Retention is always an issue across the entire lawn care industry. To maintain a business, much less build one, you need employees you can count on. We checked in with Teddy Mathis, Graham’s sales director and formerly the owner of his own lawn care company, to get his thoughts on the best ways to prepare your techs, maintenance crew, and customer service reps for the beginning of a new busy season.
Mark the occasion. “In early February (or late January), I would host a kickoff dinner for all of my employees and their spouses. It was a moment to refocus and gather our energy to take on the most demanding, important, and rewarding time of our business year. I always used the example of farming as a seasonal activity: Of all the new customers we would recruit in a year, 80 percent of them would sign up during March, April and May. This is also the time that I recognized the best performers and issued pay raises – both very important for retaining the people who keep your business running.”
Emphasize the importance of upselling for profits. “At that dinner, I’d remind everyone that add-on services like tree and shrub care, aeration, and pest control were major contributors to the company’s bottom line. Also, we want to encourage customers to recommend us to their neighbors and friends, and reward them for it. We can promote these programs on invoices and other printed materials, but any time we have a chance to bring them up in a personal conversation with a customer is a plus.”
Set clear expectations. “At the dinner I would emphasize attendance and showing up on time. During this crunch time, more customers will be demanding more of you – and watching you more closely. It’s not always easy to honor our commitments, but it’s always important, and even more so during the busy season.
“I advised them to think about their activities outside of work and avoid anything that put them at risk of injury or illness. This is especially important this year. Everyone needs to be taking extra precautions to stay healthy.”
Make sure you and your lawn spray equipment look professional. “Most of our routine upkeep would already be done at this point. Earlier in the off-season we’d sand down the truck bodies and repaint them and do all the regular maintenance on our spray rigs so we were ready to roll when March came around. It helps give everyone the feeling of a fresh start.
“So at the dinner I just reminded everyone about the importance of presenting yourself as a professional, especially when you know you’re going to be making a first impression.”
Focus on customers. “I would always tell my guys that those lawns never paid us a dime. It’s the people in the houses who pay our salaries. If they walk up to you, I don’t care how busy you are — you greet them with a smile and take the time to see what they need. We need to think about this constantly: Those people are the reason we have a job.”
Make your company one where people want to work. “Another big purpose of my kickoff dinner was to remind everybody that we’re in this together. It was a chance to talk about where we’re going, how we’re going to get there, and instill an us-against-the-world mentality. People like coming to work when they like the people they work with, and they like feeling like part of a team.”