen if that system is not growing into a bigger system?

What if that system wasn’t designed to cater to the little guys getting started and to the big guys? You need a growth path, because if you don’t have the growth path, you start with a small system and then you start over some day. You relearn it, you reimplement it, you redo everything from ground up. You have to redo it when you’re at the exact worst time when you’re trying to grow and you have all these things in your business breaking.

It’s really important to choose from the beginning who is the company that’s moving in the direction you want to move, so you should look at your company goal. If your company goal is, “I never want to be more than me in a truck,” I think we still work, but there’s other solutions that work for you. If your goal is, “One day, I want to have three cruise or five cruise”, or “One day, I want to be a million or two or three million dollars,” you should really look at the system that could get you started on that path today so you never have to make a change.

Also, the system that could run a five-million dollar company, gives you incredible advantages today in functionality today that the five-million dollar guys have. Whereas if you go  with the smaller solution that doesn’t have that functionality, you don’t have the advantages of your competitors which makes it harder to become one of the big guys. Think about where you want to go and as best you can buy the software that’s going to take you where you want to go.

Those are a few pointers. I hope they’re helpful. I’m happy to answer more. You know I’m biased. I hope you’ll try us at some point, but these are the other guys you want to look at. These are the guys you want to consider and you want to go with who’s best for you.

If I could leave you with one last idea, don’t … This is the biggest risk we all make. We all make decisions on price, and that is exactly the wrong way to make price or make a decision. We look and we say, “You know what? This is going to cost me $200 a month. This is going to cost me 8,000 bucks.” By the way, Service Autopilot does not cost you 8,000 bucks, but let’s just say it’s going to cost me 8,000 bucks.

For Real Green, let’s use Real Green. They’re an expensive system. They’re going to cost you a big financial outlay upfront. You should not make your decision on Real Green based on the fact that they’re going to cost you eight grand upfront and in some amount of money each month. You should make your decision on, “How much money will Real Green make me?” “How much money will I make because I bought Real Green?”

Yes, I spend 8,000 upfront, and yes, I spend a couple of hundred dollars a month or whatever their number is, but as a result, I take my $300,000 business in the next couple of years to a million, or as a result, I don’t need an extra person on my payroll, or as a result, the marketing I was never doing is finally happening. Eight thousand dollars is a ‘Who cares?’ number when it takes you from 300 to a million. The same is true with Service Autopilot, the same is true with some of these other systems. You need to make the decision based on which one gives you the best return on investment, not what the cost is.

The cost is insignificant. Yes, you’ve got to be able to write that check, but the cost is really insignificant. The only decision, the only way you make a decision I believe across the board buying equipment, software or whatever is “Will this thing that I’m spending money on bring a whole lot more money to me, so if I’m going to send a hundred dollars out to the vendor, how much more money comes back to me?” It’s simple investing.

I invest a hundred … I better get more than a hundred dollars back. If I invest a hundred dollars in Service Autopilot, and all Service Autopilot does is give me a hundred dollars in value, Service Autopilot is not really the solution for you. If you invest a hundred dollars in Service Autopilot, it should save you payroll, it should help you be a better company, it should help you market, it should do all these things for you. That’s true for every system.

Consider your time. Your time is not free. For example, if Service Autopilot or Gopher can save you … and I’ll argue Service Autopilot is going to save you a lot more time, but if one of the systems can save you 20 hours of your time, how much is that worth? It’s not just worth the amount of money you pay yourself, it’s the 20 hours that you can reposition and now spend on something to growth the company. What’s the real value of 20 hours?

Think in terms of return on investment as you evaluate all of your options out here, “Which one is going to as you spend money on it bring the most money back to you?” “Which one is going to get you to your big goal the fastest?” “Which one is going to be the best?” Of course, you’ve got to consider customer service. I can tell you from what I’ve heard, that’s going to be us and HindSite and Jobber. That’s what I’ve heard about customer service. That could be completely wrong, but that’s what I’ve heard.

Over and over again, I heard great things about us. Of course we’ve had our missteps, but I’ve heard the Jobber guys are doing a good job. They’re a small company. You still got to deal with the owners, still got to talk to those guys, and so now, as they get bigger, that might be a challenge. We’ve had to go already go through those scaling issues to keep great customer service as we’ve become bigger, and then Jobber has a reputation from what I’ve heard as being nice guys.

Some points to consider. Pick the one that’s the best for you, the one that’s going to give you the greatest return on investment. Also this is kind of crazy, you might … I don’t get along with it, but let me say something. I said that in the very beginning, that I’ve heard nice things about ArborGold, nice things about HindSite, nice things about Jobber and of course us.

Why did I say that? I guess it’s because I think about that kind of stuff a lot. I want to work with people I like. I want to work with people that are going down the road that I want to go down. I want to work with people that in five years, I’m still going to like. I call some companies that I work with and I’m done with them. I want to switch vendors because I just don’t even enjoy them, I ask their team to do something and there’s no response, they’re not even friendly, I just feel like I’m talking to somebody in some other country or I feel like I’m talking to somebody here that’s just punching the clock and doesn’t care.

I think it’s important to go with somebody you like. You’re going to be working with this technology provider for a very long time, so you need to make sure you connect with them and you like them. Of course the technology is most important, but if it comes down to two providers both with great technology, go with the one in my opinion that has the best roadmap and that you believe will really execute it and has the technical ability, and the business know how. They have to know this industry, and then the ones you just flat out like because you’re going to be working with these guys closely for years and years to come.

That’s why I pointed out a couple of people that I’ve head nice things about. I hope this is helpful. I hope that gives you some ideas of who the competition is. Again, for the fourth time, I’m biased, but my opinion is based on a tremendous amount of feedback from talking with clients and prospective clients and many that didn’t even go with us over the years. Good luck making your decision.

 

 

 

 

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