Forecast Management – Doing the Math Part 6

Managing future risk and people are essential to business success. That’s why Doing the Math is so important. To accomplish this, you want to build a culture that does more than react – one that looks forward in preparation. You can do this using a combination of landscape business management software and a proactive forecasting process that:

  • Holds people to a high standard of preparation
  • Gives them feedback on performance and results (kudos and tough love)
  • Involves them taking ownership of their work (preparing for customer service and delivery)

Success relies, to a large extent, on planning – the ability to anticipate resource requirements like time, labor, materials and equipment. In my last few posts, we have reviewed the elements of a business management reporting system including: (1) financial budgets, and (2) reporting practices for Sales and Customer Management. In this post, we’ll establish best practices for planning.

We start with a Forecast KPI, drill down to function reports, and finally design a dashboard to drive preparation activities and accountability (see the graphic below – Forecast Management Reporting).

Forecast Management Reporting

Forecast Management (KPI):

This KPI allows you to assess whether:

  • The work and services currently sold and proposed will achieve your budget goals
  • You have the labor and equipment required to deliver those services when they were promised

It also manages your primary risks – too little revenue and/or too little or too much labor to meet your budget. By adding this Forecast KPI to your management practices, I hope you can see the strong connection to the Sales and Customer Management KPI’s. Together, these three provide the essential information for making plans today that produce financial benefits in the future – not to mention the benefits of improved employee morale that naturally come with proper preparation. (It’s not much fun to be a figurative firefighter every day – it gets old).

Forecast KPI

The Forecast KPI is based in dollars. The blue segment of REVENUE bar shows revenue sold, but not yet delivered. The orange segment shows potential revenue – bids in the sales pipeline. The REVENUE BUDGET bar shows the budget for that same time period – month, quarter or year. The LABOR and LABOR BUDGET bars show the dollars and hours required to deliver the services associated with the revenues. Sweet! Now at a glance you can make a pretty solid forecast of your future P&L compared to your budget P&L.

The next step is to forecast and plan at a more granular level by “drilling down” into:

  • Sold Service Work
  • Proposed Service Work.

These two reports do more than answer the basic question, “Do we have enough work and enough people to do it?” They outline specific types of work promised and when they need to be done. Total hours and dollars don’t explain the “devil in the detail” requirements that various services require – like different crew talents and unique equipment and material needs.

Forecast Reports

A Sold Service Work outlines sold work by service type. This is essential information because individual services types may have unique requirements for labor, materials, subs and equipment. It also accounts for specific seasonal timing requirements (i.e., the customer wants flowers installed in April not in May).

Sold Service Work (Pivot and List versions)

Proposed Services outlines those services that might be sold. These should be included in your planning as a “what if.” As in, “what if” we sell all that stuff in the pipeline? Could we get it done when the customer wants it done, considering all that we have already committed to?

Proposed Service Work

Now that we have this information, we have to make it available to the people who do the work and make decisions about preparation… and keep it current to maximize everyday awareness and personal accountability. That’s where dashboards are most useful as reports… in order to:

  • minimize the risk of customer dissatisfaction (services behind schedule), and
  • maximize efficiency (materials, people or equipment available/ready)

Here are a few essential dashboards:

Work Last Week – the services (revenue and hours) scheduled over the past week – were all scheduled services delivered?

Work This Week – the services (revenue and hours) to be delivered this week – are all forecasted services (mulch, clean-ups, flowers, etc.) now scheduled?

Work Behind – a list of services forecasted and scheduled (revenue and hours) that are past due dates.

Work not Billed – a list of completed services that are “un-billed” (these are typically enhancement, T&M, and per-service work).

CLICK HERE to see those four dashboards.

These are the best Forecast Management practices. Using a cascading reporting structure for landscape and snow business management, you can minimize surprises, build efficiency and increase your customer satisfaction – all while creating a culture of accountability where winning becomes the norm. This is landscape business management in real-time, as it should be.

Next up: the Profit Management KPI.

Customer Management – Doing the Math Part 5

It’s one thing to have a solid sales strategy, but what happens after that? RETAINING your clients is key to making money.

