This article initially appeared on Landscape Management’s website
Company: Lakewood Landscape Group
Headquarters: Dothan, Ala.
2011 revenue: $900,000
Cupp devised a plan that Lakewood implemented in April—a bonus incentive program based on gross margin. Every month 2012 shows a year-over-year increase in gross margin over 2011, Lakewood workers get a bonus check.
“Every employee plays a role in the accountability of gross margin, and we wanted to make sure everybody participated in the benefits of that,” says Grant Faulk, who owns the company with his twin brother, Kyle.
The Faulks distribute the incentive checks monthly “so they can feel it and taste it every month,” Faulk says.
The program has revitalized and invigorated Lakewood’s workers. “Our employees have more of a self evaluation of themselves and their own efficiency than they had in the past,” Faulk observes. “They’re seeing how they can really play a role in getting the work done for less.”
The company is showing results in virtually every aspect of the business. Workers are reducing the time they spend filling up at the gas station, they’re taking shorter routes to jobs to conserve time and fuel, and they’re not forgetting anything back at the office anymore.
Although Faulk can’t estimate dollar amounts just yet, he anticipates the end of the year will show significant savings in fuel and labor costs. “If you can save one crew from having to drive over to this customer’s yard 20 minutes away because you’re right there, that saves money immediately,” he says.
The monthly bonus checks average $135 per worker, and Faulk estimates his workers have pocketed a total of $10,000 in gross margin bonus checks since the program launched. It’s indicative of the positive change in gross margin Lakewood has seen so far this year.
“We tell them upfront it’s not guaranteed,” Faulk says. “It all depends on the year-over-year comparison.” That said, there’s been only one month since April workers didn’t get a bonus check.
That the bonus program’s producing positive results is undeniable. Most notably, Lakewood’s crews are thinking globally now, promoting the company’s services across the board instead of focusing strictly on their own responsibilities.
“We’ve seen communication among different crew leaders, and the customer service is getting better. As a result, our customer retention is going to be higher,” Faulk says. “I also feel like everybody has taken a little bit more ownership, a ‘This is our company’ mentality. They’re thinking more about what everybody else is doing in relation to each other.”
Another twist to the gross margin bonus program: Workers who are late more than three times in a month aren’t eligible for that month’s bonus. Since the program started, Lakewood’s seen a 66 percent jump in on-time arrivals.
Not only are workers showing up on time, working more efficiently and problem solving on the job, they also feel valued.
Consequently, “I think we’ll see when the whole season’s behind us that customers’ needs will be met more thoroughly,” Faulk says. “We’re starting to see a bump in customers, and that’s what it’s all about. If we provide better customer service, that’s the end goal, and to make our employees feel part of a team.
“No matter what,” Faulk continues, “we’ll always have something to incentivize them. Whether it’s this way or another way, we won’t go back, that’s for sure.”
Are you at PLANET’s Green Industry Conference and GIE+EXPO this week in Louisville? If so, here is an article that was published a few weeks ago about my talk. I’d love to see you tomorrow at the Kentucky Exposition Center, C-108 at 1:30PM!
This article appeared in Lawn & Landscape’s Digital Magazine
Deck: Jason Cupp will give you the keys to building solid relationships with your customers.
By Jason Stahl
Jason Cupp likes to tell the story about talking with a web developer to get a quote for one of his clients, and the person concluded their conversation with, “Great! I’ll get you a quote.”
That’s a problem, as Cupp sees it. The web developer failed to set expectations, and thus Cupp expected a return call the next day at the very latest. If he hadn’t called, Cupp would have been very upset. But, if he had said, “Hey, I’m really tied up and it’s a short week, so I’ll have it to you by Friday,” he would have set the expectation, and not left Cupp wondering if the developer forgot about him.
Cupp will tell lots of stories in his presentation on understanding your sales process at GIE+EXPO. That’s just his style.
“People who have attended my talks say I’m very energetic, engaging and anecdotal,” Cupp says. “Also, that I’m casual, laidback and passionate. I’m very approachable and love to interact with lots of different people. I’m also not monotone and don’t read my slides or have crib notes. And I’m not a carrot dangler, or a speaker who will only give you part of the information so their phone will ring for consulting services after the fact. The fact is I don’t have the time to take on any more work, so I’ll give you lots of great content and you’ll walk away saying, ‘Jason just gave me the keys to the castle.’”
It’s not about you. Being customer centric, or focusing on the customer, is really the crux of what Cupp’s presentation is all about. Too many companies’ sales processes are all about the company and not about the client, Cupp says.
“They’re forcing the client to fit into their sales process, but at the end of the day, shouldn’t the sales process be totally focused on the client? Because then it will deliver better results over and over again,” he says.
Cupp uses his own experience as the former owner of a successful design/build company as an example. He and his staff spent a lot of time working on their client-focused efforts in every phase of the business, from customer service to client communication to the contract itself and the sales process.
“What we found out was that when the client was No. 1 and we kept all of our own needs, wants and desires out of it as salespeople, designers, project managers and account managers, it was effortless for us to sell and build a relationship,” Cupp says.
