Are you getting better or sitting still?

October 9, 2019 -  By
Arrows (illustration:


It’s often said — and often said by me — that what gets measured gets improved. These words of wisdom came originally from the late great management guru Peter Drucker, and they continue to hold true, including and especially when it comes to efficiency. You can tell your team over and over again how important it is to work productively and profitably, but if you aren’t also tracking how often you’re coming in under and over your budget and sharing the results with your crews, your words have no teeth. By measuring your efficiency regularly and repeatedly, you create a clear scorecard where everyone can see how well they’re doing and be motivated to get better.

In my experience, many landscaping companies get the measurement right, and industry software has made it relatively easy to capture useful metrics. Where companies go wrong is in failing to do anything meaningful with the numbers. Many owners are so busy trying to keep their crews staffed, their clients happy and their bills paid that they believe they don’t have time to take a step back, really dig into the numbers and make strategic improvements based on their findings. But in my experience, you don’t have time not to do this.

One tactic that has really helped us to continually improve our efficiency at Grunder Landscaping are the biweekly estimation and standardization meetings we implemented about four years ago. Held every other Wednesday for 30 minutes or more — depending on how much we have to get through — this meeting brings together all of our designers and group leaders to review and discuss jobs that came in under or over their budget by 15 percent or more.

Before the meeting, we run reports detailing the hours, plants and materials bid and how we did for each job that’s up for review, and we put the reports up on our conference room screen where we can all see them. If it’s a job we’re going to do again the next year, like a spring or fall cleanup, we require the assigned group leader to write up a narrative as well. As we discuss each job, we try to maintain a HOT (honest, open, transparent) environment, where people can speak as freely about problems as they can about successes. We may disagree with each other, but we do it respectfully, with no yelling, no insults and no profanities. The goal is to learn from our wins and to be accountable for our losses, to listen to each other and to get better as a team.

We enter the notes from this meeting into our software, enabling us to adjust bids up or down for repeat work and helping us to avoid making the same mistakes twice. We can handle a job going wrong. What we can’t handle is not learning from it. Close yourself off to that and you’ll never become more efficient — or more profitable.

I knew this message was getting through to our crews a few weeks ago when I was out at one of our properties shooting a quick team-building video on my phone. We panned the camera around to show the patio we were installing, and I asked the team leader if we were going to come in on budget. He looked at me and said, “No, unfortunately, we’re going to go a little over, but we’ve learned a lot of lessons.” To me, that’s what matters most — building a team who knows the score, recognizes how we can get better and has the attitude to ensure we will.

See you next month!

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Marty Grunder

About the Author:

Marty Grunder is president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. and The Grow Group, based in Dayton, Ohio.

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