My analysis of landscape and snow contractor profitability – based on 23 years as a consultant – demonstrates that retention of profitable customers is the primary driver of Net Profits. This is absolutely true. Nothing is more important than managing what you ALREADY have and keeping it year after year. This means the way you manage the people who manage your customers makes all the difference in terms of financial results.

Since you cannot manage what you cannot see, you need data to analyze, compare and direct the work of these key people. That is where landscape business management software provides the tool to accomplish this – using data to drive actions that produce results.

Let’s return to the idea of cascading business reporting to define how you should manage the people who manage your customers. We start with a Customer Management KPI, drill down to two function reports, and finally review four dashboards that monitor the activities essential to good client management (see graphic).

Client Management Cascade

 

Client Management (KPI):

This Client Management KPI provides a summary at a high enough level to gauge the metrics that define client performance. It provides information on recurring contractual revenues or RUM (Revenue Under Management) by company, by branch or by Account Manager, at the beginning of time period and at the end of that time period. RUM is a metric that can be compared to industry best performers and is essential to leveraging overhead expenses – the key to increasing Net Profit.

Account Managers are expensive and increasing their RUM matters. Yes, increasing RUM may mean taking on a few more accounts. But this can be accomplished with mobile business management software that has all the account information your managers need to work more efficiently.

This Client Management KPI provides business intelligence on your:

  • Retention performance – revenue lost (if 5% lost, 95% retention)
  • New account performance – revenue gained
  • Extra sales  performance – revenue upsells

This is essential for benchmarking and comparing with your budget, retention and upsell goals. To render all of this more actionable, you will want to “drill down” into two Function Reports: (a) Renewals, and (b) Upsells. These are the first two reports you employ in managing your account manager meetings to answer the eternal question: “How are we doing?”

Client Management Function Reports

The Upsell Report is a scorecard (very similar to the business development/sales scorecard from the prior blog post). It provides information on account manager sales activity relative to proposed and closing goals and proposed and closed actuals for each Account Manager.

 

Upsell

The Renewal Report provides a snapshot of RUM to be renewed – as well as all details regarding the contract renewal process (for example, a job report with hours and margins actual to budgeted), the renewal status and dates (such as statuses includingavailable to renew, renewal proposed, remaining to be renewed, and sold and already renewed”).

 

Renewal

 

These reports provide actionable information. But if you are like me and trying to create a client services culture as well as manage your bottom line (no mean feat), you will want more “drill downs” to truly understand the best tactics to drive these results and shape behavior. It is, in fact, true that you get what you inspect.

These added “drill downs” are the dashboards. Dashboards provide real time insight into critical account management activities. There are four required dashboards necessary to manage the account manager’s actions: Open Issues, At-Risk Properties, Open Opportunity and Service Delivery.

  • Issues – This dashboard indicates how you are managing “quality.” Numerous property issues can indicate great service, but can also indicate great trouble. Account managers should be addressing issues everyday as a source of satisfaction and renewal probability – as well as a source of upsell opportunities.
  • At-Risk – This dashboard indicates risk as a result of conditions changing on a property – things like ownership, management and crew performance to name a few. Changes in these and other items you define can put that property renewal “at-risk.” You should monitor changing conditions frequently to be proactive in addressing them. But you must have a business management software that can capture and “flag” this info for easy detection.
  • Opportunities – This dashboard indicates potential sales success. Just like the business development-open pipeline from the last blog post, you must know the dollars and closing probabilities for upsells in the account managers’ pipeline.
  • Services – This dashboard indicates services delivery plans and problems. For example, an account manager should know what services have been delivered, services to be scheduled and services behind schedule to manage customer expectation. This dashboard provides a tool for proactive management of client expectations, which raises your service level and your probability or renewal – not to mention the likelihood of increasing upsells.

CLICK HERE to see the four dashboards.

That’s it! These are the best Client Management practices using a cascading reporting structure for landscape and snow business management. The whole purpose of this is to build a better account manager and a customer service process that increases net profits. This is landscape business management in real-time, as it should be.

Next week… The Forecast Management KPI.

