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Simple systems are successful systems

September 23, 2013 -  By
Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey Scott

Many landscape contractors have highly creative processes and build great systems, but sometimes they would be better off if they simplified things.

For example, one contractor I work with has an excellent referral bonus system, but it is too complicated. It takes too many steps in the process to make it work. When you are small you may not notice the over complications, but when you get bigger the burden gets multiplied. In fact complex systems will slow down your growth.

Don’t build perfect systems that handle every single possibility—it will end up weighing you down. Instead, build lean systems that follow the 80-20 rule. Have your system address the majority of your needs, not 100 percent of every single real and perceived concern.

I have noticed some owners, especially new ones, think they are invincible and have all the time in the world to sell, to deal with service complaints and to run their business. But the real definition of success is free time. It is better if you become selfish with your time and don’t let it get sucked away by clients, employees or the systems you are devising.

The most successful leaders build a team of managers and salespeople to whom they can delegate. But you don’t want to bog them down with overly complex systems and processes. To that end, simple systems mean it is easier to train new employees, too.

Ask yourself, where do your systems require too much of your time? How can you reduce your personal involvement in your systems? How can you reduce the number of handoffs between you and others, and between the different people in your company?

Consider the following criteria when building a successful simple system:

  1. Fewer (or no) handoffs between positions. Each handoff creates opportunity for error and confusion. Plus it multiples the time needed to execute.
  2. Base on trust, not distrust. Trust allows you to reduce the complications. Build your systems for your B players, not your D players.
  3. A balance of descriptive and prescriptive. You can’t create a rule for every situation, so it is better to use guidelines that allow and force your employees to think for themselves and make their own decisions.
  4. When a problem arises, the person who caused the problem is asked to fix it. This will help your employee learn and take responsibility quicker without dropping monkeys on your desk. Plus they will be more educated to help you fix the flaws in your systems.

Scott, a consultant, grew his landscape company into a very successful $10 million enterprise, and he’s now devoted to helping others achieve profound success. He facilitates The Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners who want to transform and grow their business. His members achieved 27 percent profit increases in their first year. He has a master’s degree in business administration. To learn more, visit

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Jeffrey Scott

About the Author:

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in his personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners—members achieve a 27 percent profit increase in their first year. To learn more visit

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