Grow with Grunder: The art of saying no

November 18, 2020 -  By
Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

We’ve held a number of virtual events this year, including workshops, boot camps and webinars, and we were even able to (safely) hold a couple events in person. Attendees from companies of all shapes and sizes have joined us, and one question that comes up again and again is how owners from smaller outfits can get past the $1 million mark. The demand for landscaping work has been strong this year, and many companies are rapidly outgrowing the structures that got them to $1 million in sales.

The first piece of advice I share with entrepreneurs approaching this milestone is this: What gets you to $1 million is saying yes, but what gets you beyond is saying no.

As entrepreneurs, saying yes to new opportunities is in our nature. Changing my own mindset to say no to more when my business grew was one of the hardest shifts I’ve ever made, but we simply don’t have enough time in the day to keep saying yes to every sale and task that comes our way as the business grows. With every yes comes a commitment you must be able to deliver on for your clients and for the profitability of your firm.

Here are three areas to start with to better manage time and say no to more:

1. Sales

Identify who your ideal client is and what types of jobs your team can be successful with. Say yes to jobs that fit your team’s strengths, and say no to the jobs that don’t. Which jobs are the most profitable for you? You should be doing more of those.

Phone screening prospects helps sales people save time, and if a client isn’t a good fit, you can gently tell them, “I’m sorry, we don’t do that type of work anymore,” or “I’m sorry, I don’t think our company is going to be a good fit for this project.”

By screening your sales and keeping your focus on more profitable work, you’re building a portfolio of work and clients that will help you continue to scale up.

2. Production

As a company grows beyond $1 million, it becomes much more difficult for the owner to have eyes on every property. Instead, training teams and trusting them to do the work well is vital. Many companies accomplish this feat by standardizing their work: They train their team members to do different tasks the same way. Training is an investment, not an expense.

3. To-do list

When I was younger, I felt bad about delegating my work to someone else because I felt like I was dumping tasks on them. I’ve learned that our team members want to take on more responsibilities, and empowering our teams helps all of us.

If you have too much on your plate but aren’t sure what to pass off, start by making a list of the important tasks you do. Then evaluate the list: What tasks could someone else do as good or better than you can? If you can empower someone to own something that you weren’t great at, you double effectiveness. That weakness you had could be a strength for someone else, and now you get extra time each week to do more of the things you are great at.

Support your team members as they take on their newly assigned tasks. Communicate your expectations, train them in the skills they need and make yourself available for questions or support as they need it.

When you reach important milestones like this one, celebrate. Don’t let stress about the future overshadow the huge accomplishment that this is. You and your team have made it this far, and there is a bright future ahead for your company. Show your appreciation to your team, celebrate your wins and then get to work preparing for even more success. No one accomplishes the best things in life alone. It takes a team focused on the most profitable clients and their happiness.

It’s a great time of year to invest in training for yourself or for your team to prepare for a strong 2021. We have a full slate of upcoming virtual and in-person events. Learn more and register here.

Marty Grunder

About the Author:

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

1 Comment on "Grow with Grunder: The art of saying no"

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  1. Jim Clayman says:

    Great post, Marty. Saying no to new work, including renewals, is a difficult change in mindset for business owners. Sometimes it’s not intentional. For example when pricing new work, owners make assumptions about past job results or on what they believe the market will bear. However, they lack clear visibility into actual job cost data and fail to realize their current estimating and bidding process doesn’t accurately portray their true costs, particularly around burdened labor rates. The result? They stay on track with their hours but fall short of achieving expected profit margins, without a clear understanding of why. Sometimes, as you suggest, it’s better to tactfully say “no” and walk away from low-margin or unprofitable work. But in order to do that they need better insight into all their costs that need to be factored into their pricing.