Sales Management – Doing the Math Part 4

Picture this: Your Monday morning sales meeting:

How are we doing in new sales?”

Good.”

Are we close to getting any new work?”

Oh yeah!”

Really?”

Everyone I talked to is not happy with their current contractors.”

How many is everyone?”

A bunch.”

“What’s the plan for this week to get these guys?”

I have lots of meetings set up.”

 

OK, perhaps I am being overly glib here, but you get my point. That is NOT sales management.

No data, no details, no facts, no math, and no real plan. What’s the probable result? No sales. 

I’ll say it again: you cannot manage what you cannot see. Whom you manage must be held accountable if you’re having conversations like the one above. You must have data, facts and math to plan. That is the function of a business management software: data drives actions. Actions produce results.

To define the cascading reports for sales management, we go back to the beginning – your budget. Your budget determines your new sales goal (for our industry, I am referring to all new snow and green season service contracts). We start with the premise that falling short of the new sales goal is not an option.

Cascading Sales Management (KPI):

 

Let’s start at the top with the Sales KPI shown here. This KPI tells me at a glance (by any time period I choose) that which is proposed and sold in relation to the Sales Goal.

In this case, the KPI is telling us we are ahead (110% of budget) in proposal dollars, and behind (90% of budget) in closed business dollars.

This is good information, but it is insufficient for three reasons: It  (1) doesn’t hold a salesperson to account, (2) can’t predict the likelihood of success, and (3) doesn’t define a plan.

We need more detailed Functional Sales Reports to make this happen. We need to drill down into the KPI.

There are two Functional Sales Drill Down Reports I like to look at: (a) the Score Card and (b) the Open Pipeline.

Score Card

This first report shows monthly performance – budget to actual – for proposals and closes. And by clicking on the February actual number ($205,993) I can see each proposal that makes up that number.

These are the details required to assess (1) closing probability, and (2) potential gross profit dollar contribution.

It’s not the perfect report because it only shows history.  What I also need is present status regarding proposals. For that I need – the Open Pipeline.

Open Pipeline

This report isolates proposals still “in play.” This is important as some of proposals on the scorecard may already be “lost,” and some may be so old they will never close. This report helps to determine the best plan of attack for the sales team based on present conditions.

So far, so good. Doing the math, I now know how many, how much, and whom. Now I need to define how.

How will I translate information into action? To do this, I will drill down to assess the actions that can produce results. I access this drill down through dashboards (which are more simple lists than full reports).

Dashboards provide details on activities that drive the scorecard and pipeline results. Specifically, there are three dashboards I like to dig into to make the best plan: touches, prospects and losses.

  • Touches tell me whether we are doing enough (or too much) of the right things at the right times to advance the sale to a decision.
  • Prospects will one day become proposals in the pipeline – when these numbers decline, sales also decline about six months later.
  • Losses teach what we can incorporate into our selling process, and a loss becomes a prospect (and maybe a win) in the next sales cycle.

CLICK HERE to see those three dashboards.

That’s it: the whole sales management cascade for business management best practice. The whole purpose is to build a better sales team and sales process. This is green/snow business management in real-time as it should be.

Next week: Client Management Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Budgeting: Doing the Math Part 2

To make money, you must manage effectively. To manage effectively, you need to employ a cascading reporting structure that starts at the top of your company (big picture) and drills down to the bottom (little picture). There is no other way to maximize visibility and accountability.

BIG PICTURE: Rolling Budget

Business KPI’s (Key Productivity Indicators)

Functional Reports (Sales, Client, Production, Finances)

LITTLE PICTURE: Process Dashboards

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

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

Make the Budget (The Original)

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

 

Roll the Budget (Re-Forecast)

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

 

Variability vs. Control

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

Problems and Solutions

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

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

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

The answer to these questions requires a system of cascading reports that allows readers to “drill down” into the variances – because from the rolling budget view alone, it is hard to pinpoint the causes. Cascading, expandable reports provide an understanding of the source of the problem, allowing for the development of a solution. What are these reports? The first level is called Business Key Productivity Indicators (KPIs)…

…and I will discuss those in the next post.

