Grow with Grunder: Why it’s important to keep an eye on your backlog

August 23, 2022 -  By
Stair-step blocks leading up to target (Photo: cagkansayin / iStock / Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)

(Photo: cagkansayin / iStock / Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)

If you’re like Grunder Landscaping Co. (GLC) and most of the landscape companies we’ve talked to over the past two years, backlogs and wait times are as long as they’ve ever been. At GLC, a client who calls us right now for a pool project is waiting until 2024 to have it installed.

I’m not one to complain about the strong demand for landscaping, but some challenges come with this market, especially with the labor environment. It can be difficult to get clients to wait for your schedule and to keep them engaged while they wait for their project to start.

We can’t control the economy, and I say we should all be out making hay while the sun shines. To make the most of the strong demand we see right now, I always go back to one of my favorite adages, “All planning is good.” Here’s a two-step process you can use to fill holes in your schedule and target more of the work you need throughout the year.

Step 1: Forecast sales

It’s vital to pay attention to what’s on the schedule 30, 60 and 90 days out. Thanks to the routine forecasting we do at GLC, we identified in the spring that while we were booked solid for jobs that include a hardscaping component, we would have room in the fall for small- to medium-sized landscaping installations.

To make sure we’re always looking ahead, we review the following key performance indicators for sales monthly:

  • Gross profit
  • Sold backlog
  • Forecasted backlog
  • Capture rate percentage
  • Monthly goals
  • Work proposed/estimating

We also review metrics during our weekly sales meeting to always track our progress. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose track of what’s ahead. Had we not kept our finger on the pulse, we could have missed this opportunity, leaving us scrambling to fill the crew’s time at the last minute.

Step 2: Fill the holes

After forecasting gaps in your schedule, the next step is to communicate these opportunities to your sales team and adjust their priorities accordingly. In the example above, we made sure the design/build sales team knew that landscaping-only jobs were top on our list of projects to sell, and we revisited the marketing we were doing to align our messaging with this new priority.

It starts with establishing goals for the team and breaking down those goals by sales manager or salesperson. Lay out weekly or monthly targets and drive toward those goals with regular check-ins. This shouldn’t be a top-down exercise. Engage your team in setting these goals and in planning to reach them. As with every aspect of your business, buy-in from your team is everything.

Don’t underestimate the impact of reporting. To use an old sports analogy: How can you win if you don’t know the score? Establish weekly and monthly reporting processes so everyone can see the scoreboard and know how far the team has to go to bring home a W.

Finally, it should go without saying: The most important part of setting and reaching goals in your company is rewarding and celebrating the people who achieve them. Yes, it’s their job to show up and sell work, but it’s your job to motivate them. Incentives and financial rewards should be a given. And don’t forget that personal acknowledgment and company-wide recognition go a long way. No one should leave at the end of the day wondering if they’re appreciated or not.

Having a plan for how you will grow your business and tracking your progress throughout the year is the only way for your company to grow. Even with long backlogs and high demand for our services, smart companies will continue watching their sales.

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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