“We had a client experience that was second to none, and our clients recognized that. It was powerful and it turned on the referral machine and the positive testimonial machine. I have been out of the business for five years now, and I recently went to a local fundraiser and ran into five or six of my former clients and it was like a big reunion. They really adored us as a company and not only loved the service we provided but the people who provided it and the way we made them feel.”
The communication piece is important, Cupp says. A lot of contractors will get the honor of receiving a sales appointment with a new client, and when they go to it they’re enthusiastic and excited and ask many great questions and take copious notes. And then, like the web developer, they end the sales call with, “Great, we’ll get back in touch with you.” Again, this is a failure to set expectations.
“At this point, the client might think the contractor will get back to them the very next day,” Cupp says. “How about, instead, telling the client what the next step of the sales process is?”
Then, the contractor gets so busy and the client’s name and number is on some pad of paper somewhere and they forget it about it. And by the time they remember, they call the client back, only to hear, “I never heard back from you so I already hired someone.”
“I can’t tell you how many contractors tell me that,” Cupp says.
Don’t delay. Almost the same thing happens to frazzled trade show attendees who get overwhelmed with all kinds of information, then go back to the office on Monday and put their notes aside and forget about them. That’s why Cupp, at the end of every one of his presentations, will include one to three slides full of simple things that don’t cost a lot and don’t require a lot of effort that people can take with them and implement in their businesses tomorrow.
“I’ll tell people to take out their smartphones and take pictures of these three slides and email them to you,” Cupp says. “I tell them to pick one or two or five things off these slides that they can do tomorrow that make a difference in the way they treat clients.”
Sometimes, Cupp will also ask everyone to give him their business cards at the conclusion of his talk. His office will then email them at a later date and organize a live webinar where everyone can share their experiences about what happened when they implemented the things he taught them into their businesses.
One other thing Cupp will emphasize in his presentation? Have your sales process written down.
“No. 1, I believe a sales process should be collaborative, meaning that it needs to be created among all stakeholders so the people who are going to follow it have input into it,” he says. “No. 2, I think it allows new team members to immediately see what their colleagues created: a manual, policy, roadmap and way to get to the end result.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.
We are currently looking for a Lawn Care Branch Manager. You will be working closely with the Owner and Management Team of the business on a daily basis. Upon your success as a Lawn Care Branch Manager, you will be prepared to continue working as a key Leader in our organization, and you’ll have built a solid foundation for Branch Expansion and/or Ownership.
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Two weeks after the September 11th tragedy, entertainers from around the world collaborated to raise money via America: A Tribute of Heros.
As you might remember, the entire tribute was emotional and moving. Myself, in particular, couldn’t contain myself by the poignant lyrics of one of my favorite bands, U2, along with two of my favorite songs – Peace on Earth and Walk On.
Watch. Remember. Don’t forget.
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you feel
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress-up
All that you scheme
America, you can always “Walk On”
Earlier this year, I was fortunate to give the Keynote presentation at the Michigan Green Industry Association Meeting. It was an absolute blast, and I’ve been able to keep in contact with some of the folks in my audience during that presentation.
Two months after the event, I received the following email from a landscape contractor in the audience:
I have a design/build I am involved in and the job has dragged along
because the mason subcontractor has yet (according to them) to get in
the bluestone that needed to be special ordered. Meanwhile my client
has had to live with construction looking site for 2 weeks longer than
they (and I) had thought they would. Today on during the phone
conversation the client asked us how we were going to make this up to
them. ( I can’t think of the word). I was kind of caught off guard by
the suggestion. I was planning on presenting them with a $100 gift
cert to a nice restaurant when the job is complete as my way to say
thank you for putting up with the delay, which I will still do, but
what would you do to make it up to them? How responsible are we for
circumstances beyond our control.
I appreciate any time and advice in advance if you are able/willing to
After I got the email, I realized this was a classic example of a client having unclear expectations, and unclear communication about potential construction delays. AND, after talking with this audience member on the phone, it was clearly not his issue, but actually an issue with the stone the CLIENT picked out. The delay was expected, but they took some advantage of the situation (common) to get something for nothing. After a short telephone call, and offering several solutions to resolve at the least possible cost, I asked the audience member to let me know how it turned out once he decided what to do, had the conversation with his client, and finished up on the job. This was his reply this past week:
I hope you are well!
You gave me some advice on how to handle this situation and once the job was completed you asked me to update you on the results.
Your advice was spot on. Thank you! I upsized several plants and even gave them a couple of extra plants in the back. That coupled with our ability to complete a nice install helped us save face with this homeowner. They were completely appreciative of us going the extra lengths to make sure their project turned out very well. They paid in full, said they were appreciative with how we handled their concerns, said they would refer us and just recently signed up for $2000 of extras a few weeks after we were done and gone.
I appreciate your time and willingness to help me out on this. I can’t express how much it means to me that without even knowing me you took the time to help, thank you!!!!!
I wish you well as you continue to do the good work that you do. Not only will I take this lesson with me moving forward but I will also remember to use my knowledge and abilities to help someone when I have the opportunity.
Sincere Thanks and all the best!
Honestly, it’s email questions and then replies like this that put fuel in my tank. I love helping people, and this audience member was no different. His problem was HUGE to him, and relatively easy to navigate through, and he got $2,000 worth of extra work – well done!!!
What client situation are you put into that you don’t know the roadmap to get out of?