Reporting: Doing the Math, Part 1

This is the first in a multi-part series about the importance of business calculations and reporting in the green/snow industries.

“Do the math!”

This was my mantra for 23 years of consulting for clients. What I meant was any business plan should be based on information that is mathematically sound and identifies the key activities required to achieve success – be it in sales, margins, hours or profits. And whether you’re planting shrubs or pushing snow, doing the math behind the work is how you stay in business.

For example, in creating a sales plan for a salesperson, do the math. Start with the goal: let’s say it’s to sell $1,000,000 in new contracts. Consider the likely close rate – maybe 20%. That will require that you bid $5,000,000 in prospect volume.

Now, start asking questions.

“How big is the target prospect job size?” This is a very good question. “Whom should the salesperson pursue?” Let’s say the target size is a $25,000 annual contract (which, in my experience, seems to be the national average for many contractors).

Now we know that we need to bid 200 landscaping/snow management job sites. But how many prospects must be contacted to get the 200 opportunities to bid? Let’s say that 50% of the time, a salesperson calls a prospect who is open to a bid (This raises another good question – what is a qualified bid? But more on that later.) Now we have a number we can use: the salesperson needs to have a list of at least 400 prospect job sites that average $25,000 annually in land/snow contract value.

Math > Goals

Does the salesperson have this list? If not, how in heaven’s name can he/she sell $1,000,000 in new business? The simple answer is, it’s probably not going to happen. This is not a bad plan, it’s worse – it’s no plan. In doing the math, we realize that the key to success is not setting the goal. The key is determining what matters in the sales process and where to start. That is why we do the math!

Let’s add one more calculation: Let’s assume it takes eight calls to get a chance to bid. Now we know another important number: that 3,200 touches will be required to meet the goal. Divide that by 250 working days and we get 12 touches every day. Now we have marching orders: The salesperson will have to reach out an average of 12 times to prospects every single day.

Is this too detailed? Not really – but it is essential. Can the salesperson hit that goal? Absolutely – I’ve done it!

Math + Accountability = Reporting

Now that we have a plan of action, we need a reporting structure to monitor and hold the salesperson accountable. Our reports will likely include the following (from big picture to small – with an emphasis on managing the small picture):

  • Sales dollars closed
  • Bid dollars proposed
  • Bid number proposed
  • Average job size proposed
  • Number of prospects contacted
  • Number of touches (email, call, task, appointment)

These reports could be reviewed every day, week or month. Why would anybody want to do that? Of course, for accountability, but mostly to re-assess activity and coach for the right tactics. This is something every sales manager must do, no matter the industry. Reporting provides the information essential to achieving success.

Do YOUR Math

So it must be for running your entire business. What is the math essential for your company’s success? At the big-picture level, it will be measured (per my prior posts) in terms of growth and profits. How many properties are you caring for? How much are they paying you to do it?

And just like the salesperson, you need to do the math and create a reporting structure from big picture to small. The big picture provides the vision. The small picture provides the traction.

Here’s the reporting structure for running a green/snow/contracting business – from the BIG to SMALL picture (more on this in future posts):

  • Rolling Budget
  • Business KPI’s (Key Productivity Indicators)
  • Functional Reports (Sales, Client, Production, Finances)
  • Work – Process Management Dashboards

In these next blog posts, I will do the math starting with the Rolling Budget and drill all the way down to Work Process Management Dashboards. I call this process of creating a reporting structure “cascading.” We start high atop the waterfall and cascade it down to the river below where the actual flow of work happens.

Next: Tune in for Part 2 of Reporting: Doing the Math.

Future Vision: Visibility and Accountability

You can’t blame the office anymore.

Garbage in, garbage out – it’s cliché but true. Sure, information is great, but only if it’s accurate and in a report that people can use. We all know that inaccurate reporting creates problems – the biggest of which is distrust. It’s not just distrust of the numbers (the report is useless), it’s distrust of management (see bottom: KITD FOHS). That is a far worse problem.

Accurate reporting provides visibility (you can’t manage what you can’t see), but visibility is useful only when the data is accurate. Reports are based on information. Information is based on data. Data is based on data entry. This is where distrust in reporting starts – at the data entry source.

