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How one owner gained control of his landscape business and got his life back

Like so many other landscape business owners, Hayden McLaughlin, owner of New Hampshire-based Belknap Landscape Company, woke up one morning and felt he had fallen out of love with his business. Where had that young, ambitious business owner gone? He had started his business with such passion and love for the green industry in 1989.

Perpetually caught in the daily whirlwind of putting out fires, McLaughlin quickly found himself becoming burned out. “I was working seven days a week, especially during the busy season,” he shares. “The uncertainties in the business affected my home life because I was working all the time. I felt I needed to seek a solution.”

That solution included partnering with a green industry services firm and working with a dedicated coach to implement tools, systems and processes that would aid the company’s recovery and growth. In the months that followed, McLaughlin and the Belknap team learned valuable lessons that continue to sustain the business. Here are some of the lessons he learned:

Lesson #1: Business owner first, landscaper second

Most landscape service companies have overwhelming strength in operational execution but lack the training or inclination to manage the business as a business. Despite achieving over $5 million in annual revenue, Belknap Landscape was missing the fundamental systems to grow and scale. Without the necessary structure in place, the success of the company was highly unpredictable and susceptible to market and economic fluctuations. Instead of building landscapes, McLaughlin had to steer his focus to building his business. This included systems to record and report, quantitatively, on business activity, as well as processes to manage the administration of the business.

Solving the Pain

Business management is critical to a healthy, growing business. Only by having clearly defined plans, can management discern whether the business is on track or “coming off the rails.” McLaughlin worked with his managers and coach to build and implement a financial plan that replaced the budgeting process traditionally used. Planning financials a year in advance revealed cash flow issues that required immediate attention. With those issues addressed via the plan, the Belknap team was able to focus on creating and pursuing top-line goals. For the first time, they had a clear picture of where the business was going and how it was going to get there.

McLaughlin regularly shares the annual financial plan with the whole team, and he holds each department accountable for its role in progressing the plan. As a result, Belknap boasts over $7 million in revenue and a bottom line in excess of ten times what it once was. // Read more

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PHOTO: Belknap Landscape Co

PHOTO: Belknap Landscape Co

Lesson #2: Don’t spread yourself too thin

With the daily whirlwind of putting out fires and handling the majority of customer needs, McLaughlin didn’t realize what a toll it was taking on his business, team and personal life. The work always got done but often at great expenditures of time and energy.

“I had 60 to 70 people out in the field and 6 to 7 managers with no clear structure,” he recalls. “Things were falling through the cracks especially with client relations.” Before Belknap experienced the whole-business transformation facilitated by their coach, roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined.

Solving the Pain

McLaughlin quickly learned that defining those specific roles and responsibilities helped to calm the chaos and create clarity. When he relinquished some of the tasks he had previously believed only he could handle, he immediately noticed he had extra time built into his days. He also noticed an uptick in motivation from the team. With no more wondering who was responsible for what, his team members felt empowered to take on increased responsibility and move their way up through the organization. // Read more

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PHOTO: Belknap Landscape Co

PHOTO: Belknap Landscape Co

Lesson #3: Don’t try to be everything to everyone

Before the recession hit, Belknap was growing. The calls were coming in and projects were being completed but didn’t see the results on the bottom line. How could this be when everyone was working so hard to get the everyday tasks done? Business wasn’t bad. His team was busy.

Solving the Pain

What McLaughlin came to find out is that he was running a customer controlled business. His customers were telling him what they wanted, when they wanted it and the price they would pay. It was time for Belknap to become proactive instead of reactive in its business practices. McLaughlin was taught how to identify Belknap’s ideal customer. The question is, “Who do we want to work with?”

PHOTO: LandOpt

PHOTO: LandOpt

By knowing all costs associated with each job and regularly recouping as many of those costs as possible, Belknap is able to be selective about its book of business. The ideal customer is a partner in every step of the process and is willing to be educated on the features and benefits of the solutions the business offers.

 

These days, McLaughlin and Belknap Landscape Co., get along just fine. Long gone are the debris and chaos left by the whirlwind. “That tough year really woke me up,” McLaughlin says. “Life is a lot calmer now. I’m not worried about one-tenth of the things I was worried about before.” // Read more

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To learn more about McLaughlin’s journey and discover how targeted coaching and proven systems and processes can help your business, download LandOpt’s eBook “Fall in love with your business again.

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This page was produced by North Coast Media’s content marketing staff in collaboration with LandOpt. NCM Content Marketing connects marketers to audiences and delivers industry trends, business tips and product information. The Landscape Management editorial staff did not create this content.

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