How Data Entry Can Kill Trust

In traditional “accounting-centric” software systems, the office has to integrate spreadsheets, paper, and often a few unconnected applications to generate the data that becomes information for reporting. It is the office that deciphers, interprets and re-enters data created by others. And even when they are not the data source, they can be held accountable for reports nobody seems to trust. This is very frustrating for them because it is not easy work and often leads to a situation where everyone else maintains their own data and information from their own trusted reports. Not a recipe for teamwork – as you have probably experienced.

Can this situation be changed? Today’s integrated software systems can change this by removing the office from most of the data deciphering, interpreting and data-entry steps. With this software, sales and operations (the field) are instantly doing the data entry with every transaction they create, review and approve, like these basic transactions:

  • Estimate
  • Time sheet
  • Work order
  • Purchase order, etc. (See chart below.)

Fewer Touches

This is one reason why you invest in mobile-integrated software: less administrative data handling delivers more accurate information. Information becomes the responsibility of the field, not just the office. This is a big change for many companies, and the transition can be painful.

Another reason you invest in mobile-integrated software is to build teamwork – the kind where everyone takes responsibility for what shows up on reports. This is essential to realizing the strategic promises of better service and more efficiency that integrated software provides.

Visibility (reporting) requires accountability (transaction management) so information on reports can be trusted. It is the common responsibility of the field and the office to make this happen. If the numbers seem incorrect, look no further than the way data is being managed in your company. That’s where it starts.

Is it as simple as that? Yes!

Trusting numbers and management starts with integrated workflow and data discipline – this is best practice. Otherwise: Garbage in, garbage out.


KITD FOHS

During the Vietnam War, there was an American Air Force intelligence unit that believed they were providing critical battle plans to field commanders. In fact, they were providing disinformation over open channels for the Viet Cong to intercept – feeding them bogus information during the lead-up to the Son Tay Prison raid. There’s no problem with this tactic in war, but the odd part was that the unit was completely unaware that the intel they were relaying was fake. Of course, when they found out, they were not happy. Responding to their situation with humor, they designed a special unit patch for their uniforms (a pair of eyes looking up from under a mushroom cap) to describe their specialized mission:

KITD FOHS – Kept in the Dark, Fed Only Horse Sh**.


 

Future Vision: Service

Let’s look into the future and envision how software will improve customer service. This is important because customer service, not software, provides a competitive advantage. But, the right software can provide the platform you need to out-compete the other guy by delivering better service.

When it comes to service, your account managers are your most valuable assets. They are customer service personified. What the account managers do, how they do it and when they do it accounts for your clients’ experiences. Superior service produces results measured in dollars: renewals, referrals, upsells… not to mention goodwill and satisfaction.

Of course, we all want A+ account managers. The challenge is that there are only so many A+ account managers out there. There is a far larger pool of solid B+ account managers who, with the right tools, might perform like A+ account managers.

Is this possible? It is.

Breaking Down an A+ Account Manager

Let’s start with what makes an A+ account manager so valuable. In my experience observing them, there are five things at which they excel: time management, salesmanship, anticipation, responsiveness and economics.

  • Time management – This is the most critical skill because it provides the structure for the other four. Account managers are the busiest people in the company … and often the least productive. This is bad for you and worse for the customer because service suffers. Clients end up waiting for everything.
  • Salesmanship – This ability is the key to communication. What retains customers is their relationship with the people in the company – that relationship is built and maintained by account managers. The ability to listen and recommend increases the service value an account manager provides.
  • Anticipation – Providing communication and information that anticipates needs and prevents issues increases the service value your account manager provides. Remember the last time you sat on a delayed flight waiting for some news from the pilot? That’s how customers feel when timely communication is missing.
  • Responsiveness – Providing speedy feedback with fact-based solutions and multiple options increases the service value they provide.
  • Economics – Providing guidance on money decisions by demonstrating where and how the customer can best invest and spend their landscape dollars increases service value.

The key to increasing service is communication. The key to communication is information. Customers require it. They want to know when services and proposals will be delivered, when problems will be resolved, how their property should best be managed and how much it will cost. A+ account managers always seem to have the answers and an intuitive feel for communicating those answers when they are needed. B+ account managers can do that, too, with assistance from your software systems.

Providing accurate and timely information is central to both your customers’ experience and the AM’s performance, productivity and morale. Today – for too many account managers – the information the customer needs is not easily available … at least not without making the client wait while looking in several places for files, emails, documents and spreadsheets.

The Vision

How do you change this inefficient situation, which is frustrating for both customer and account manager, and make information available in one place all the time? Systems. Systems that today’s cloud-based integrated mobile technology can provide when you marry them with process and your culture. Let’s look at what I mean using an example of essential information in a single system:

All the essentials need to be on a smart device the AM uses in the field. This is just like the technology major package/delivery companies use to manage routes and tracking every day – except the platform above is designed for landscape AMs.

I could add more on that here – and will in future posts – but looking back to my prior posts, I described Millennials and Dinosaurs:

  • Millennials want function instead of formality
  • Dinosaurs want decisions instead of excuses

Today’s software systems are at the intersection of these two wants and needs. They promote the marriage of technology and decision-making that can raise your customer service game and develop your B+ AMs into A+ AMs. That’s the power of visibility and accountability that integrated systems can deliver.

This is the future. This is now. More on this next week.


THIS JUST IN: Aspire is proud to be included in an article on “Next Level Software Solutions” in Landscape Management magazine. Click HERE to take a look on LM’s website.

Dinosaurs and Technology: The Future Part 2

Can dinosaurs thrive in today’s changing technology environment, or are they doomed to extinction (to be replaced by Millennials)?

Make no mistake about it – dinosaurs (the real ones) were perhaps the most successful species in the history of the planet. Today’s “dinosaurs” – all of us born between roughly 1950 and 1970 – are also pretty successful. But we are not as natural or adaptable to new technologies as Millennials are. That is a fact.

Many dinosaurs can recall a time before copiers (B.C.) – we used mimeograph machines (I loved the smell of those things). Millennials cannot conceive that this “technology” existed until relatively recently –  or that there was a time when a person was able to exist without a smart phone.

Smart Phones as a Case Study

We dinosaurs actually know a life before smart phones, and it worked – up to a point. So, are dinosaurs reluctant to adapt new technologies? Yes – my observations suggest this is true. Are they stuck and unchangeable? No. They can adapt and change, but only when they want to.

Until four years ago, I used a flip phone. I actually took pride in resisting the purchase of a smart phone because, “It’s just a phone, and I only need it to make calls.” We don’t need no steenkin’ iPhone!

Hullo?! Yes … yes we did. And today, I cannot comprehend functioning as efficiently and effectively without it.

What happened? I realized that I had completely missed the point of adapting to technology. The adaptation wasn’t to serve me. It was necessary to serve everyone else around me who needed to work with me. Using the technology made everyone else around me more effective and efficient. There were fewer miscommunications, fewer dropped balls, and more tasks completed in a day – by everyone.

Masters of the Universe

So consider this, fellow dinosaurs: if you are like me, you like nothing better than getting more things done in day (and/or having people running around doing those things with complete transparency as to what they are doing, so you can make sure they get done). Get it? That’s the purpose of this new technology, and it can help you be a master of the universe! Well… that may be over doing it a bit, but you get the point.

The technology can’t impart wisdom – that is earned through experience. But it can leverage that wisdom by giving you the tools and the reach to direct, monitor, coach and decide in real time. That way, everyone wastes less of everything, gets more done, and most importantly, gets more of what they need from you – leadership.

Yes… It’s a brave new world… but there’s no school like the old school, either.

Millennials and Technology: The Future

Allow me to change gears with this first in a series of posts discussing where technology might take us in the future in the Landscape/Snow-Ice industries.

The Future is in…Provo?

Last week, the Aspire Software team was in Provo, Utah, as a sponsor of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) National Collegiate Student Competition. If you have not been to this annual event, you need to go. These kids are our future. We witnessed talent and passion. They are future salespeople, account managers and operation supervisors. And you need to know what they want in an employer.

We also observed just how unique they are. They are, in a word, Millennials. For more information on this, watch Simon Sinek on “Hiring Millennials.”

Technology Makes the Job

Why does this matter to you? Simple: their advanced relationship with technology is totally alien to many of us, but central to their career choices. In short, the technology and software you use can make all the difference in recruiting the best.

Don’t believe me? The Aspire Software Company has made an investment in the Brigham Young University (BYU) landscape management program. We donated our software and expertise to the faculty to use as a teaching tool in the business management curriculum. The results, judged by student and faculty feedback, are exceptional.

The faculty loves the teaching tool and the students love the technology. It looks and feels modern to them. They are naturals with mobile devices and learn it easily (unlike many older employees in landscape companies, but more on that in my next post).

Ditch the Desk

Think about it: one big reason they choose our industry is the opportunity to work “outside.” And like most of us on the business end, they despise administration and paperwork. So if your systems chain them to indoor work spaces and paperwork, they are out. They said as much to their faculty and to us this week.

It was eye-opening. Maybe we should all get out more often. So, if you are serious about having more student job candidates from whom to choose*, and having the best and brightest choose you, you must consider your technology investment and strategy as at least as important as your equipment investment and strategy.

Bottom line: Millennials want to work for companies with technologies that make business management quick, fun, real to them and functional. They don’t want to waste time searching for information they believe should be right in front of them.

It’s a brave new world.

 

* We learned that many landscape management programs at the community college and university levels are in danger of shutting down for lack of student enrollment. Why? Many of the other programs appear “sexier” in terms of technology to the students. They want mobile-compatible technology to use everyday and everywhere.  It’s pretty simple, folks. Which means, it should be a simple fix.

The Landscape Company Leadership Test

This is the last in a six post series related to our Breakthrough Company Event at the GIE.

Are you the right leader for your landscape company?  And as important, do you have the right team to drive breakthrough results?  Now you can find out.

Take The Leadership Test

The TAIS (The Attentional and Interpersonal Style) test is designed to answer those questions.  Created 30 years ago it is used to assess high performance individuals like Olympic athletes, Military commandos, and SWAT teams to predict success or failure…  and ultimately to teach them how to perform under pressure consistently.

How Learning About Your Landscape Company Leadership Pays

It turns out we are all hard-wired for behaviors and dispositions – especially entrepreneurs (See below).  This hard wiring has its benefits…  and drawbacks especially as a business grows.  Many of these drawbacks are significant enough to make breakthrough almost impossible.  So it pays to understand who you are as THE LEADER as well as the attitudes and dispositions of your management team.

How We’re Evolving Our Leadership At Aspire

In fact as The Aspire Software Company (http://youraspire.com) grows and we aim for our own breakthrough, the interaction between the Managing Partners – Mark and Kevin becomes very important.  Can we function well together and deliver the leadership the Aspire Team needs to evolve into the organization I have outlined in the last FIVE blogs on this subject.  (do we put some link here to these blogs or something???)

What Happened When We Took The Leadership Test?

Like good boys, Mark and I took the test and participated in the analysis of the results.  NOTE:  We are screwed!  Kidding!   It turns out we are well matched to the challenge we face.  He and I have many complementary as well as several key reinforcing strengths.  This was not only interesting but essential for us to know as it allows us to focus on what we need to do to lead.  

We intend to work with our managers with the TAIS to assess their alignment and determine what we need to do to develop into a high performance unit.  We are excited by the possibilities and we see the TAIS as an essential tool to help us.

What’s Your Entrepreneurial Hard-Wiring?

Problem Solving LeadershipIt turns out that entrepreneurs share many common traits that are inherent in their hard-wiring.  Some of them are functional and some become dysfunctional as the company grows.  The key for you is to understand which are which…  Here’s that list:

  • They are great at figuring stuff out
  • They can change direction at the drop of a hat
  • They can juggle a lot of balls at once
  • If there is a shot at the buzzer…  they want the ball in their hands
  • They are driven, driven, driven
  • They are loyal to a fault

I don’t have space to tell you the pros and cons and the killer dysfunctions here…  For that you need to read the book and take the test.